Report of a day spent with the team of the Trissino-based enterprise, following the finishing process of leathers provided by Conceria Dani, a tannery headquartered in Arzignano
March 22nd, 2022, a whole day spent at the GEMATA plant in Trissino (Vicenza province): Tannery International staff was welcomed by corporate technicians and managers so as to learn all about one of the most prominent companies internationally, a leader in the production of technologies for the finishing of leather, bonded leather, synthetic materials and glass. An interesting, fascinating visit, whose “highlight” revolved around some finishing activities carried out with the support of the firm’s cutting-edge test centre and performed on hides supplied by Conceria DANI, world-leading tannery headquartered in Arzignano (Vicenza province).
As explained in the other articles featured in this report, these two renowned enterprises, both based in the Arzignano district, one of the world’s most prominent, well-structured business clusters, are united by a long-standing collaboration.
During the finishing tests, we were accompanied by Giovanni Posenato, that is, GEMATA’s Area Manager. “Now, we are proceeding with a technique that is usually called “release paper” finishing,” explained Posenato during the simulation. “It is a GREENFINISH system that ordinarily uses leathers featuring a correctedgrain surface. The first operation carried out is the roller coating with GREENSTARS, with a variable quantity of water-based adhesive (in this case, 8 grams on leather): said process will result in uniform products both colour- and grain-wise. While the adhesive is not completely dry, the leather goes through a tunnel to reach the next phase, technically called “lamination calender”: leather-paper lamination is ensured by the chemical (2 gr/ft) previously applied and now fully dry. At this point, the hide bonded with the paper enters another infrared drying tunnel before moving on to the final phase, when the technician physically separates the two materials. Moreover, the plant is equipped with an automatic system designed to remove chemical residues from the release paper, so as to use them scores of times to finish new hides.”
“The model used,” highlighted Posenato, “is a “GREENFISHIN LAB” lab line, chosen by both large-sized tanneries, interested in making samples, and by chemical laboratories. The same plant featuring longer tunnels, “GREENFINISH SHORT”, is the perfect solution for tanneries that do not have enough space. Last year, we sold ten models in Italy. Said technology is in highly demanded by footwear and leatherware factories because it requires smaller spaces, while carrying out the functions of the standard line, as well as because it allows to easily finish small production batches too. Noteworthy the fact that this type of finishing technique does not result neither in waste materials nor in second-rate hides. On the other hand, the version installed at the tannery Conceria DANI is one of the longest ever, as it provided with two coating heads and longer drying tunnels in order to improve production rate.”
GEMATA has always paid close attention to environmental. On the same day, we addressed this topic with Ida De Maria, Communication and Marketing Manager, who helped arrange the visit to the corporate facility. Her task lies in “portraying” not only a mechanical company, but also a top-notch example of the local entrepreneurship, acknowledged as a benchmark sustainability-wise.
“Our firm has always put environmental safeguard in the limelight,” stated De Maria. “Our machines are inherently eco-friendly, equipped with rollers to apply chemicals to leather. In this way, unlike what happens with sprays, emissions in the atmosphere are cut down and, at the same time, there is a marked reduction in the amount of chemicals, energy and water used. We implemented this green project when sustainability was not yet a priority and when the regulations were far less strict compared to now. A corporate mission promoted via advertising activities as well: we are very lucky, because our chairman, engineer Gianni Maitan, is a wildlife photography enthusiast, awarded several times in domestic and international photo contests. Since 1992, we have used pictures of animals taken in their natural habitat for our communication projects, including ADV campaigns. A clear message to underline how our machines are really conceived to contribute to sustainability.”
Said choice, made back in the past, has definitely paid off, both domestically and internationally. Our nature-centred advertising is praised all over the world,” stated the Communication and Marketing Manager. “It is featured on the most prominent sector newspapers via press releases, pictures and videos, and we take part in the most important trade shows.”
