“Italian Icons of China”, Marposs S.p.A
This article was originally published in Italian in Panorama on 6th Apr 2023.
Please note that this is a courtesy translation of the Italian language article originally published in the Panorama Magazine Issue at: https://www.panorama.it/economia/italian-icons-of-china-marposs-s-p-a
“Italian Icons of China” series: A collection of internationally acclaimed Italian brands chosen to share their unique experiences and market insights in China.
In order to provide our readers with an in-depth examination of how Italian companies have fared in the Chinese marketplace, we have begun our ‘Italian Icons of China Series’ of articles by conducting interviews with some of the top CEOs of premier Italian companies based in the Chinese market. We will discuss their success stories, detailing the specificities of how to succeed in the Chinese marketplace based on their company’s background, the history of their brands and how they managed the business expansion based on their specific strengths and market conditions. Our Icons will also provide their suggestions for the China market, for MNCs, small & medium enterprises, entrepreneurs and all business leaders in between, based on their own investment experiences, the differences between Italy and China as well as the future projections for both China and their industry.
Our Icon: Marposs S.p.A.
For our second article in the series, we have an exclusive interview with Eng. Alessandro Strada, CEO of Marposs S.p.a. since 2018, where he held several roles including Technical Director at Marposs Japan in Tokyo and Industrial Director at Marposs Nanjing Automation Plant in China, contributing to the growth, commercial and technical/production development of the Organization.
The company, led by President Stefano Possati was founded in Bentivoglio, in the province of Bologna in 1952, and is now a world leader in the field of measurement, inspection and testing. To date, Marposs has a direct presence in more than 25 countries, along with an extensive network of agents and distributors in more than ten countries.
Q: How many years has Marposs operated in China? Why focus on this market in particular?
Our travels to China began as early as the second half of the 1970s.
Our first Representative Office in Beijing dates back to 1986, and in the mid-1990s we officially opened our sales and service facility in the Chinese territory.
This step took place within a strategy of geographic expansion that has inspired Marposs since its inception and has led us today to be present with our own facilities in 25 countries. Among these, China is one the most important with about 800 people involved in production, sales, and technical assistance. This choice was due to the fact that we realized that to sell in China, we had to produce in China. This was to reassure our customers and be close to them. Producing in China to export low-cost products is a policy that is shortsighted, and one which we never shared. This is a market with very high potential in the different sectors in which we operate: from our more traditional markets such as machine tool controls and automotive, to market segments related to the world of consumer electronics and the transition to electric mobility.
Q: Considering the immense culture gap between China & Italy, what in your experience are the opportunities and pitfalls of such a factor? How has your company overcome/took advantage of them?
Throughout our history, we have always considered it essential to communicate with customers in their language and assimilate their culture in order to understand their needs and gain their trust. In China, despite an extraordinary welcome received from the institutions, we have often faced difficulties of integration, local competition and, in general, great cultural differences. We have always managed to deal with these issues by continuing to believe and invest in this project also through the important presence of Italian personnel trained in our headquarters in Bentivoglio. These guys have contributed in an extraordinary way to bring our technical integrity and experience to this reality.
Q: Regarding the manufacturing industry at large, what particular challenges in the Chinese marketplace must companies in your sector overcome? Considering that your company is involved in such a wide range of products and solutions for the entire manufacturing processes are there significantly different challenges across the board? How do they compare with other markets? Are they different for foreign and domestic enterprises or universal?
China, from a market with a large quantity of production at competitive prices due to low labor costs, has quickly evolved to highly innovative solutions with extremely rapid developments: product lead times are short, processes digitalized, and decisions are made much faster than elsewhere.
Marposs has seized this opportunity and invested heavily in this market.
Having been present in China for so long, we have followed the change in China's industrial fabric. The goal has always been to design and produce competitive solutions for Chinese customers and ensure the same quality of product coming out of the Group's other locations.
Today we have a presence in the country with two state-of-the-art production centers (Nanjing and Sanmenxia), two technology development centers (Shenzhen and Shanghai) as well as sales and service branches located throughout the country to be able to best support our customers.
Q: Marposs is renowned to be a worldwide leader in measurement, inspection and testing, operating in a wide range of sectors, based on this year IDI’s topic, what is the role that new technologies play within the overall range and design/functionalities of your products?
The topics of digitization and the adoption of smart factories are crucial for us both in terms of growth and industry evolution.
Marposs has been a supplier of smart inspection and control tools even before the concept of Industry 4.0 had been developed. From the very beginning, our systems have been able to generate data related to the manufacturing process to enable our customers to improve the quality of their products.
Today, the issue Marposs wants to address is to make all this data usable, including remotely or on our customers' management systems, for analysis and improvement of the entire manufacturing process.
Whereas up until a few years ago, measurement data was aimed only at the success of one part of the process, today aggregate data makes it possible to predict possible process problems and anticipate solutions.
Q: Have Marposs introduced products and solutions which are unique to the Chinese marketplace? Specifically tailored and different to those within other marketplaces? If so, why?
Certainly, and this goes back to the importance of being present in the territory to understand a country's needs. In our Nanjing plant we design and create tailor-made solutions dedicated to our Chinese customers, especially in the automotive sector.
To improve our positioning in very competitive sectors such as, for example, consumer electronics manufacturing controls, we then developed specific products and technologies and refined the segmentation of some existing product lines.
Q: Considering the global push for carbon neutrality, what initiatives does your company/sector plan to implement to enhance sustainability?
Marposs has always contributed to improving its customers' production processes: ensuring quality today also means helping to make production more efficient, in terms of waste, energy and emissions, and therefore greener.
We are also an active participant in the revolution toward sustainable mobility: we have developed several solutions to improve the quality of components such as electric motors and batteries.
At Group level, we contribute several initiatives to make our main production plants more sustainable through the use of renewable energy and through a strong focus on welfare.
Q: In 2023, what are the business trends that you think need the most consideration in China?
China will certainly aim to recover production and consumption capacity from the years characterized by the pandemic emergency. It will remain a market that is characterized by strong growth, innovation, and will further strengthen local skills and know-how.
The two thematic areas that we see gaining more and more relevance in terms of industrial investment are those related to sustainable mobility and the electronic components manufacturing sector.
Q: One year from now, what do you envision will be main talking point of the Chinese marketplace for foreign investors?
In Western economies there is a perceived concern generated by the growing economic weight that China is gradually developing, it is indisputable that this is a country full of opportunities.
After an initial phase in which, partly thanks to investments in joint ventures, Chinese companies have acquired specific expertise, today China is to all intents and purposes a technology leader in several sectors with clear business expansions beyond its borders. To be able to take advantage of the many opportunities, continued investment is needed to increase the capacity to be reliable partners.
It is clear from our interview that the key words for success in this area are above all "adaptability" and "progress".
China is not what is left in the Western imagination, an image that is decades old; instead, it is a rapidly and steadily developing powerhouse, full of pitfalls as well as great opportunities. As of today, a presence in China is crucial for anyone who wants to boast a major presence in the global marketplace.
Our series on Italian companies in China will continue to bring our readers the experiences and knowledge of the main Italian players in the Chinese market, in different industries and sizes, keep following us!
Curated by: Atty. Carlo D'Andrea, Vice President of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China