Gaser Group, the Digital Revolution for Surface Treatments of Metals

Tradition meets technology: an interview with Gianni Luca Franzosi, CEO, Gaser Group

by Mario Conserva

Gaser is a distinguished concern in the metal surface treatment industry, often considered a niche and collateral to metallurgic manufacturing, but full of techniques and technological contents, characterised by the same challenges and opportunities of many other segments of the chemical industry.
Founded in 1945, with over 70 years of history, Gaser grew considerably, opening new plants and developing its offer of services; currently the group is made up of one holding and five manufacturing facilities, found in Northern Italy’s so-called “Metal Valley”, strategically central with respect to the main industrial districts of national interest, with over 200 qualified employees. The companies within the group are specialized in technical coatings for metals and components in different industries; among the, the automotive sector stands out, with such treatments as anodizing, nickel and zinc plating, nano-technologies and many other high-tech coatings developed in research and development laboratories by the experts in this industry. By cooperating with international level manufacturing industries Gaser reached a very high grade of automation and productivity, bringing it to a privileged position both as regards scientific and technological research and the accuracy and quality of its machining.
Gaser, the only galvanic treatment company nationwide which can actively manage five Integrated Environmental Authorizations, whose operating structures are all certified in compliance with the highest environment protection, quality control and ISO international standards, coats over 2.2 billion metal parts a year, and in 2018 recorded overall revenues of over 20 million euro.
We met the Group’s CEO, Gianni Luca Franzosi, and discussed with him the main characteristics of the company, the targeted markets and the medium and long-term outlook.

Your machining process is transversal to many metallic materials, therefore many and very diverse industrial segments; which sectors are you particularly interested in and what types of synergies do you develop with clients?
The latter is a very interesting starting point: I think a supplier is normally considered just as a cost, but we set up our relationship with our clients explaining and showing that we are willing and capable of being a real ally when facing the challenges posed by the market every day, we suggest a strong and shared growth process in terms of added value. In this respect I would like to recall the fruitful partnership which we set up over the past twenty years with some of the main European and global players in the automotive, Oil&Gas and rail transport industries.
We are proud of the excellent relationship which we keep up with a vast range of clients in Italy and worldwide, we worked and still cooperate with key concerns in the industry and for many years now European car and motorcycle manufacturers have installed original and spare parts by Gaser.
I would like to provide two examples of our approach to synergetic innovation referred to two very different segments, hard anodic oxidation on aluminium for precision mechanical components and chemical nickel plating for Oil&Gas, which clearly show that it is not the context, but the approach which counts. Regarding the first example, I would like to point out tat ordinary treatments, normally meant to confer aluminium a high surface hardness, as well as a marked corrosion resistance, cause an increase in the element’s surface roughness. This increase converts into an immediate drop in performances if the element is submitted to sources of sliding friction, which in turn requires further mechanical intervention consequently increasing machining times and the cost of the finished element. In consideration of the huge volumes involved (millions of items per year), our Group’s R&D department successfully endeavoured to overcome this problem by developing the Duralti® treatment, which confers hardness and corrosion resistance without however jeopardising the mechanical and surface roughness allowances typical of the substrate being treated. Going from one material to another, new opportunities also concern the Oil&Gas industry. Mechanical products used in this specific sector almost always require a protective coating, capable of protecting them from hostile environmental conditions, a requisite for which chemical nickel plating is one of the most suitable treatments. In the past, frequently the absence of local partners capable of coating large components led Italian contractors to miss the full exploitation of their production capacities, therefore giving up these orders. The cooperation with some end users and with the industry’s leaders laid down the bases for the construction of a chemical nickel plating plant designed purposely to satisfy the requirements of this industry. With its 40,000 litres of size and 36 tons of workload, the plant in Isola Vicentina is the largest of its kind in Europe and allows to manage the entire size range of the Oil&Gas sector, thereby opening new markets and new opportunities for Italian manufacturers of components for pipelines.

How does Gaser consider IoT (Internet of Things), that is, the new frontier of innovative industry?
The large investments by the Gaser Group regarding Industry 4.0, exploiting the power of big data, have been able to create a predictive and reactive digital work force called “EDOLO”, the company’s Industrial Digital Operator. By means of the MOSAICO® platform, adapted for the specific characteristics of the Group and thanks to the activity carried out 24/t by EDOLO, Gaser can continuously control and monitor the production processes and update clients in real time regarding the state of their orders.
The result of this combined action allowed the development of free pass projects, which allowed to reduce lead times, guaranteeing in any case the perfect quality of the machining and improving, as a consequence, the clients’ competitiveness on international markets.

Which are Gaser’s strategies aimed at international markets?
Gaser’s international focus exports its competence and its plants in strategic countries industrializing innovative coatings and treatments. The Group’s international mission was created to respond to the growing demands of surface treatments of metals in emerging countries: here the growing demand for consumer products leads to more requests for superficial treatment finishes, while the increasing requests by the automotive, aeronautics and electronics industry, still represent all the key factors which drive the metallurgical industry market.
Quality standards in these countries are becoming increasingly high, allowing the industry to increase the working life of treated products and to improve the quality of the products sold. Gaser can reply to these requests as a reliable partner by providing excellence in many sectors of metal machining, both in terms of quality guarantee and of respect for the environment.

How would you describe Gaser’s values and how is the internal organization structured?
I believe that out simple and clear choices explain our growth and the good results we obtained in a matter of a few years, our history after all is the same as that of many successful Italian companies because Gaser started off as a family concern which has succeeded in setting realistic objectives, coherent with its competences and strategies, every day we work to bring out the best in every element in the group, we have been determined in creating solid and productive working relationships both within the company and with partners and clients. Our values represent a sense of shared identity within the group’s companies, as I said at the beginning of this interview, our first aim is to provide our clients with the best possible service, we therefore invest in infrastructures, in technologies, in research and development, all elements necessary to remain at the forefront of the industry and to allow our partners to succeed. We focus on the development of techniques and processes which will help to preserve the environment, we constantly seek the attainment of the highest professional and international standards.
Coherently with the investments carried out in the various production plants and with the consequent growth of our revenues, even the number of employees of the Gaser Group recorded during the past few years a significant growth, I would like to highlight that between 2017 and 2018 the number of our employees increased by about 22%. Assessment systems for our employees, such as competence and awareness matrices, initially set up for the ISO IATF 16949: 2016 system, enhanced the importance of a centralized personnel management focused on motivation and on the mental and physical health of the workers. This way of thinking favoured a constant balance between the main corporate values, guaranteeing the compliance of the whole organization with the guidelines.
We take pride in hoping that, even through our industrial competence and experience, Italian manufacturing, an emblem of quality throughout the world, will be able to further increase its reliability and credibility, fully exploiting the synergies with our group, the Italian leader in the field of surface coatings.