Gianni Maitan celebrates a remarkable milestone, thirty years at the helm of the firm: “In 2022, we are set to launch cuttingedge products and new technologies. sustainability has been our prerogative since the company’s establishment.”
“The early months of 2022 started promisingly, as we all expected it to be the year of economic upswing, thanks to the organization of international exhibitions and high-profile events, the perfect occasions to showcase the cutting-edge products and new technologies we have developed in the last two years. Unfortunately, the war in Ukraine has somehow deflated the enthusiasm and growth prospects have shrunk.” This is the opinion of Gianni Maitan, engineer and GEMATA Director, words full of concern after the first glimpse of encouraging signs at the beginning of the year, following the complicated two-year pandemic that has slowed down global economy.
“Up until mid-March, all the economic indicators,” explained Maitan during the company visit, “outlined a promising increase in consumption levels, especially when it comes to quality product, a trend the whole entrepreneurial system would have benefitted from”.
What about your export rate?
“According to the pre-pandemic data, the domestic market accounted for 30% of our income, while the remaining 70% was the export rate. We delivered machines even to remote islands such as the Republic of Fiji. Due to Covid-19, the market slowed down especially abroad, whereas in our country the Industry 4.0 incentives and other tax benefits succeeded in ensuring a good turnover. Despite the generalized downturn experienced globally, revenues-wise, we managed to recover pretty well in 2021 compared to the previous year; and yet, in 2020 as well, in spite of the difficulties, we were in the black, a recurring trend since I have joined GEMATA.”
In the last two years, how much did you miss attending international exhibitions? And now that you are back at it, how do you feel?
“We were deeply affected by the lack of international trade shows. For example, the ample majority of the fairs held in the East were cancelled. For a company such as ours, that thrives on the contact with clientele, the damage was considerable. In the early months of 2022, between the end of March and the beginning of April, we took part in the exhibition held in Dubai, where we guaranteed our participation. It was an important step towards the return to normal. For us, in addition to Italy, the key reference markets are still the USA, South America, Asia and Europe, hence the decision to attend all the international shows.”
This year, you are going to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary at the helm of this firm, a long adventure characterized by a soaring growth in terms of turnover, number of employees, patented brands…
“The brand was established in 1979, while I joined the company in 1992, after the departure of a group of business partners. I remember an anecdote that concerns me directly: back then, among other things, we manufactured machines for the processing of sheepskins with fur. After a careful analysis of the market, I came to the conclusion that there was no future for this type of machines, because temperatures were on the rise, houses had heating systems and, even in colder countries, people used cars, motorbikes and bikes to move, no longer going on foot. Therefore, it was pretty obvious that the interest in that kind of clothing was going to decrease more and more. In the meantime, footwear-making technologies were gaining a stronger foothold in the market and we chose to follow that trend. As they were smaller machines, between 1.80 and 2.20 metres, we started to develop some projects: in the late ‘90s, we launched the prototypes of the 3.40-metre roller coating machines. The market feedback was immediately reassuring.”
Over the last two years, you have devoted a lot of time to the R&D sector: what are the main innovations you are going to launch on the market?
“After the lockdown in spring 2020, a period in which all economic activities were put on hold, as soon as possible, we went back to work in the technical office to focus on innovation and design: it was a strategic choice in order to provide, at the right moment, a variety of cutting-edge solutions, able to spark the sector’s interest. Bearing this in mind, we have further upgraded the roller coating machines, especially the GREENSTAR model. The 3.40-metre machines, used for whole hides, are provided with the same technologies as those with working width ranging from 1800 to 2400 mm: the goal is to launch them before the summer season. Another new project, already patented, entails the implementation of a “tag” on the rollers, thus turning them into interactive tools, designed to store key data such as work time, thickness levels, leather batches and much more. Patents are one of our flagships: since I have joined GEMATA, we have obtained approximately fifty, on average two/three per year.”
