“Italian Icons of China”, Comau
This article was originally published in Italian in Panorama on 5th Jun 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-comau
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: Comau
For our fourth article in the series, we have an exclusive interview with Gaetano Cantalupo who joined in Comau on 2020, and now served as the Head of Countries Cluster APAC of Comau.
Gaetano Cantalupo joined the FCA Group in 2010 as Head of China Projects and over the years has held various positions including Head of Manufacturing Engineering (Technology Center), Deputy General Manager for the JV GAC FCA and General Manager of the Jeep plant in Guangzhou.
Overall, Gaetano boasts almost 25 years of experience in complex multinational companies operating in the Automotive Business.
Since moving to China in 2010, he held both commercial and technical roles and embraced the growing opportunities of the market by managing and developing highly challenging projects and businesses.
Thanks to years of working abroad for complex multinational companies, Gaetano has a genuine passion and first-hand experience in managing multicultural organizations.
Q: How many years has Comau operated in China? Why focus on this market in particular?
GC: Comau has operated our business in China for about 25 years.
1- Market: The position of the Chinese market is becoming increasingly important.
2- Consumption: China has a huge population base, and with the increase of consumer income and urbanization, there is great consumption potential.
3- Resource: China has a mature auto manufacturing supplier chain, which provides Comau with good opportunities to develop locally.
Q: Considering the immense culture gap between China & Italy, what in your experience are the opportunities and pitfalls of such a factor? Does this effect your company’s business in the Chinese marketplace? Is this something you believe that you must overcome for products and/or marketing activities in the Chinese marketplace? Or can it be used as a tool to explore new avenues of innovative thinking for your company?
GC: Multinational companies will encounter both opportunities and challenges while managing cross culture businesses.
Speaking of opportunities,
1-Comau globally have a long history in automation, as a team, we can share and utilize those valuable assets to quick start in other regions.
2-Comau also share our R&D results, which will reduce tech development cost.
3-As global company, Comau have a global footprint, which can better serve the global customer.
Speaking of challenges,
1-Culture difference, like language, cultural background, etc. do exist during work, we need more communication in relation to how it affects work efficiency.
2-Multinational companies have long and complicated working processes, in one way I can ensure accuracy, conversely, this long decision mechanism will also hold us back in the market.
Q: Regarding the industry of automation and robotics, of course, what particular challenges in the Chinese marketplace must companies in your sector overcome? As Comau is global player in this field, how does China stack up when compared with other markets? Are there fundamental differences in the difficulties faced by foreign companies when compared to domestic companies or are they universal?
GC: With the transformation and upgrading of China's manufacturing industry, we can see huge demand in automation and robotics. Therefore, many newcomers enter this market and grow fast with the support of local capital.
Firstly, some newcomers participate in the market with a very low price point, with their involvement interrupting the normal market competition.
Secondly, some newcomers possess advanced technology, based on their flexible and fast research and development strategies, while also purchasing high-tech enterprises.
Last but not least, some newcomers create strategic cooperation with national enterprises or local OEM, which bond their business together with the local customer.
Comau, as global automation player, our development depends on our own innovative people, our strong and flexible organization, our continuous innovation, and competitive products. We possess advanced technology and solutions, which allow Comau to be still active and leading in the China market.
Q: Based on this year IDI’s topic, what is the role that new technologies play within the overall design of your company’s projects?
GC: Industrial design is closely related with the development of science & technology.
The design is influenced by two important factors: materials and technology
Comau creates value across multiple sectors (Transportation, Industry and Utilities) and on two dimensions: Products and Integrated Solutions for industrial automation, as well as advanced manufacturing systems and innovative sustainable production lines.
Keep it simple and re-configurable: Our technologies facilitate flexibility, use of advanced materials/processes, and maximization of customer ROI.
Q: Has your company implemented certain characteristics within your projects which are unique to the Chinese marketplace? Specifically tailored and different to those within other marketplaces? If so, why?
Q: In China, as well as globally, the emergence of AI created content has exploded in recent years, has this new normal influenced your company and how you approach projects?
GC: Not yet.
Q: Considering the global push for carbon neutrality, what initiatives does your company/sector plan to implement to enhance sustainability?
GC: Achieving true sustainability is certainly one of the greatest challenges for 21st century industry. Everything is connected. A company’s good business practices not only affect its employees, suppliers and clients, but nature and society as well. We at Comau are well aware of this and that is why our commitment to sustainability is so thorough, encompassing broad strategic issues in the pursuit of this goal.
Albeit topics such as diversity and inclusion, the responsible use of resources and reducing carbon emissions, occupational health and safety, and responsible acquisition procedures may seem to be unrelated, they are crucial elements of a successful transition towards a greener, more self-sufficient future.
Comau’s ongoing push for innovation has naturally led it to adopt and create sustainable solutions and technologies, both for its own operations and those of its customers. We work to help industry and society in various projects across four specific areas.
Q: In 2023, what are the design trends that you think need the most consideration in China?
GC: Re-configurable; Flexibility; Modulization are the three main design trends in automation manufacturing.
1. The Development of Family Series Product Design
2. Development of personalized products
3. Development of Green and Sustainable Design
4. AI Design
Q: One year from now, what do you envision will be main talking point of the Chinese marketplace for companies involved in automation and robotics?
GC: We at Comau believe that there will be a new way of manufacturing, We call this HUMANufacturing.
In the field of robotics, lightweight, miniaturization, and collaboration with humans are some of the emerging trends. Robot modeling and programming software has begun to receive attention. There are fewer entertainment and service robots, but this area has been developing. Modularization and networking are some other key trends, with robot application technology also gaining significant traction recently.
In the field of automation, the new development trend is mainly towards complete sets of technology solutions for automation, and the advantage of complete sets of technology is that major manufacturers can easily integrate their new technologies, which can make production lines more flexible.
Curated by: Atty. Carlo D'Andrea, Vice President of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China