Bonfiglioli Transmissions has been a leader in the power transmission solutions space for more than 60 years. As if given a crystal ball to see into the future, this family-run company has been able to effectively pivot and persist to not only survive in an ever-increasingly competitive and changing environment, but also to thrive.
It has navigated the challenges and hiccups along the way with pure dedication, skill, passion and a willingness to see things from a new perspective – no prophecy-telling, sparkly ball required.
As Stephen Hawking once said, "Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change," and to that regard, Bonfiglioli is the Einstein of the gearbox world. "One of the defining features of our success has been our ability to perceive the market trends and align our product strategy in line with these changing trends," shares Bonfiglioli Transmissions Country Manager Kennady V Kaippally.
"We were the first ones to perceive the shift towards hollow shaft gearmotors in India and bring products to suit that market." Bonfiglioli Transmissions was also ahead of its time when it came to sustainability.
"The need for renewable energy in an energy-deficit market like India was quite apparent to us," he explains. "This belief led us to manufacture gearboxes for wind turbine more than a decade ago – long before it became an obvious choice. We have also been the first to build complete hydrostatic transmissions for a variety of off-road vehicles and equipment in India," he continues.
"Over time, we have developed a complete range of power transmissions solutions that is unparalleled in the industry. We are a one-stop shop for most of our customers, serving their varied needs. This is an important differentiator for us in the marketplace."
In India, nine out of 10 wind turbines use Bonfiglioli drives. The company continually optimises its products to improve wind turbine performance for both offshore and inland applications – without increasing size and weight.
Bonfiglioli’s diverse portfolio aims to meet the toughest and most sophisticated requirements for industrial automation, mobile machinery and wind energy. And, more incredibly, the company’s solutions impact all aspects of typical daily life, from the food that is eaten to the roads that are driven on, the clothes that are worn and the lights that turn on at home.
"Each of these market segments has their own dynamics and even competitors," Kennady says. "Not only are we the lone gearbox manufacturer who can provide solutions for such a diverse array of applications, but we also hold leadership positions in every one of them. Our focus remains to extend our leadership in the market segments where we are present and, at the same time, expand our foothold into new applications."
To do this, the company relies on innovation. While India offers Bonfiglioli Transmissions unique growth opportunities, they don’t come without challenges. It can be tricky creating products to suit the country’s distinct requirements. "The only way to overcome these challenges is to innovate," Kennady says.
"Innovation is critical, not only in product design, but also during every step of its manufacturing. This increases efficiency and effectiveness and gives it some sort of competitive advantage. Innovation remains key to existing, let alone being a leader in this industry. Therefore, we continually invest in our local manufacturing capabilities to stay at the forefront of the industry."
A few years ago, Bonfiglioli created a smart product range, which integrates sensors used for collecting data and delivering services to its customers. Now, products like its swing drive are able to gather and transport relevant information that provides useful assistance such as predictive maintenance and monitoring applications.
Similarly, the company has solutions that monitor lubrication conditions, allowing for scheduled maintenance intervals. These innovations are crucial to helping businesses succeed, especially in the large mining excavator market where downtime is critical and the need for predictability is greater than ever.
To strengthen its future-forward, out-of-the-box thinking, Bonfiglioli also holds company-wide innovation summits. Here, its best brains come together to collaborate on all things mobility, wind and discrete manufacturing and process industries.
Its 2019 Innovation Summit was held in Chennai. Here, the company’s CTO outlined the group’s product development strategy and presented its vision for next-generation products and solutions.
Afterwards, a product business model competition was held among the R&D groups with the goal of presenting their concept developments for the Indian and worldwide markets.
This ongoing commitment to innovation has made Bonfiglioli the point of reference in the marketplace, particularly in advanced markets, which are constantly evolving and therefore require a high level of detail to design and construction.
While the company started out with the simple aim to produce global quality products in India, it ended up doing that plus so much more. "We came in to serve the growing need for quality transmissions in what we believed was an expanding economy poised for high growth," he shares.
"Our belief has proven to be right. Over time, we have grown, servicing new markets and mirroring the economic progress of the nation. We have now achieved the important milestone of becoming the largest producer of reduction gearboxes in India, which is a worthwhile achievement. This is a testimony to the veracity of our belief and commitment to India’s growth story."
And that commitment is still going strong today. The company recently expanded its production facility in Chennai, enabling it to double its current capacity to help meet the growing market demand.
The new 140,000-square-foot facility was built next door to its plant at the SIDCO Industrial Area in Thirumudivakkam and is brimming with all the latest technology. Its modern assembly lines, global R&D centre and test labs were built to the highest global standards for quality and safety and have the capacity to churn out 75,000 units per year.
Despite the current economic slowdown, the company wholeheartedly believes that the inherent demand for infrastructure remains high in India, which will translate to higher equipment sales.
This new expansion will enable Bonfiglioli to serve existing and new markets along with customers in off-highway, construction, mining, agriculture and material-handling applications.
Chairwoman Sonia Bonfiglioli said the expansion is part of the company’s global investment strategy in production and assembly facilities. She believes the factories are the first step in bringing value to customers.
And, with Bonfiglioli’s smart factories and superior solutions, the company will be able to cater to the growing and ever-changing needs in India and the overseas market – USA, Italy, China and Germany.
As for the exports market, it’s also growing. Last year, exports were roughly 20% and, this year, they jumped to 35%. Kennady says Bonfiglioli will continue to leverage its competitive manufacturing footprint.
Of course, everything Bonfiglioli does is to benefit the customer. The company believes the customer experience is determined by all of their interactions, so it’s vital for each experience to be better than the last.
