Mechanical machining for extruded aluminium: formerly a niche activity, this service is increasingly in demand by companies and the market
by Alberto Pomari
The network of companies linked to the extrusion world is known to be vast and complex. Only few concerns, however, can satisfy the most important and qualified market niches. Among them we may certainly include Officine Meccaniche Clarensi, based in Chiari (near Brescia). For the past ten years entrepreneur Felice Iore, helped by his daughter Elena Iore and by an expert group of cooperators, among whom we would like to mention the sales manager, Giuseppe Mantegari, created and developed Clarensi’s activity. Actually Felice Iore can bank on very many years of professional experience in the aluminium field: from extrusion, to die construction, to companies (such as the current subsidiary, Prima) dedicated to the maintenance and construction of extrusion plants. We therefore discussed with Felice Iore the current trends in the extrusion industry.
We are very glad to meet a person who has been experiencing the reality of the aluminium world for many years
Actually I have seen and lived through many experiences and occasions concerning aluminium, extruded or in other forms. This experience was the driving force behind the start of Officine Clarensi. Our company was founded on March 18th, 2009. To begin with we set up machining operations driven by applications for the photovoltaic segment, which went through a huge explosion and a rapid implosion in a matter of a few years. The introduction of incentives supporting the installation of photovoltaic plants initially boosted the segment’s rapid growth the successive elimination of these incentives and the invasion of products made in China marked, to all intents and purposes, the extinction of this segment in Italy. To differentiate our company, in 2011 we started working on other specific segments and now roughly half of our revenues, all regarding third party machining, are linked to building, where we take care especially of the machining of elements for curtain walls and structural components in general. The remaining 50% of our revenues is linked to industrial applications, especially transportation, mainly automotive and railway, then furnishings, lighting, heat sinks and industrial components in general.
What are the specific strengths of your company which set you apart from competitors?
First of all, service, a real asset, ensures that our clients receive a solid feedback in terms of deliveries and warehousing of the components, if need be with just-in-time supplies depending on requests. The delivery of “turnkey” items, that is, of the finished product ready for installation or use, allows us to provide materials which have not only been machined by our work stations, but above all complete with all the finishings, packaging and all quality controls. We can pre-assemble components fitting in the accessories useful for assembly and therefore immediately available for use. The composition of any mounting kits which may be necessary is a successive step in the supply chain, increasingly in demand by our clients. However, the aspect which singles us out with respect to other mechanical workshops is the possibility of providing components in large quantities, but subdivided into single lots, that is, of supplying hundreds of different items quite unlike one another in terms of machining and packaging.
We recently completed a relevant order from an important German constructor for a building in Saint Petersburg, where we worked and delivered, respecting the terms and times agreed upon, hundreds of items machined, one different from the other. These details have been numbered and packed individually. For the envelope of the Olympic House in Lausanne, the new headquarters of the Olympic Committee built in view of the 2020 Youth Games, and for two of the Ground Zero towers in New York, with the help of an important Italian extruder, we completed supplies of thousands of pre-assembled components. But, all in all, the most important and qualifying order was the one completed in the United States for the offices of the most important global manufacturer of computers, cellphones and electronic appliances. Components provided represent the utmost, in terms of complexity, quality and finishing, that can be obtained today using aluminium alloys.
And regarding exports,what is the direct and indirect share of your revenues? Do you have specific certifications in this case?
Regarding the direct share, we currently reached 60% on the Italian market and 40% abroad, especially in Germany Belgium and Switzerland. If we were to consider the indirect share too, I would say that the percentage would be overturned in favour of exports. For instance, components currently being machined for the railway sector are all meant to be exported. In this case we machine profiles as long as 16 metres on our five-axis centre by Elumatec. The same may be said about the automotive industry: all details and components are meant , in the final phase, for German manufacturers. Regarding certifications, besides TÜV ISO 9000 we also obtained TÜV EN1090-1.
Regarding machinery, how well are you equipped?
We have ten CNC machining centres of which five with five axes to machine profile bars up to 16 metres long. It is important to underline that all programs concerning machining are realized within the company: a group of five specialists develops the programs using a CAD-CAM system. Especially for the Olympic House in Lausanne we provided more than 500 assembled components, adding up to 9,000 items, all different from one another and our design further showed the specific diversity which singles us out from the rest of the market. I would like to underline that in this case we supplied anodized, machined and assembled items. The builder then assembled the frames and glazing in the building site.
In the case of such complex orders, which critical factors must be considered?
A great programming effort is implied, which begins with the evaluation of the specifications and the preparation of the tender quote. Even in this early phase, for instance, we prepare a first plan of machining and we consider the production times understanding the internal logistics and transportation between our workshop and our suppliers for special machining and finishing. Then we analyse the specification chapters, which today are very stringent, in depth. Finally we must think about the responsibility for the order and in some cases about the possibility of offering Performance Bond, basically guarantees safeguarding the successful outcome of the supplies. The orders are therefore complex, and technical capabilities and next-generation machinery must integrate with solid project management knowledge.