VIRMA: Enormous efficiency gains in production with Bihler servo technology
The acquisition of a new GRM-NC by VIRMA in Sulbiate in northern Italy heralds their first step into Bihler servo technology. With this move, the long-established company has significantly boosted their manufacturing expertise and is achieving enormous efficiency gains in production. They are also ideally equipped to cope with the increasingly complex manufacturing tasks of the future.
Founded in 1972, VIRMA S.p.a.is today one of the leading manufacturers of complex stamped and bended strip and wire parts, welded fasteners and assemblies. The company’s product portfolio includes, for example, stamped parts made of partially pre-treated copper and electro-welded contacts made from silver or silver alloys, complete terminal connectors with stamping and assembly of the contact and spring inside the plastic shell and cover, and laser marking integrated in the machine. Headquartered in Sulbiate, northern Italy, and with a manufacturing plant in Bulgaria that went into operation in 2013, the company offers a full range of services related to the production and supply of stamped metal parts, from prototyping, design and in-house toolmaking to manufacturing and logistics. VIRMA produces around 800 million parts a year and supplies customers around the globe from all industrial sectors particularly the electronics and electrical engineering industries.
A partnership spanning decades
The company is managed by Serena Agostini, the daughter of founder Eraldo Agostini, together with Roberto Portinari, the Supply Chain Manager, and Luca Ferrario, the Technical Manager. “Constant growth is the mark of VIRMA,” says Serena Agostini. “To achieve this, we are continuously modernizing our production methods and work together with leading technology partners on a long-term basis.” And Otto Bihler Maschinenfabrik has a special role to play here. The companies first worked together back in the late sixties, when VIRMA acquired its first RM 35. The company now has around 90 Bihler machines, ranging from 10 RM 25 and 22 RM 35 to 15 GRM-50, two BZ 2, a CC 1 and an MC 120. “Over the decades, we have been able to successfully realize many key technology projects with Bihler,” Serena Agostini tells us. “This is because Bihler supplies us not just with the machines, but also with the associated technology. This always allows us to take the next step on the path of innovation into the future.”
More flexible and more efficient
In 2021, VIRMA took another important step towards the future with their purchase of a new GRM-NC. One reason for the move to Bihler’s servo technology lay in the nature of the customer’s manufacturing jobs, which were difficult to achieve with existing mechanical equipment. Agostini: “In this respect, the GRM-NC was also a strategic investment. In particular, we were impressed by the much shorter setup times and the considerably reduced effort needed for machine adjustments. We can also use the machine to produce smaller runs, which are what our customers are increasingly demanding, efficiently and flexibly.” The advantage here is that existing tools can be fully adapted to the GRM-NC. And VIRMA plans to use the LEANTOOL system to build new stamping and forming tools, thus benefiting from further time and cost gains. The company is also considering a second GRM-NC for their plant in Bulgaria.
Enhancing the company’s appeal
VIRMA acquired the necessary knowledge and skills in a one-week Bihler training course held at the company’s headquarters in Sulbiate. “This showed that our younger staff in particular are very keen on NC technology,” Agostini recounts. “Seen like that, we have also hugely enhanced our appeal to the younger generation with the new GRM-NC.”
Twice as fast
At present, VIRMA has already adapted an existing tool from a GRM-80 to the new GRM-NC, and more are in the pipeline. “We expect setup times to be significantly reduced,” Roberto Portinari and Luca Ferrario stress. “We have already seen that all tools can run twice as fast. We are very pleased with this productivity boost and smart part manufacturing using Bihler NC technology.” “Going forward, we want to continue improving our manufacturing technologies by further increasing the number of Bihler NC machines we use,” says Serena Agostini as she looks to the future. “This will allow us to respond to our customers’ requirements in the way we need to. They are entrusting us with increasingly complex component manufacturing tasks, some with a high degree of automation, in order to reduce the number of subcontractors they are using.”
In 1972, Eraldo Agostini founded the company that is now one of Italy’s leading suppliers of stamped and bended parts and assemblies. Alongside its headquarters in Sulbiate, VIRMA has also had a manufacturing plant in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, since 2013. VIRMA produces around 800 million parts a year, primarily for the electronics and electrical engineering industries.