We have finally revealed the “secret” that allowed SAPA to grow from 50 to 300 millions in revenue throughout eleven years, in spite of the financial crisis, thanks to a method that increases our customers’ productivity by 300%, while decreasing costs
–> Up to 300% faster and more efficient than traditional methods of production;
–> More efficient and cost-effective when it comes to customers’ investments;
–> Lighter components, in accordance with Horizon 2020 requirements.
As you’ve read above, I want to tell you a “secret”.
Or better, two secrets. A technical one, which allowed us and our clients to really step up our games in terms of quality; and one that has to do with mentality.
Today I want to tell you about the behind-the-scenes of my first years in activity: a very important event which really represented a breaking point for me, pushing me towards positive change.
I remember it was 11 P.M., seven years ago.
It was a very quiet night; you could only hear the sound of the autumn wind against the window, as if it almost wanted to come inside.
Looking back at it, there was more: some sort of rage, almost. I had just finished my first round of commissions as a supplier in the sales and purchase department (you might imagine how it went).
I was looking blankly at something inside the room. I was completely still. You could tell I was alive just by looking closely at my torso, slowly breathing.
In my mind, though, it was chaos.
Memories and memories, thinking back “what if I had done this? What if I had said that?”
Welcome, officially, to the Automotive business, Giovanni.
I could have never imagined that that one single event had set things in motion, for the One-Shot® Method to come along. Although I would later find out, it was really a method my father had already come up with, in his own way, and me and my siblings only had to improve.
Let’s take a step back.
The day had started pretty well.
I woke up on time, had breakfast, watched the morning news on TV. Everything was regular… Like my debut in the Sales & Purchase department was supposed not to be a big deal.
What could possibly go wrong?
The journey to Turin went smoothly, together with my brother and the new quality control manager.
This was a very important client for our company, and my brother had told me to come prepared with a speech, in order to summarize all of the benefits their company could have by continuing to work with us.
And so I did.
The office in which we were supposed to meet was part of a huge 5 stories building.
We quickly entered, a little tired because of our journey, but determined to do a good job. It was really hot and humid and my body was challenged by these conditions, under a blue denim jacket.
My brother and the quality control director had already entered the office. I took a deep breath…
And I went in.
Back then, we were really busy with work, to an extent we literally couldn’t keep up with. It wasn’t about the amount of work, it was about the diversity of our commissions.
We hadn’t yet decided to fully focus on automotive, so we still had to work in the field of electrical appliances too.
It was clear to me that we had to change things substantially. The company was working well, but our father always taught us to aim for perfection.
I had to quietly accept what happened with our client. It hadn’t gone as planned and the speech I had prepared didn’t make up for our customers’ dissatisfaction in regard to our work. However, that night, my brother and I made an important decision: we would never cause problems to any of our customers ever again.
I had to sit through our client’s meeting without saying anything, but that night me and my brother decided that we were never, ever, going to leave a client unsatisfied ever again.
The first secret is: ALWAYS exceed your customers’ expectations.
We thought about what we were going to do. We had to find a way to keep customers happy despite the workload.
We analyzed all of our problems and those of our competitors too.
The two problems of all generic suppliers
Whether you’re an entrepreneur or a technician, you have to be really careful with numbers, margins, costs, and all those important financial factors.
–> Problem #1
Often, dealing with the FIRST supplier for revenue, or the FIRST supplier for number of projects, might be detrimental.
Because of what I have just told you, as a matter of fact, it is hard for suppliers to keep up with their workload.
The reason is simple: innovation pushes you to make complex decisions quickly. You have to set a certain budget to improve specific processes, increase or cut hires in order to perform more efficiently, relocate factories to diminish taxes and become more competitive.
All choices that companies are going to be looking at.
They’re just a way to solve symptoms, but they do nothing for the actual problems.
Because if the workload is set to increase once again, or if a country is going to face a financial crisis, all of the companies will have the same problems all over again.
–> Problem #2
The second problem, which is a consequence of the first one, is innovation.
The world really is changing quickly.
And, often, changing a lot of things requires some time. But while you’re catching up with everything, as time goes by even more things change!
It’s like running after a cheetah. You might be fast, but it’s definitely faster.
That’s why, at SAPA, we have decided to only focus our efforts on one thing. We have decided to become process specialists, trying to grant our customers the fastest and cheapest services, while also achieving maximum efficiency and quality standards. All of this, without ever losing sight of the tailor-made services all companies need.
Second secret: specialization
Traditional methods against one-shot methods. Different process – different result
The component made traditionally is a standard quality one, manufactured in accordance with all the regulations, according to the customer’s needs.
The One-Shot component is exactly the same, it lacks nothing, and is produced in accordance to the same standards requested by the customer and the automotive industry.
The only difference, is the way in which it is produced.
By comparing the old production line and the One-Shot® one, the latter takes up less space, is less demanding from an environmental standpoint, because it requires less energy. Despite all of this, the component is exactly the same.
There’s no apparent difference between the component, but there’s a huge difference in terms of what happens in the suppliers’ factories.
Let’s take an engine cover as an example.
You need to mold the plastic and place the piece in a container, where it might undergo deformations. Next, the worker has to put some sponge, which might actually be overlooked and forgotten. Then the washers need to be place, and the worker might actually put fewer than necessary. All of these processes also produce waste.
The One-Shot® method takes out all of these steps, eliminating the possibility of mistakes.
The engine cover is produced in a single step, thanks to a traditional plastic molding press, using a specific stamp which is different from those obtained by traditional skimming.
It is skimmed in a single shot, with a robot picking the piece up and moving it from one stamp to the other, which means using a stamp that was made thanks to advanced technology and know how, with robots “communicating” between each other in order to coordinate.
The extraction happens inside, without an operator manually moving the piece, as it happens today.
As of now, sponge is skimmed with an open stamp, and a mix of isocyanate and polyol. The stamp inflates and a person takes care of opening it and removing the component from the stamp.
The One-Shot® Method is a highly technological system, allowing for a reduction of production time and workforce, thanks to automation, all in the same molding press.
Sure, a machine can make mistakes too, but it is statistically less frequent. With updated software in accordance with Industry 4.0 models, we can monitor over 100 parameters per seconds.
The One-Shot method allows for a reduction of steps in the manufacturing process.
This results in a lighter component of superior quality that was made in a shorter time.
It doesn’t mean having a single phase, but it means reducing the number of steps considerably to the fewest possible, while allowing customers to adequately customize things according to their specific needs. We are not mere supplier; we are actual partners you can get in touch with when needing advices on specific matters.
It is a unique system that allows to:
- Reduce the number of stages, optimizing production time and shortening delivery time;
- Have a highly specialized supplier able to advise you specifically;
- Cut on costs.
This all happened because we decided to solely focus on the automotive industry. This is what we have learned in over 30 years of work, always trying to achieve the best results for our clients.
This is what makes the One-Shot® method different from the traditional one: a specific specialization on a single process, which is not usually in the interest of big international corporations.
As I was trying to tell you with that story at the beginning, our goal is that of guaranteeing our customers the maximum level of satisfaction, which we believe to be the best marketing strategy.
Let me tell you that, so far, we’ve been doing a really good job.
Chief Sales Strategist and member of SAPA’s Board of Directors.