In the last three years, your release paper finishing lines, more than 50 metres long, have added some shorter models: what has been the market response?
“Excellent, given that said products are in high demand. The GREENFINISH SHORT line, designed in 2020 during the lockdown, is an extremely compact model. The perfect solution for the leatherware sector, especially in the district based in Santa Croce sull’Arno, where firms are located in smaller areas compared to the Arzignano cluster. The customers who have purchased this model are very satisfied with the results achieved: these plants have been handed to subcontractors as well and other deliveries will take place soon. We are positive and optimistic as there are further orders in progress, also favored by the ecological characteristics of the plant. The GREENFINISH SHORT line has a low environmental impact because the adhesive on the hide is applied with the GREENSTARs roller machine, instead of with the spray as used by competitors’ traditional plants. The use of the roller eliminates both the overspray phenomenon and avoids the use of fume abatement systems, which are energy-intensive as they are equipped with an extractor that requires 12 to 15 kW worth of power.”
Moving on to sustainability: during your thirty years at the helm of GEMATA, how have you managed to put this aspect in the limelight?
“The choice to go for machines with a low environmental impact was farsighted, well ahead of times, because, back then, this issue was not a priority. Since the first half of the ‘90s, we were already at the forefront when it comes to environmental safeguard, a feat that earned us some recognition. Furthermore, we have always aimed at reducing consumption levels: we have never followed the trend of the moment, quite the contrary. I dare say we have set the trend. To communicate our green commitment, we have chosen to use my naturalistic photographs on advertising and product catalogs: due to the fact that I immortalized animals in particular contexts such as Africa, Central and South America, the slogan chosen was “less consumption, more nature”, combining the photos of the subjects taken with the singles machines”.
Product-wise, what are the main innovations that will characterize 2022 as well as the years to come for GEMATA?
“In addition to the TAGS for rollers and to the development of GREENSTAR 3400, we are also testing the release paper system on hides for the automotive sector. Moreover, we are designing a plant to finish whole hides with release paper.”
What are the other flagship models featured in your range of products?
“A special mention goes to the splitting machines for the “throughfeed” processing of leather “in lime”, a solution that guarantees, among other advantages, consistent thickness, thus markedly reducing shaving operations and stressing less the material.”
Our guide for the company tour was engineer Mauro Pellizzari, Gemata Vice President, who, while showing us the various departments, outlined in detail the workflow organization of a plant, tidy and well-structured, so as to guarantee the highest efficiency standards.
“Our Group,” stated Pellizzari before starting the visit, “can rely on a total of 115 employees in Italy as well as on three manufacturing sites, two headquartered in Trissino and one in Santa Croce sull’Arno (Pisa province). Furthermore, there is a company based in Brazil, in Novo Hamburgo, in the Rio Grande do Sul State, that has been supplying mainly the Brazilian and Argentinian markets. Quality is our main priority, even with regard to the South American production, as well as to the other plants worldwide; therefore, we check the articles from the corporate headquarters in Trissino. All the components used to manufacture our machines are always available, either in our warehouses or from suppliers that, oftentimes, work exclusively for us. Thanks to them and to our employees, we have always guaranteed, even during the two-year pandemic, a steady, well-provided, dynamic supply chain.”
“GEMATA technologies,” pointed out the Vice President, “are used not only in the tanning sector, but also in the apparel, textile and glass industries, hence we have a diverse clientele. Nevertheless, our core business is still leather, given the proximity to the Arzignano district and the roots of our entrepreneurial history. We can provide the customers, in Italy and worldwide alike, with complete, “turnkey” systems and with whole finishing departments for tanneries. When it comes to finishing, we are able to handle all types of processes, ranging from classic up to roller and spray coating, without forgetting the multiple options in terms of fixing agents and fashion effects, the application of motifs, lamination and release paper systems. GEMATA is the perfect partner for companies that want to implement finishing technologies, because, thanks to its expertise, manages to embrace the whole supply chain.”
