What do rolls of industrial paper, heart valves, replacement hip joints, many car sector components and thousands of other large and small objects of all kinds have in common? A process known as metallization, which has been carried out here in Italy by one of Europe’s largest companies for over 40 years. In metallization, a surface is coated in metal to give it certain characteristics, such as resistance to wear and tear, corrosion or adhesives.
Metallization is an incredibly specialized process that demands that the companies involved stay up-to-date through constant innovation of their production plants and strategies.
“We are always striving to improve,” explains Norberto Menozzi, general manager of Simer. “The challenges for the future will be digitalization and sustainability: anyone that doesn’t embrace them will be left on the outside looking in, but anyone that makes the right choices will have an advantage with their customers. That’s why we were so enthusiastic about accepting Enel X’s offer of a circularity evaluation of our business. Paying attention to the environment is fundamental: we need to be able to make a profit while also respecting people, places and ethics.”
Founded in 1979, Simer is based in Villanova d'Asti and currently has major commissions not just in Italy but also in France, Spain, Slovenia, Canada, Germany, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia[JMM1] , Malaysia and Israel. Its success has come thanks to skill, passion, commercial transparency and rapid delivery times. This ‘small’ company’s strengths are not just consistently cutting-edge technology and designs tailored individually for every customer, but also a strong focus on the environmental impact of its production, the well-being of its workers and sustainability.
“We are small by choice,” continues Menozzi, even though, clearly, ‘small’ is a relative term for a company that works in many different areas of the world and metallizes objects of up to 15 meters in length and 40 tons in weight. “The kind of quality we offer the market means that we work exclusively with each customer and that doesn’t allow us very high growth levels. But our size is also what is most compatible with caring for the environment, society and our work ethic in general. These are all sectors that we are very active in, without neglecting production innovation, which has resulted in our making Industry 4.0 a mainstay.”
It was specifically because of its drive towards innovation and its focus on the environment that the company accepted Enel X’s offer to do a circularity evaluation to analyze the production cycle and provide new ideas on how to keep moving forward. The proposal came about as part of the Circular Economy Report, in which, using the company’s current situation as a starting point, Enel X highlighted some possible areas of development that could boost production circularity and make the entire business more eco-friendly and sustainable.
As one of the leaders in the paper, steel, hydroelectric and plastic film sectors, Simer has always seen its ability to personalize the products and services it offers as its cornerstone strength. “We generally get a call from the customer saying they have a problem they don’t know how to deal with,” says Menozzi. “At that point, we start doing test coatings. We experiment with the potential coating in our lab until we have solved the problem and found the right solution for the customer. So we actually create a bespoke surface treatment for each one, which is our greatest source of pride and for which we are particularly renowned.”
The Circular Economy Report begins with a Corporate Circular Economy Assessment, a snapshot of the company as it is today, and then offers a qualitative evaluation of how well developed and how extensively implemented circular economy principles are in the company’s value chain. It’s a state-of-the-art analysis that underscores both strengths and any potential issues with respect to the circular economy, in order to identify and select the actions required to push the company to achieve new milestones.”
Having analyzed the production process in detail and established the maximum level of efficiency achievable based on the established parameters, the report awarded Simer a starting score of 30.9% — a good start for the company, which was achieved thanks in part to in-house photovoltaic systems that cover 40% of its electricity consumption.
“We are very energy-intensive,” continues Menozzi. “We consume over 700,000 kilowatts a year and so one of the first actions we implemented to make us more sustainable was equipping ourselves with photovoltaic units that now produce around 300,00 kW a year, 80% of which is used for in-house production with the remainder going to Enel. We would have gone further but we had already covered all the facility’s roofs and our local council does not allow ground-based photovoltaic panels, so we had to stop. These days, the resources are there, the technology is there, and there are lots of companies ready to become more sustainable but sometimes neither we citizens nor the public administrations seem ready enough. The result is that a process that should be very fast gets slowed down by appalling amounts of bureaucracy.”
The Villanova D'Asti production site was awarded a good starting score of 33.6% by Enel X because of its high standard of thermal insulation, constant maintenance of the various plants, and lighting that is 98% LED with just 2% provided by incandescent bulbs.
In its Energy Circular Economy Roadmap section, the Circular Economy Report stresses that producing renewable energy for self-consumption is the key to Simer boosting its circularity and suggests several actions, most of which the company has decided to take: “We will be abandoning diesel and transitioning to EVs,” promises Menozzi. “In time, the entire fleet, including cars and trucks, will be green. We have also already decided to build covered parking lots for our employees so that we can use the roofs for more photovoltaic panels and install EV charging columns. We have also looked at the possibility of equipping ourselves with batteries, as suggested in the Report; although we are not planning to invest for the moment, we are gathering information.”
But for Simer, circularity goes even further than that and even extends to thinking about which companies might be the recipients of more efficient actions and suggesting broader interpretations of sustainability. “I think an analysis like the one Enel X did for us is very worthwhile for any company but particularly for energy-intensive ones like ours. Autonomous energy production is something we can all get involved in right away with huge advantages, so that everyone does their bit for the environment. With regard to being sustainable, you also have to take social sustainability into consideration: a company has a major impact on its local area and has to take care of its relationship with its employees and their well-being. We have always sought to get our employees to be part of the choices we make and to involve them. We offer free tax support and privately insure everyone beyond the level of insurance required by law, including with private insurance policies. We share our profits through production bonuses and we provide financing for employees that decide to buy their own homes. If the company is a reliable partner in everyday life, if there is a good working environment, people work and live better, and that has important ramifications not only for output but also for the local area. That, too, is circularity.”
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