ATC Italy, European branch of the multi-national group AirTAC, began 2019 with a new organizational set up and policy, ever more in line with headquarters’ vision. This is thanks to the massive investment potential the group has, positioned, as it is, in the world’s top five pneumatic automation constructors, but whose ambitions are greater still.
by Silvia Crespi
ATC Italy, currently the only European reference point for the Taiwanese group AirTAC, the Asian pneumatics colossus, has put a new organizational structure in place this year as well as a new business strategy that aims to bring Italian operations in line with their global approach .
The new “pathway” was outlined by Mirko Pisciottano, who became European commercial director at the beginning of the year. We met up at the Magnago office, just outside Milan, which has been recently renovated and expanded, both in terms of production and stocking areas.
Mirko Pisciottano is far from a new face in the ATC Italy household: he has been an ever present since the company’s foundation in 2009; and is perfectly positioned to describe company development over the last ten years.
“Commercial operations began in Europe back in 2010. After some very encouraging early results, the set up became more structured and the 2012 – 2018 period brought great steps forward, above all in the Italian market which now contributes 50% of European turnover.
My taking up of the European commercial director role coincided with a period of heavy investment from group HQ. My job is now to re-organize and expand our commercial weight in Europe in order to re-produce the excellent results that have been obtained in Italy as well as continuing to grow the domestic market, where potential is particularly high”.
Any competition is having to face up to a player with significant investment power.
Large scale investment especially in the commercial sector
A large part of investment is dedicated to developing the sales force, this, in order to better serve the domestic market. “The goal is to double the size of the ATC Italy team, shifting from the twenty staff members we currently have to forty of fifty by the end of the year. Many new staff members have been taken on and there has been a sub-division of areas both in Italy, and Europe where there are now two macro areas: East and West Europe each with its own director who is responsible for developing the market directly, including bringing in their own sales team. This is a time-consuming job which requires a number of steps before completion. With all probability, Spain will be the first country with a new branch followed by other important markets like France, Germany and England etc.”
The mission of ATC Italy is that AirTAC can rapidly occupy relevant market share across Europe, market share that reflects the global standing of the group (which today counts itself among the world’s five biggest constructors of pneumatic automation components and aims to move into the top three in the near future). “To achieve this – continues Pisciottano – there needs to be a structure in place that can keep up with the brand promotion that the commercial department, already bolstered by new staff arrivals, is bringing about. The work floor size has been doubled, to a covered 6.000 m2 with stock quantity also doubling by the end of the year. Add to this increased efficiency and organization of production which will still be focused on special components and assembled groups. The new set up will improve flexibility and rapidity in satisfying client needs.
The expansion is, in fact, just the first phase in this direction: “I have already received guarantees that further resources will be invested in order to satisfy the needs of the markets we are entering”. Another market identified as being of great potential is that of the US. A branch was opened last year in the Houston area. The plan followed by ATC Italy Srl in Europe will be replicated in the US.
The importance of customization in Europe
The European and US markets are different from that of Asia. The current catalogue of products, based on traditional pneumatic components stems from company experience on the Asian market. It is well equipped to satisfy the vast majority of client needs across all product applications. However, there is a move toward an increasingly complex technological level needed to satisfy European constructors’ machinery requirements. AirTAC, thanks to support from its R&D division, will be able to meet all such requests, with over 400 engineers on its team, and a department dedicated to customer needs in Europe and the US.
“Customization is a key topic – confirms Pisciottano – which, at the end of last year, accounted for 26% of our European turnover. Today, the Italian branch produces 4.000 cylinders a month. To get further visibility and satisfy requests we are well aware that personalization is one of the keys. In our Italian plant we are set up to guarantee rapid response and production for simpler customized products, while those with greater complexity will be managed by the R&D department in Asia”.
The importance of China, the most important market
China is the biggest market for the AirTAC group accounting for much of the 50% growth in revenues from 360 mln in 2016 to 590 mln in 2018. Forecasts for this year are equally positive.
AirTAC has set ambitious targets for its Western markets which will be supported by well planned investment in order to reach a proportional market share that such a well-established brand already enjoys in Asia.
Part of this success is undoubtedly thanks to Ben Chen, someone who fluently connects ATC Italy with the Asian HQ. Speaking the same language, having the same mentality and knowing the AirTAC world inside out, Mr. Chen’s presence means the Italian branch has clear communication channels and rapid response times to maximize organization and production.
Let’s wrap up with the words of Mr. Chen himself: “My role is that of communicating and helping to implement directives from HQ across the various branches of the company. Right now, I am carrying this out at the Italian branch where I cover a double role, both sales and technical. In other words, I am a bridge between Asia and Europe”.