The production of parts visible inside the Trissino-based facility is fairly limited, but significant. “Since we do not own either a carpentry or machine tools,” confirmed Pellizzari, “we rely on external partners, through the collaboration with several high-profile enterprises, satellite activities that involve approximately 800 people. On the other hand, the assembly and quality control operations are carried out in-house here: our technical office features 16 employees, who develop projects and carefully monitor the supply chain, given that all the projects as well as the know-how are ours. In the picking area, warehouse workers collect, according to the order, the required materials, later assembled on production islands, where machines are put together, tested and checked: at that point, after packaging operations, the plants are moved in the “finished product” area, ready to be sent out to the customers, in Italy or abroad.”
“To our technicians, we demand the utmost tidiness, each component is electronically marked and placed in automatic warehouses. As far as possible, we strive to keep our stock full in order to proceed with our work, even though, at the moment, we are dealing with the lack of certain materials, especially electronic parts, copper, bronze and technical plastics such as nylon. We always try to think ahead: as for the gearmotors, we can meet the requirements for the next two years thanks to the firm’s financial strength. The price increase issue has become more apparent this year, but in the past, we had to contend with raw materials’ scarce availability.”
The leather sector is an ever-changing market. “In the last few years, several tanneries have joined forces, thus becoming larger, with remarkable manufacturing capacity levels: production downtime is not an option, hence the need to turn to reliable partners. At the beginning, a slightly higher cost is to be expected, but, in the long run, it becomes an asset, given that the service supplied in terms of continuity and availability, including potential onsite maintenance worldwide, is invaluable compared to unreliable support, characterized by constant issues concerning the availability of resources, assistance and service. We are able to provide spare parts for machines sold thirty years ago, customers are not left to their own devices and the assistance is guaranteed for life. We can take care of every single plant and machine we have ever manufactured, thus confirming how GEMATA technologies have an important value even when resold. Oftentimes, one might end up purchasing a machine from a company that later goes out of business, resulting in problems when it comes to maintenance and the provision of spare parts.”
Among the projects pursued by GEMATA, there is the headquarters expansion as well. “As soon as the Trissino municipality gives us the green light to proceed,” explained Mauro Pellizzari, “we will build another facility, directly connected to the warehouse. It is an area we already own, where, currently, there is a tensile structure that manages to protect the frames and part of the finished product. After solving an issue with the telephone tower, that must be moved, we are going to make some changes in terms of road network so as to give the chance, especially to heavy vehicles, to enter through via Postale and leave from viale dell’Industria: the goal is to kick off said project after the summer season and to complete it in spring 2023.”
Davide Frighetto, Gruppo Dani Hsf R&D Team Leader: “In our company, we use an 83-meter-long release paper finishing plant, the longest available in italy”
A strategic, prestigious collaboration that brings together GEMATA SpA and Conceria DANI SpA, the former based in Trissino while the latter, acknowledged as one of the world’s most prominent groups in the leather processing field, in Arzignano. DANI is an all-round tannery that produces leathers for all sectors, featuring two business units – that is, DANI Automotive and DANI Home Style and Fashion -, chosen as partners by the most renowned international brands. All the manufacturing sites are headquartered in Arzignano, so as to guarantee the articles’ as well as the production processes’ control, quality standards and reliability. Furthermore, in order to support the customer even throughout the downstream phases of the tanning cycle, the Group can rely on three facilities for cutting and sewing operations, based respectively in Arzignano, in Slovenj Gradec (Slovenia) and in Nabeul (Tunisia).
The partnership between the two enterprises has been in place for several years, as confirmed by Davide Frighetto, DANI GROUP’s HSF R&D Team Leader, whom we met during our visit to the GEMATA headquarters. Together with him, there was also Alessia Zamarella, Senior Marketing & Communication Officer.
