“Italian Icons of China”, Valvitalia
This article was originally published in Italian in Panorama on 16th Jan 2024.
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-valvitalia
To date, the Valvitalia Group represents excellence in the Italian and international industrial landscape. Founded in the year 2000 by Cavaliere del Lavoro - recognition for results obtained in the world of business, the creation of development and jobs but above all for the commitment to ethical and social responsibility aimed at improving living and working conditions in Italy - Salvatore Ruggeri, the company operates in the design, manufacture and global supply of valves, gas and fire protection systems and fittings. It is one of the world's leading manufacturers, boasting an established presence in more than 100 countries and operating in crucial sectors such as the energy, shipbuilding and railway industries.
The company, currently under the leadership of CEO Andrea Forzi, is 75 percent controlled by CDP Equity (CDP Group) and the remaining 25 percent by the Ruggeri family.
With seven production plants - five of them in Italy and two in the United Kingdom and China, respectively - along with a technical center present in Italy and direct representations in different parts of the world, the Valvitalia Group is synonymous with innovation, quality, and commitment to excellence.
Rapid growth on a global scale led, in 2006, to the founding of Valvitalia (Suzhou) Valves Co. Ltd. in China, of which Dr. Generoso Polito is the current General Manager .
The latter crowned his studies by graduating in Economics and Business at the University of Pavia in 2000. His first professional experiences saw him excel at Ernst & Young, where he held prominent roles in the audit of renowned national and international groups. His career then took a turn toward extraordinary finance, becoming a member of Ernst & Young's Capital Market Team.
In 2015, he joined the Valvitalia Group, contributing to the company's evolution and continued success.
Currently, as General Manager, he leads the Chinese subsidiary Valvitalia (Suzhou) Valves Co. Ltd with dedication and expertise, contributing significantly to its growth and brand consolidation globally.
Il Dott. Polito - attraverso le sue risposte alle seguenti domande - ha gentilmente condiviso il coinvolgente percorso di crescita e successo di Valvitalia Cina, delineando un quadro approfondito della sua esperienza all'interno dell'azienda e offrendo al contempo una panoramicagenerale delle strategie che hanno inciso in modo significativo a plasmare il successo del Gruppo.
1: How many years has Valvitalia been operating in China and what is the main reason for this focus on this specific market?
Valvitalia has been operating in the Chinese market since 2006, with its own manufacturing plant located in Suzhou covering an area of approximately 90,000 sq. m. initially established to serve mainly the American and Middle Eastern markets through the enhancement of the local supply chain.
Today Valvitalia Suzhou sells its China-made products worldwide, wherever there is an up-stream or mid-stream project.
The presence in the Chinese market is an important competitive advantage for the Group and for those who, like us, operate in the industrial engineering sector. China is a major market for sourcing high-quality mechanical components as well as a global manufacturing hub offering advanced manufacturing infrastructure and a highly developed and competitive supply chain.
In addition, the country as a whole has embarked on a major plan to modernize and build new infrastructure, with major investments in the energy sector (TYPE 2030/2060). Hence the importance of a direct presence, serving Chinese customers.
2. Considering the significant cultural differences between China and Italy, what opportunities and challenges have presented themselves, and how has Valvitalia addressed and capitalized on these elements during its operations in China?
Valvitalia China since it was established has been an example of a successful investment by an Italian entrepreneur - Salvatore Ruggeri - in China.
This has been possible thanks to the company's and our management's ability to combine the cultural diversities that exist between the two countries. The high level of Italian design, engineering, quality, and management - also recognized locally and awarded for two consecutive years by the Suzhou government with the Top Talent award - combined with industriousness, results orientation, efficiency, and economic sustainability, concepts strongly linked to Chinese culture, have allowed Valvitalia China to grow and successfully integrate into the Chinese production fabric.
This growth has also been possible thanks to the inclusion in the company's management of highly selected and highly educated Chinese managers.
3. In the valve industry, are the challenges faced by companies in China significantly different than in other markets?
One of the objectives of the Valvitalia Group's Business Plan, developed with the full support of the majority shareholder CDP Equity, is the penetration of the Chinese market; a very complex market with very high competition.
Quality and innovation are our hallmarks. The quality of our products is fundamental for the safety of those who use them in the plants while innovation is an important competitive advantage for us, and a key driver for long-term success and to meet the challenges in an ever-changing market.
We must continue to invest, improving innovation and the level of technical complexity of production in order to preserve the technology gap that still exists.
This concept is valid regardless of the market in which we operate and our approach remains the same, which is evidenced by the fact that Valvitalia China works with leading domestic and international Energy companies and EPCs.
Today, the Chinese market offers enormous opportunities particularly on projects in the LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) and FPSO (Floating Production Storage and Offloading) sectors; innovative solutions that not only offer significant advantages in the energy industry, allowing more efficient and sustainable production and transportation, but also reduce the dependence of gas consuming countries on producing ones and allow diversification of supply sources, improving energy security; relevant advantages in a period like this characterized by strong geopolitical tensions.
4. Looking at the continuous technological developments, has Valvitalia introduced new technologies in the Chinese market that are different from those in other markets?
As I said, technological development and innovation are two successful drivers of our growth model. In 2023 Valvitalia produced and sold to the Chinese market a valve totally engineered and designed in China, with the support of the Corporate Engineering & Innovation facilities based in Italy. It is a 15000 psi high-pressure ball valve capable of withstanding a pressure of more than 1,000 bar and which is tested in our factories at 1,500 bar (one and a half times the level of use); as you can imagine, not easy to manufacture. A product primarily designed and manufactured to meet domestic demand.
5. Considering the global push towards carbon neutrality, what initiatives will your company implement to improve sustainability?
Valvitalia is closely following the development of large-scale hydrogen applications. As early as 2021 when it received an order from Snam, Europe's leading natural gas transport operator, for the first supply in Europe of 'hydrogen ready' valves for a gas transport network. Moreover, in July 2023, the Milan Polytechnic validated a particular valve - manufactured by us - capable of handling 100% pure hydrogen transport, rightfully placing us among the very few companies in the world capable of supplying this technology.
6. What advice would you share with investors or managers considering investing in China?
China is, and will remain, central to those operating in industrial mechanics. In particular, because of the supply capacity it offers along with the technology push that has been evident over the past decade. For entrepreneurs who are considering investing in China, my direct experience in the field advises them to follow the country's growth trend with interest.
China is a country that, although with current lower growth rates than in the recent past, is developing and innovating very fast. The Chinese industrial system as a whole, all stakeholders and market players are highly focused on achieving the growth and development results the country has set for itself. A factor that pushes China to be faster than others.
I am fully convinced that even if the economy shows some signs of slowing down, China remains a key economy that possesses the structural capabilities and skills to return to pre-pandemic levels of development.
In conclusion, it is evident how Valvitalia has been able to overcome the challenges and exploit the opportunities present in the complex scenario of the Chinese market. The ability to bring together Italian and Chinese excellence, combining them with a strategy focused on quality and innovation, has made the company a remarkably successful Italian icon with a distinctive imprint on the Chinese territory.
Establishing Valvitalia as an Italian icon in China is not only an acknowledgement of the success achieved, but also projects the company into a future of ever-expanding possibilities. The strategic vision of the Rivanazzano (Pavia) company places it in an optimal position to seize the growing opportunities in the advanced and sustainable energy sectors. An exciting new chapter is opening for the Valvitalia Group, which is preparing to leave an indelible mark on the evolution of the industry, testifying to the strength of collaboration and innovation.