It’s not something he had anticipated, says Moreno Roncato, the new managing director and ceo for Milan-based Carle & Montanari (C&M). Having made a home in Raleigh, N.C., where he oversaw operations for C&M, USA, Roncato didn’t plan on returning to Italy for any extended basis.
Naturally, there were periodic visits to the corporate office in Milan, trips to see family and friends, but he and his wife considered Raleigh their home.
Thus when Sacmi Group, C&M’s parent company, offered the managing director’s position to him, Roncato realized that it might be time for a change. A
s Roncato explains, “Not only was it a good opportunity for me and professionally rewarding, but it would be good for the company as well. I know the product, I know the market and I know the people.”
Indeed, Moreno, who took over as president of the USA division in 2001, had earned a reputation not only as a savvy manager, but as a well-respected technical consultant, one that confectionery customers appreciated and turned to for support.
Such an approach proved critical in building up sales for C&M USA.
For Sacmi, the decision to promote Roncato stemmed from an internal debate on what to do with its only food business subsidiary. After all, Sacmi is an international conglomerate, which manufactures machines and complete plants for the ceramics, beverage, packaging, processing and plastics industries. The Group consists of more than 70 companies, has production plants and support companies in 23 countries and employs about 3,500 people. It posted sales of nearly €1 billion in 2009.
Following the recession of 2008/2009, Sacmi had implemented a series of changes - a restructuring of assets designed to meet the challenges of a new economic landscape. In looking at its confectionery processing equipment subsidiary, C&M, the board of directors recognized that although there were not many marketing synergies, there were operational advantages that could be exploited, such as procurement as well as research and development.
In the end, the directors were faced with two options regarding C&M: Make it more competitive or sell it
After an intensive internal review, the board opted to invest in the company, “to make it more ready to face the challenges of the marketplace,” says Roncato.
One of the advantages of having Sacmi as a parent stems from its inherent industrial heritage, adds the new chief executive.
“As an industrial company, it’s pre-disposed to long-term thinking, to product-based innovation,” Roncato says.
Having such support provides a foundation for changes critical to a company that has such a history within the confectionery world. In celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, the company has been a mainstay in supplying cocoa processing and chocolate mass preparation, chocolate moulding lines and specialized packaging machines to manufacturers throughout the world.
“Carle & Montanari’s strengths have been its people and know-how,” Roncato says. Upon taking over as managing director, Roncato spent several days brainstorming with Sacmi’s executives to craft a plan that would capitalize on those strengths, while introducing a more streamlined structural organization.
“Our approach was to create a team of managers, people that are loyal to the company, but who are full of strength.” As a result, Massimo Pietra was installed as the company’s sales manager, Massimo Mercanti as production manager, Daniele Mazon, product strategist and Franco Lumini as technical manager.
Roncato also made customer service, which was segregated under production, into its own function and department. Now, customer service, which is headed up by Dario Fanteria, reports directly to Roncato.
“What I found working in the States was that one of the fundamental ways to attain good results was to develop a good working relationship with your customers,” he explains. “By having a close connection to the customer, sharing know-how, one can move both companies forward."
Roncato’s customer-centric vision, which emphasizes improving the quality of service, dovetails with his aim to improve the quality of the products the company delivers.
Roncato also wants to ensure that confectionery manufacturers are aware of the innovations that the company’s already taken, as well as the synergies inherent in being part of Sacmi.
For example, he cites the recent improvements made to the company’s HFI five-roll refiner as an example of the higher standard now prevalent at C&M. "A HFI 25 five-roll refiner with 2,500 mm long rolls willb e one of our key exhibits at this year's interpack," Moreno says.
It doesn’t take long for him to rattle off several other improvements and innovations, ranging from improvements to its rotary and piston depositors to the newly introduced BV Counter-moulds Buffering System (see sidebar).
Then there’s the introduction of the T-PACK2 electronic flow wrapper machine for chocolate bars and tablets, capable of handling 200 pieces per minute. The T-PACK2, which is being produced by Sacmi Packaging but marketed by both Sacmi and C&M, “completes the range for chocolate production,” Roncato says.
“We’re now a one-stop shop, from cocoa presses to wrapping,” he points out.
He adds that "We are open to opportunities for expanding our product range even further by merging or acquisitions."
Roncato, who only a few months ago became interested in triathletic competitions, understands the importance of cross-training and endurance. At a sprint triathlon in Raleigh late last year, he placed first in his age bracket, a truly impressive accomplishment given the fact that he began training only a few months earlier.
Roncato looks to apply those same disciplines to running C&M. Figure on strong finishes for this confectionery equipment supplier during the coming years.
The strength of many midsized companies, such as Villafranca, Italy-based Socado, is their ability to specialize and excel in specific market niches. When the company first was formed, it focused on supplying chocolate products to the industry, complemented by a bevy of seasonal items.
That lineup eventually broadened to include pralines and specialty items, such as filled chocolates (balls, eggs, boeri) and solid chocolates, including gianduiotti. Today, the company continues to grow at a rapid rate, posting €40 million in sales last year.
Socado’s success in supplying retailers both branded and private-label products led its customers to ask for the company to consider producing chocolate bars.
Cognizant that production of bars would not only satisfy a customer’s request, but also open up entry to new markets, the company’s executive team decided to test the waters with a straightforward rollout of dark, milk and white chocolate bars.
Socado’s production team comprising of Orazio Civello, plant director and Marchioro Gianluca, - technical manger - also understood the challenges that go with such a launch, that is low margins and a highly competitive playing field. And although the company’s existing moulding line within the 23,000-sq.-meter facility could handle the production demands, shoehorning a dedicated packaging line for bar production amidst 19 other production lines required some creative thinking.
In this instance, the two professionals saw the solution in Carle & Montanari BV Counter-moulds Buffering System, which would be linked to a CAVEMIL “R” moulding.
Once bars leave the moulding line, they are demoulded. The BV Counter-moulds Buffering System offers a whole new way of stocking products directly on demoulding counter-plates to minimize downtime and enhance flexibility. The unit holds up to 315 counter-moulds, and allows for 20 minutes of buffering time with the moulding line, which operates at 12 moulds/min. What’s important to Socado is that the buffering system enables continuous operation whenever there’s a packaging gap in the flow-wrapping process.
When the packaging line re-starts, the stocked counter-moulds filled with products are sent to packaging, while empty counter-moulds replace them in the buffering cabinet.
The successful solution to addressing footprint issues at the plant has allowed the company to capitalize on the strong debut of the bars, which now will feature additional varieties with inclusions.