“About two years and a half ago,” explained Frighetto, “we installed in our headquarters in Arzignano an 83-meter release paper plant produced by GEMATA. As far as we know, it is the longest one available in Italy. It was a well-founded decision, because said technology is provided with two coating heads. That means that, after applying a thin layer of product to the paper, we can proceed with a second coat, so as to ensure a homogeneous, more elegant, top-quality final result.”
Why have you chosen GEMATA as favoured partner?
“For a variety of reasons. It is a wide-ranging collaboration, we have been working with them for several years, for other finishing lines as well. The key asset lies in the opportunity to customize the plant according to our specific needs, without forgetting the ongoing support and assistance they provided us with, right from the design phase up to assembly operations. Our staff was actively involved in the project, another decisive factor that has contributed to the growth of a bond grounded in mutual trust and respect.”
What does this partnership entail?
“First of all, I would like to underline that the headquarters of both groups are based in the Arzignano leather district, just a few kilometres away. The two teams interact should the need arise: during a new article’s development and testing phase, several adjustments are necessary, and it is of pivotal importance to have a GEMATA technician at hand. With this sophisticated plant, teamwork was essential, especially at the beginning, to collect all the required information and data; later, thanks to our experience, we managed to customize the machine based on speed and other parameters. We believe that the project will be successful, it is perfect for certain market segments such as leatherware, for both luxury and mid to high-end products, whose demand is very high in Italy and abroad alike.”
Is there a constant dialogue between your technical office and GEMATA’s?
“In the early stages, we scheduled a series of face-to-face meetings, but the Trissino-based enterprise arranged a system that, even remotely, manages to solve any issue; it is easy to connect to the panels placed on the machine, where processing parameters can be set up. Such a prompt assistance, able to solve problems in no time, averts the risk of production drops due to downtime, no matter how brief. Furthermore, it allows to avoid on-site maintenance, a key asset both time-wise and in terms of assistance costs.”
What kind of processing techniques do you perform with this large-sized plant?
“We can work with various types of paper, according to the customer’s requirements. Currently, the most used is fine-grained paper: in this case, for the simulation carried out with GEMATA technicians, we made the very same choice, because it is a suitable solution for the leatherware and footwear industries, two pivotal sectors for our company. The installation of this finishing line has helped us develop a range of products that can meet all market demands, often providing customized designs too. This technology has also resulted in a higher production capacity as well as in a more effective time management: for now, we have arranged two shifts a day, but, in the pre-Covid period, there were occasions when we needed even a third shift. Basically, we were fully operational 24 hours a day, during the night too.”
What about the automotive sector?
“We are carrying out some tests in our laboratories. To date, it is not our main source of interest, but, since we have such a competitive technology at our disposal, we must fully understand the machinery’s potential and, subsequently, analyse new opportunities. We are aware of the fact that the automotive market segment is more technical, featuring top-notch parameters in terms of friction as well as weather resistance. The hides for this specific sector focus more on performances, while those destined to the leatherware industry put in the limelight to visual and tactile effects.”
What are the other benefits entailed by the use of a machine featuring this peculiar size?
“Inside the machine, there is a device featuring a range of rewinding tubes that, for approximately 40 metres, guarantee the so-called “paper reserve”. Should it run out, there is plenty of time to place a new paper coil without switching off the machine, thus preventing any productivity issue. We know that GEMATA manufactures plants with the same technology, yet featuring a more compact size, but, given that we have enough space, we have picked a larger finishing line. A shorter plant could become an interesting solution for us in case we start to invest in a second line that may occupy a smaller area; the remaining space could be used for the warehouse or for other production equipment.”
According to analysts, 2022 is set to be the year of economic upturn: what are the prospects for DANI GROUP?
“We strongly believe in recovery. As far as we are concerned, the best option, as things stand today, is to focus on and invest in leatherware and footwear, two sectors that, on a global level, are expected to guarantee higher growth rates compared to other fields.”