Unceasing technological renewal and an eye on the future, first and foremost: these are the keys to an international success that continues despite obstacles and uncertainties
The latest report from Confindustria highlights a surprisingly positive performance of Italian goods exports in the first part of 2022 despite constrictions and price increases along international supply chains, cross sanctions with Russia, and generally deep uncertainty globally. Paolo Riccardi, COO and CFO of Comelz, a leading manufacturer of high-tech cutting systems and machinery, tells us about the latest innovation launched at the September edition of Lineapelle, the Nek Plus, and discloses the newest hyper-tech project in which the Vigevano-based company is investing its resources. They are aware of the fact that the industrial automation sector is undergoing very profound transformations due to technological advances according to Industry 4.0 that have effects not only on the interconnection and digitization of industrial machinery, but also has repercussions on all business processes.
Mr. Riccardi, what is the most relevant innovation you presented at the fair?
“The innovation is the new Nek Plus leather qualification table, a continuation, and evolution, of the concept of the old Nek, a tool that allows the digitization of leathers. Compared to the previous version, this new machine is equipped with a series of LED and grazing light illuminations with dimming shades and intensity.”
How was it developed?
“Having studied rays and their reflective properties, we have seen that these types of light rays, lateral and frontal, are better able to highlight leather defects. It is harder and less immediate to detect such defects on our tables or on our competitors’ ones.”
Have you already tested it?
“Yes, we have tested it in-house and also have it patented. It is something we believe in a lot because we are sure it will bring more benefits to companies. We have always been very attentive to the feedback we receive because we are sure that by using purpose-designed tools that can evolve like ours, we can make the operations of our clients easier, less burdensome and free from management and production obstacles. The feedback is very positive.”
Is this a first step in a much more complex project?
“Actually yes, we have started research on a very specific area: we are focusing on the development of a project that many people are talking about but which, to date, has not seen relevant results yet because it is very difficult, namely that of automatic leather qualification. This new machine of ours is a necessary step, although not enough to achieve the goal. A goal that we are developing with our software company, introducing more power in the areas of artificial intelligence and machine learning.”
What time frame do you have for the development of this project?
“It is difficult to estimate the time frame precisely. We are extremely confident because the artificial intelligence part is already attested. What we need to focus on most now is learning. In Comlez we already have specific experience so we are trying to speed things up despite still being in a research phase. The second area that we are working on, just to stay in this field, is the development of a new machine that is an intelligent assemblage of the vision system for nesting: therefore, the vision products that we already have on our tables conjoined with the cutting machine. In fact, we have created a unique tool equipped with a somewhat longer and more spacious work table that, with the addition of several cameras that we produce in-house with very advanced technologies (so more cameras with highly innovative vision programs), allows us to deal with various problems encountered on fabrics and design issues on PVC, TPU and other support materials that require repetitive patterns and particular cuts.”
Increasingly intelligent devices then?
“Exactly. In this latest project I just mentioned, we have a lot of innovative software that, combined with the machine technology, allows us to accommodate different functions such as vision, nesting and cutting, ensuring a marked improvement in the productivity of client companies.”
The last edition of Lineapelle had a great turnout. Can you confirm this?
“Already during the fair, we had received the first positive feedback on both machines, and we had not yet started the distribution. Of course, we are always very careful to collect the various suggestions, especially for the Neck Plus, which could have a very, very wide use. The feedback has definitely been positive especially from the big fashion brands, the designer labels for instance, as well as from the automotive sector. On the latter we received really significant feedback. In short, on both high-end luxury leather goods and automotive we can say we are confident.”
Last question: what expectations do you have for the immediate future?
“The only doubt we have is related to Asian shoe manufacturers, owed to China still being closed, and/or due to living the aftermath of two very difficult years. Asia is an area that is showing some intermittent signs of recovery, and so a return to pre-crisis levels is still the only unknown. Otherwise, we are seeing a good return and especially an awakening in all other areas such as South America, the United States and Europe (outside of Italy), the Middle East, and Turkey. We are looking forward confidently.