Cama packaging continues expansion with major plans for new headquarters
With the packaging machinery market attracting strong competition around the world, devising equipment with a point of difference poses a number of challenges, as Neill Barston discovered visiting Cama’s Italian headquarters
Delivering packaging machinery with advanced robotics and efficiency features remains a prime area of industry focus, as the global drive for ever-greater levels of automated solutions gathers pace.
So, it is little surprise that the dedicated engineering and technical teams within the Cama group near Milan, Italy, are reporting particularly strong demand for their services.
As they explain during a site visit, the business has come a long way since its formation in the early 1980s, with digital technology now offering enhanced capabilities that continue to push the boundaries of industrial production operations.
Consequently, the company enthuses that having the in-house capability to create equipment such as its sophisticated Delta robots used in its Triaflex system handling delicate product ranges marks a major milestone.
For its part, Cama’s established connection with the confectionery, bakery and ice-cream sectors remains at the heart of the business, serving many of the major global businesses operating in the chocolate and biscuit market.
Subsequently, the firm is targeting turnover of $100 million for 2020, as it continues to expand its presence around the world through prominent participation in some of the world’s biggest packaging and equipment events.
As Massimo Pietra, group sales director, reveals during my visit to its Garbagnate Monastero site near lake Lecco, these are especially notable times for the business.
Having joined the company two and a half years ago after previously working in the confectionery sector, he remarks that he is enjoying being part of a business that is expanding around the world.
From its core lines of secondary packaging, the company is also able to offer additional services including providing complete turnkey operations for its customers.
“I’ve been here a couple of years now and it’s exciting to be part of a young business with a multicultural management. We now have five subsidiaries operating around the world, including in the US, the UK, France, China and Australia, as we need to be close to our customers in those territories,” explains Pietra of the company’s clear drive to enhance the reach of its operations.
He says that perhaps the most significant task occupying the firm’s immediate horizons is a major plan to entirely relocate its headquarters to a larger, existing site linked to the company at nearby Molteno.
The location’s planned 35,000 sq. m of space is significantly larger than its present site, which currently requires company engineers to work from two additional smaller sites beyond its existing headquarters in order to fulfil its order book of equipment including secondary packaging and turnkey solutions.
According to Pietra, the demands of the company’s global base of customers are becoming ever more complex in terms of responding to an increasingly varied series of flavours for product ranges.
In addition, he says having flexible production capabilities for a variety of portion sizes for the burgeoning ‘on the go’ food market is a markedly significant factor.
As he explains, it has been through working with such major corporations that enables Cama to re-invest a sizeable portion (around 5 per cent) of its revenues into research and development, which he says is continuing to make a big difference.
Another factor in its success, he says, is in having a training academy, which started out as a facility for training customers on the use of its equipment, which has now grown to provide a far wider base of enhancing its own teams’ skills.
While confectionery and bakery operations account for around 60 per cent of its turnover, he says that the business is also exploring opportunities in the wider ‘ready to eat’ food market, which is proving another driver for technological advances.
Pietra adds: “This is an exciting time for our business, as we are taking on a greater number of more complex projects in response to demands for equipment. The rise of online commerce has led to a requirement for a greater level of product customisation that has seen solutions being developed to a new level.
“Delivering our new site will be a big step in our history – the site here is getting a little small for our ambitions, so within a year and a half we will be in our new location, which is being refurbished.
“The new headquarters will be a lot more complex than our present one, and it will feature dedicated areas for research and development, as well as specific facilities for our partners, so it will be designed exactly to our requirements.”
As Pietra notes, sensing major market trends is of critical importance to the company, and he says the development of e-commerce is continuing to impact on the sector in terms of shortened timescales expected for delivering equipment. Regarding equipment features and functionality, he adds that responding to market demands for machinery targeting smaller and more varied portion sizes of confectionery and baked snacks is something which requires inventive technical solutions.
He adds that the business is also applying resources into the development of creating more environmentally-friendly packaging solutions through its own internal packaging design division. This also helps lend the company a commercial edge in dealing with its machinery customers in devising complete solutions for industry.
Pietra says the influence of industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things (IOT) continues to prove a “huge trend’ in the market, as the sector seeks cost-effective production methods that are increasingly dominated by automated solutions.
He adds that the company’s ‘BreakThrough Generation’ of packaging lines redeveloped over the past four years places improvements to operator systems as integral elements of their design.
“With our equipment – we are dealing with many more products, which prompts you to alter item changeovers, which creates the need for increased cleaning requirements, so we have been responding in creating equipment with less tools required for such situations. Equipment lines have to be easy to operate, so we’re developing software for operators with such situations in mind.
“The design of our equipment includes machinery frames being created to minimise contamination, and enhanced HMI to allow the machine to take advantage of all the information it offers in terms of production monitoring.
“We have also developed virtual reality and augmented reality functions for these ranges, and we’re now working on populating these systems with all the data that customers require,” adds Pietra, who says that one of the major areas for use of IOT features will be based around development of predictive maintenance systems.
Expanding upon the importance of robotics systems, Pietra explains that it’s a core area of focus for the company. With the wider equipment market delivering an ever more advanced array of automated functions, the packaging market remains a particular focus for such developments.
“One of the areas that we see big growth in is the making and handling of products with our Delta systems. The development of these robots and software behind these systems is our own, which have been devised to meet the need for vision-based systems to handle either wrapped and unwrapped products, picking them randomly from conveyor belts and placing them into the infeed of packaging equipment,” says Pietra.
“Work on this area is all part of our development that we have been going through over the past few years across our business. We developed different ways of picking up products – for example, a delicate chocolate coated product might need particularly careful handling, or it may perhaps be an irregular shape. There are of course even more studies being made into other types of picking to handle these requirements,” concludes Pietra, who says that ongoing research and development work is closely aligned to customers’ individual requirements.
As with other major manufacturers, another prominent area of focus for the company’s equipment has been instilling its lines with efficiency features that fit with its wider goals of sustainable production.
“For us, sustainability means making smarter usage of all resources, electricity, power and all the resources of a machine that must be used more carefully and be monitored to keep improving them.
“It is important to have smart sensors that help in having a clear picture of what machines are capable of (both for ourselves), and for customers when the equipment operates,” adds Pietra, who says that another clear agenda for the business in terms of sustainability is engaging its packaging design department to support customers in their migration away from plastics into paper, or other forms of cardboard as a primary source of packaging.
Amid a competitive market, he notes that the broad extent of its business capabilities continues to prove decisive in helping meet customers’ requirements.
While there may well be a number of technical and practical challenges ahead, Pietra believes that the company’s new base is set to prove instrumental in enabling it to take the company to the next level in its ongoing global operations.
- See our Cama site visit video here, in which we discover more about the company’s expansion plans: Cama site visit