Covid19: an experience we will remember forever.

29/05/2020

Solema safety measures to face this emergency.

Welcome to the Solema Srl newsletter.

We are coming back fully to our daily routine and we would like to tell you how it has been Solema experience during these hard months, that changed the life and the work of all of us.

We would like to have this conversation with our CEO Mr. Luca Parsani, who answered to some questions, telling how Solema faced the terrible Covid19 period and what we have learnt from this big tragedy that will remain forever.

Solema Srl was founded in 1982 for the industrial automation sector. We realize flexible machines for Graphic Art and Paperboard Converting industry, proposing innovative technical solutions suitable to the operation to be automated. Mechanic, electronic and digital management are joined to increase quality, productivity and efficiency into productive cycle, through tailored projects to automate printing and binding lines and machines for paperboard converting. 


Good morning Mr. Parsani. Solema, as many other companies, had to keep on hold the production due to Covid-19. Was it a voluntary choice?

Because of the virus spread, our production has kept on hold from March 13th till April 26th 2020.
It was absolutely a voluntary choice from our side. We had the permission to be opened, as Solema is included in paper and cardboard production chain, producing essential goods, as indicated in the last Government Ordinance. But, given the seriousness of the situation here in Bergamo, we decided not to take the risk to generate more issues to a system, especially the healthcare one, that was already under heavy pressure. It has been very painful choice, considering that during March and April 2020 we had a production decrease of 45% compared to 2019 same period.

Were you still able to carry on a part of the activity or the Covid-19 prevented you? 

Our Accounting dept., Technical dept. and Assistance have moved on with their daily duties and the Sales dept. was able to keep in touch with customers and supplier through the Smart Working.
With a few people at our premises, keeping of course all the precautions needed, we did all the sanitization and adaptation activities of the premises and structures to re-start even better.
Then, on April 27th, we finally reopened our factory, trying to activate a production process as similar as possible to the pre-Covid19 one.

Have you found the “restarting process” difficult after two months with production kept on hold?

Not really. The restarting process has been quite fast and smooth thanks to the important work done in advance which definitely helped us in adapting to new COVID-19 safety measures. Moreover, our working environments already permitted to keep safety distances between workers.
A big thanks goes also to my colleagues who cooperated from the beginning and keep helping to respect these important rules.

Which departments have suffered most of the forced lockdown?

Production and Assembling dept. are the ones more hit by the COVID-19 situation. Sales office and R&D department replaced their trips with virtual meetings, a whole new working way which has revealed as a very useful and helpful resource. This also allowed us to empower our After Sales services, being always in contact with customers all over the world.

Always talking about Smart Working: Do you found any issue while adapting to this new working mode?

It took a couple of weeks to organize and optimize our infrastructures and needed tools and, above all, make them running efficiently. To be honest, this communication way has not been used a lot in the past, both for the preparation of the company and the predisposition of customers and collaborators towards this. We have used it just in seldom occasions. Of course, we didn’t expect to live such a situation…

It seems that COVID-19 has its origins in Wuhan (China). Is China a key market for Solema?

The case wanted that our biggest order for 2020 has come from a Chinese customer who decided to invest considerably into Solema automation systems for his bookbinding plants. We received the signed order last December 2019, just before the starting of COVID-19 spread in China. The delivery of Phase I of the order was scheduled for end of February 2020 (just before the Italian lockdown) and installation had to be carried out during the following months.

And so, the COVID-19 put the so-called “spoke in your wheel”?!

Yes, but we still managed to get around the problem and go ahead with this. Here is what happened.
Despite with tight deadline, Phase I production, testing procedures and shipment ended up smoothly and in time. Issue started later, when the goods arrived at customers’ site, as we knew that we could not be able to travel to install the line with our skilled technicians, as we usually do.
We were afraid that without our technicians onsite to install and to make intensive training to customers’ operators, maybe all the hard work could have been lost, but fortunately this has never happened and we managed to complete a job that three months earlier seemed impossible.

Two months with production on hold have been significant and have given time to collect ideas and suggestions on how to proceed in this unusual situation. As “Good Bergamaschi” as we are known, we prepared ourselves, we thought both strategically and technically on how to exploit the resources we had available, trying to install the line and testing its functionality with the goal of unlocking the orders for the other phases.
Thanks to the great cooperation between our technicians and the Chinese ones, we have carried out a remote installation, for the very first time, through a dedicated software.

Then from the official reopening on April 27th, we started also a remote training session, in which either Chinese techs and Solema ones had to work hard to handle all the daily issues. Facing every day different obstacles, which are normally solved from our technicians onsite, forced us to go into all machines details and to thinks how we could improve them to reduce our direct intervention and current need of an expert technician, training a local tech in order to be more and more independent.

To mention COVID-19 motto, so far “everything is going well” and we are successfully coming to an end.

An interesting case-study. "Not all evil comes to harm" ...

This kind of experience is the classic example of how, even during a tragedy, we can find out always something useful to learn for the future. It has been another incentive to never close us as a hedgehog in front of troubles, but on the contrary to face problems strongly to solve them. This behaviour perfectly matches our attitude, we are people from Bergamo, the ones who never want to give up.

Can you tell us what the secret was?

The secret was in the precious support of our Italian employees and technicians who have organized the work procedures in a perfect way. They coordinated our Chinese representatives and technicians who supported us carrying out the work with extreme professionality, helping to solve the issues that a new installation could have.
At the end of the work the result of these joint efforts "between countries", that has been made necessary for this situation, can be defined as extremely positive. I would like to take this opportunity to thank first our Chinese customer, Shandong Yunjie Culture Technology, our partner Mr. Finn Nielsen, all the Muller Martini China team and all Solema employees.

Is this an experiment that would be repeated in the future, is that so?

Sure. It is a test that would be absolutely repeated in the future, because it allows considerable flexibility as well as allows to save resources, time and money, both for us and for our customers. We would like to continue to pursue this strategy, improving tools and energies to be able to offer this remote service with the help of local technicians well educated and trained remotely too. This will allow our skilled technicians, when at customer premises, to dedicate more time to the Fine Tuning and optimization of the machines according to specific production needs of the customer. And I want to say that this is not just an economic benefit, but it is also a better and more effective service for our customers.

What will be brought "inside" of this terrible experience that has shocked the world? 

COVID-19 allowed me to discover people's true faces for the first time. I refer to Solema workers, who have contributed in different ways and approached in helping us to deal with the disastrous situation created by the pandemic. Those who had grasped this situation, helped to change the routine in order to bring the company forward through lot of difficulties.

Then I refer to several of our customers, external collaborators and suppliers who called me frequently to check the health conditions of us and our families and who have offered us their help. People who revealed an attention towards us that I had not fully grasped before. I want to thank all of them very much for this. I cannot wait to meet you and thank you personally for this.
In addition to the tragedy itself, while facing COVID-19 we experienced the lack of human engagements, that has been a completely new situation and approach for everyone, as we are used to be together in the office and meet us everyday. Even if technological tools provide us an extraordinary help, they will never solve the loss of emotion, an exchange of glances or a strong and sincere handshake. All these details have always been the basis of a working relationship between customer and supplier. Now the hope is to return to do it very soon. Obviously when this will be possible again.

Thank you all and see you soon
Solema
 


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