„Actively invest in new technologies“
Vimar SpA: New era with servo technology
With four Bihler GRM-NC and RM-NC servo stamping and forming machines, Vimar SpA, a company based in the Italian town of Marostica, has completed its shift to the world of NC technology and is ushering in a new era in its manufacturing activities. Using the new systems, Vimar can practically double its productivity, halve its setup times and, in combination with the LEANTOOL system, achieve an even shorter time-to-market. A key factor in the company’s success is the extension of the skills of Vimar’s employees through training and other development activities at Bihler’s premises in Halblech.
Anyone who flicks one of the 20,000 or so switches for air conditioning, lighting and ventilation that are present on a modern cruise liner can be fairly sure that the part itself and the underlying technology come from Vimar SpA, a company headquartered in the Italian town of Marostica, a good 50 km north-west of Venice. The town is home to the head office of the company, which was founded in 1945 and now has a workforce of approximately 1,300 employees who produce 183 million parts every year and which markets some 12,000 products in more than 100 countries. The global market leader’s product portfolio includes relatively simple sockets and plugs as well as complex, digital home wiring systems and modern smart-home solutions.
High quality and outstanding design
A key component in Vimar’s decades of success is the unique combination of the exceptionally high quality of its parts and the outstanding design of the end products. Equally crucial in the company’s success is the fact that it has always been able to manufacture extremely efficiently and economically. That is why, even in its early days, Vimar chose to work with Otto Bihler Maschinenfabrik. “When Bihler’s technology was launched on the market at the end of the 1960s, our fathers, who were the Managing Directors at the time, immediately recognized its enormous potential for Vimar,” recall the current Managing Directors Piero Camillo Gusi and Gualtiero Viaro. “The innovative mechanical design of the Bihler stamping and bending machines allowed us to make a genuine technological leap and manufacture considerably faster, more economically and in better quality than had previously been possible.” The first step on this path took place in 1974 with a Bihler RM-35, which is still operating today. The same applies to the nearly forty other Bihler systems that have subsequently been delivered to Vimar.
The next technological leap
And now, exactly 45 years after acquiring its first Bihler system, Vimar is making its next technological leap – this time in the form of two Bihler RM-NC and two GRM-NC stamping and forming machines. The investment represents a deliberate choice through which the company is actively orienting itself toward changing customer requirements: “The market is demanding ever more products and model variants. This requires not just higher productivity but also shorter time-to-market,” explains Sandro Bernardi, Industrial Operations Director at Vimar. “The new systems offer us precisely that extra flexibility, efficiency and speed that we need to achieve this. That is why these systems are even now an important part of our future market strategy.” This approach is complemented by the fact that, in future, Vimar will use the Bihler Leantool system for its toolmaking activities. “This system not only permits particularly economical, simple toolmaking, but also makes the process exceptionally fast,” stresses Mathias Bihler.
The four NC systems arrived at Vimar in October 2018. After the first tools had been adapted, it was possible to achieve enormous increases in productivity: “We were practically able to double our productivity in terms of throughput per hour. And as far as setup times are concerned, we expect that they will take less than half the time than in the past,” says Sandro Bernardi. “Last year, we also started to implement the Industry 4.0 principle in our company,” reports Piero Camilio Gusi. “And from this perspective, the Bihler systems are again the best solution for us.” Already today, this strategy has found concrete expression in the MES system and the LCD displays next to the machine systems. These displays continuously indicate the number of parts already produced and the actual and target values for the current manufacturing cycle.
Heart and soul
All this means that the new NC systems are a genuine success story for Vimar. However, the story is still missing one more, absolutely vital ingredient: the people who work at the systems. They not only have to be perfectly familiar with the new stamping and bending machines but also with the whole field of NC technology. In Vimar’s case, the training provided by Bihler in Halblech made sure that five employees were able to acquire detailed NC skills in just a very short time. Bernardi makes things clear: “The training in the new NC technology received by our employees was a decisive reason for the investment and their skills and knowledge give us a great advantage.” “We have assigned relatively young employees to the new systems and the NC technology. They naturally find it much easier to get to grips with the new digitalized world.” Ultimately, the new generation of Bihler NC systems acts like a magnet for the young employees. “They are heart and soul in favor of the new systems. They fiddle around and experiment with them and discover all the possibilities that the technology has to offer.”
A unique partnership
“The new systems are precisely configured to get the very most out of the machine through individual settings,” confirms Mathias Bihler. “At the same time, we are naturally delighted to contribute our advice and support.” This means: If, for example, the company is working on a new design, Bihler will provide an exact forecast of how long the associated development work will take as well as of the ultimate machine cycle time. The energetic support provided by Bihler is an important factor in ensuring that Vimar is already able to achieve genuine competitive advantages using the new systems. However, it is also an expression and continuation of the close partnership that has united the two companies for nearly 50 years. “The close, partnership-based cooperation, both in past decades and now in connection with the introduction of the NC technology, deserves a special mention,” stresses Mathias Bihler. “And we also greatly appreciate this close partnership and take this opportunity to thank Bihler most sincerely for this long and fruitful cooperation,” is the unanimous opinion of Piero Camillo Gusi and Gualtiero Viaro. “With the NC systems, we have ushered in a new era and are looking forward to greeting the future together.”
Vimar SpA was founded on 1 May 1945 by Walter Viaro and Francesco Gusi and manufactures electrical products from sockets to smart home solutions. In electrical supplies for ships and pleasure boats, Vimar is world leader. With a total of 1,300 employees, the company sells around 12,000 products in over 100 countries.