"Our effort is to make every experience a satisfying one by adding value at each touchpoint we have with our customers," Kennady shares. "This starts with choosing the optimum product definition, delivering the quality products as per expected time lines, and giving the customer the satisfaction that his service requirements will be addressed through a global network."
To ensure the company is not only meeting but exceeding its customers’ expectations, Bonfiglioli has a follow-up system in place. "We monitor the customer experience by having periodic customer satisfaction surveys that help in identifying the blind spots that need to be addressed for delivering the best possible experience to our customers," he explains.
"Our focus is on our customers. And, our customers come first." The trusted brand is able to provide this exceptional level of service thanks to its passionate employees. As a global brand, culture is more important than ever.
Bonfiglioli operates in 21 countries with 14 production facilities and more than 3,700 employees worldwide, so it’s imperative that everyone is on the same page and working toward the same goals. For this reason, employees are privy to ongoing training that works to instill the company’s strong values.
1956 – It’s 16 April, and Clementino Bonfiglioli forms Costruzioni Meccaniche Bonfiglioli, later destined to become Bonfiglioli Riduttori S.p.A.
1964 – Work begins on a new factory in Lippo di Calderra di Reno, Italy – the headquarters of the Bonfiglioli group today.
1999 – Inauguration of the Bonfiglioli Transmissions (BTPL) India plant.
2001 – The plant in Thirumudivakkam receives ISO-9001 certification.
2003-06 – Phase 2 and 3 expansion of the Thirumudivakkam facility. Export begins of the Planetary Gearbox Subassembly and the Yaw & Pitch Drive is launched. Industrial solutions launch such as the 300 Series and the Helical Bevel Gear Units.
2011 – Inauguration of the India Design Centre and BTPL Mannur Plant. The Excavator Swing Drive and HD Series Bevel Helical Gear Unit is launched.
2017 – Inauguration of the BTPL Pune Plant.
2018 – Phase 4 expansion of the plant in Thirumudivakkam and BTPL Pune receives ISO-9001 certification. The HDO combination gearbox is launched.
"We are all aware of Peter Drucker’s now-famous quote, ‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast,’" says Kennady. "So, it would be foolish to disregard the importance of culture in today’s competitive business environment. Bonfiglioli has defined a key set of core values and behaviours, which we, as an organisation, want to inculcate in our culture to define us as a company," he continues.
"These values and behaviours form a critical part of our appraisal process, and every employee is evaluated on each one of these counts." Being a family-run business, Bonfiglioli also recognises the importance of community and believes its strongest asset is its people.
The sheer challenge that my job offers makes me excited about going into work each day.
In India, this is especially true. It periodically holds events, bringing employees and their families together. Bonfiglioli gives back to the community too. Its CheerFutureLand project is dedicated to helping poor and orphaned children living near one of its plants in Chennai.
Through this initiative, Bonfiglioli has given educational opportunities to more than 80 boys over the past 10 years. More recently, it launched CheerFutureRoseLand – a home housing up to 50 young girls who are being given access to an education and important life skills.
Through both these homes, Bonfiglioli is able to provide food, clothing, shelter and education to children in need. The culture then trickles down to its strong business partnerships, creating a thriving ecosystem of trust.
"All suppliers are in sync with Bonfiglioli, which allows for a win–win situation for stakeholders," Kennady says. "In fact, one of the reasons customers trust Bonfiglioli is because our relationships with our suppliers are so strong."
With a mix of international and local suppliers, Bonfiglioli has one of the most efficient supply chains in the business. While they’re all essential to the company’s ongoing success, Bonfiglioli takes extra care with its partners in India.
"We understand the opportunity and the challenges when working with local suppliers. Some have been with us since the inception of the company, so their opportunity to scale up has been immense," he explains.
"We work with them to improve their technical knowledge and the product quality, so they can grow with us in India and across the world." Bonfiglioli also helps these local micro suppliers grow and work on a global scale by teaching them safety norms and providing manufacturing training.
Multiple audits take place to ensure suppliers are on par with international manufacturing standards. By helping them the company is, in turn, helping itself – thus, the win–win. Working together, Bonfiglioli is able to help lift local Indian businesses while developing the world-class products that it’s revered for with transparency and clarity.
"We, as a company, are aligned to our mission of relentless commitment to excellence, innovation and sustainability," Kennady states. "Challenge, respect, accountability and winning together are Bonfiglioli’s values. They act as our North Star, guiding us where we want to go and urging us to be who we want to be."
As Fausto Carboni, CEO of Bonfiglioli Group, says, "Our answer to the VUCA [volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity] world challenge is in strong leadership built on innovation with a global view, consistency with local strategies, an emphasis on putting ourselves in our customers’ shoes, learning and relearning to evolve together with new trends, as well as deciding and acting proactively." Kennady says he strongly supports this approach.
It is with this remarkable culture and commitment to excellence that Kennady springs out of bed every morning, eager to see what each new day holds. "The sheer challenge that my job offers makes me excited about going into work each day," he says.
"By my work, I am adding value to the organisation and its stakeholders, and by that virtue, to society in general. It’s appealing and, at the same time, quite humbling." As Bonfiglioli looks to the future, it looks back on its past.
For more than six decades, the company has welcomed change with enthusiasm in its pursuit to become a world leader. It’s been the key to its success.
As a leader in design, production and distribution of a full range of gearmotors, drive systems, planetary gearboxes and inverters, the company is more than capable of handling all of the most complex demands in industrial automation, mobile machinery and renewable energy, now and in the future.
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