Brugola – targeting growth
12 December 2022
Well known for inventing the hexagonal socket head cap screw, leading Italian manufacturer Brugola OEB Industriale SpA has been working on new products and sectors to meet its ambitious growth targets. Here Content Director Will Lowry speaks to President Jody Brugola about these new developments and how the business has continued to invest in its capabilities, and sustainability, for the future.
Fastener + Fixing Magazine’s last ‘Made in Italy’ feature was in 2020. Clearly a lot has happened in this time, what have been the key developments at Brugola?
“Since 2019 we have looked to continue to produce and develop special parts – even more than we were producing before. As a business we are known within the automotive sector, especially when it comes to fasteners for engines. However, at Brugola we are able to produce a lot more than this and we have been focused on developing special parts and components, and sometimes not even fasteners, for use in other sectors.
By looking to grow in other markets it brings us new customers and new opportunities. Our strategy is to grow and to achieve this we are looking to attract more clients – by producing new products we have not previously offered, in materials such as stainless steel, aluminium and others. Thanks to this strategy, over the last three years we have been able to develop new partnerships with OEMs and tier one companies in new markets we have not worked in before.
A key factor behind this ability to develop these new products and markets is the excellent knowledge and experience we have within Brugola. I believe we have seen a drastic and dramatic decline in knowledge within the fastener sector over the last ten years. At Brugola we have been committed to keeping the very highest level of expertise within our production – finding the best people from all around Europe who want to join us and help us achieve our ambitious goals. By being open minded, and having this knowledge of how to produce other parts, we can look at new opportunities that might be interesting to us as a business.
A sector we are currently working in and has potential for growth is eMobility, which is certainly a growth area for us in the future. We are already producing some important parts for electric engines –
where we have developed solutions that have proven difficult to produce for other companies. We are succeeding in producing these parts regularly to a very high standard. I have always seen eMobility as an opportunity to not only be a supplier but to be a co-developer with customers – so that we can understand their goals and requests and what solutions they need – in order to provide the necessary parts.
This comes back to having the necessary knowledge and expertise within the business and the technicians we have now make this a lot easier, so we can move forward with these solutions. Even if we do not have the necessary knowledge in-house, we have a lot of connections within the market, which means if there are any further requirements we can still work on a project.”
During this time of growth for Brugola there have also been a number of challenges within the market (ongoing Covid-19 issues, freight transport, commodity prices, energy prices, war in Ukraine). How did you manage these challenges?
“There have been a number of factors influencing markets over the last two years, but if you look at the automotive industry in particular it was already going down before the start of Covid-19 – so we’ve been through three years of decline to a certain point. However, the biggest problem is it is very hard to work properly because it seems like every week something has changed and as a business you don’t know what can happen.
That being said, since May things seem to have been getting better and we have experienced good production most of the year and still have good programmes scheduled for the rest of 2022 and also for January and February. However, we do not know what is going to happen to the economy in the long-term – so the vision you have as business, as well as planning for the future, is made very difficult.
As a business we are continuing to look at where we can be flexible and how we can handle situations, such as the current dramatic rise in energy prices. For instance, we have already worked on making our heat treatment lines run as efficiently and effectively as possible, so that they are fully optimised. Before, to do a certain type of tonnage, we were running 5 or 6 heat treatment lines. Thanks to our optimisation process we are able to produce the same amount of tonnage, but we are only running 3 or 4 lines.
Every manufacturer needs gas and electricity to run, but it is about being as optimised as possible. Due to the work that we have done regarding heat treatment, as well as other areas, we have been able to save over €1 million in the first six months of 2022.”
With it difficult to plan for the future, how does this impact the need for investments within the business, products, etc?
“Whilst it is difficult to plan in the long-term, as a company we still think it is vital that we invest so that we can continue to grow. In 2019 we grew when other companies went down. We were also one of the businesses that went down the least in 2020 – with all the problems that happened from Covid-19. We did have to shut down for two months, but even so we still only went down by 10%, which was very good. In 2021 we went up by 4% and this year we believe we are going to grow by more than 20%.
One of the key things that I am seeing right now and I believe will happen much more in the future is that globalisation is reducing and this is a huge opportunity for European companies – especially manufacturers. We must be ready to restart producing parts that we thought were lost to Asia. I think all these important parts of the world, such as Asia, America, Europe, etc, will have to rethink that maybe it makes sense to produce inside their own territories for what is needed for that part of the world.
From an environmental point of view this also makes sense, especially when you consider how much pollution is being created by all these shipments all over the world from one continent to another. It makes a lot of sense and gives a lot of chances for European companies to grow and to rebuild know-how for different productions not just fasteners.
It also guarantees supply chain security, because the last two years have shown us that global supply chains can quickly become unreliable through outside forces. With this in mind, we will continue to invest in our capabilities and employees to make sure that we are meeting the needs of existing customers, as well as targeting new markets.”
Sustainability is a big topic within markets at the moment. How has Brugola approached this area?
“Over recent years we have been working intensively to become more sustainable and have taken several steps in making this a reality. It is my personal belief that we all need to become carbon neutral in the next 10 – 15 years, which is why at Brugola we have joined the Forever Zero CO2 project. This is a project ran by Forever Bambù and allows companies and professionals to reduce or eliminate their impact environmentally and become carbon neutral – thanks to absorption of CO2 from Forever Bambù’s ten bamboo forests in Italy – covering a total of 200 hectares.
As certified by independent studies, giant bamboo – which lives on average for 100 years – is able to sequester up to 260 tonnes of CO2 per year per hectare. This is 36 times more than any other plant. We started with two hectares in 2022 and we will go up to six in the next two years.
We also have a range of other incentives and new solutions when it comes to sustainability. For instance, we have replaced 25 tonnes of paper reels with eco-sustainable and reusable technical cloths – reducing the use of paper by 80%. We have also looked to recover litres of emulsion composed of oil and water, necessary and derived from the screw production process, which helped reduce the use of oils by 15%.
Other developments include reducing the use of plastic, from a consumption of 207 tonnes a day to about 50 tonnes – two thirds of which are made of recycled plastic. The company also renewed the factory lighting with LED bulbs to lower electricity consumption and reduce CO2 emissions. In addition, we are also working on new modern solar panels to take a further step to provide our own energy.
Our aim is by 2030 to have a reduction of 70% of our emissions and we want to be carbon neutral by 2035.”
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