Successful autonomous manufacturing will depend on a fundamental relationship between humans and machines, believes Lodovico Camozzi, CEO of Italian innovators, The Camozzi Group.
“As we imagine future autonomous enterprises and smart factories, we have to keep in mind that innovation always springs from human ideas, creativity, and talent.”
Lodovico Camozzi, President and CEO, Camozzi Group S.p.A.
When the global Formula One Grand Prix motor racing series descended on Miami, Florida, for the first time in April this year, Italian industrial innovation company Camozzi was among the many high-tech developers with their advanced 3D printed components lined up on the starting grid.
Founded in 1964 in Lombardy, Italy, as a local pneumatic components company, the Camozzi Group is now a $490 million global enterprise operating in 78 countries, with 25 production plants, and over 2,900 employees. Much of that growth has been driven by a series of diversified acquisitions, including Campress for brass moldings, machine tools maker Innse-Berardi, PlastiBenaco (now Technopolymers) for plastic components, metal processing company Newton Officine Meccaniche, advanced machine tools maker Ingersoll Machine Tools Inc. in Illinois, textile machinery maker Marzoli, gearing machinery company Innse Milano (now Camozzi Advanced Manufacturing), and iron and aluminum foundry Fonderie Mora Gavardo.
With a passion for innovation, the company opened its own Camozzi Research Center in Milan in 2021, dedicated to R&D in additive manufacturing, advanced materials, industrial automation, robotics, predictive maintenance, and intelligent process control. Among its onsite capabilities is the company’s Masterprint additive manufacturing system, one of the world’s largest 3D printers. The Center also acts as a collaborative hub for Camozzi’s growing global research network, which includes Oak Ridge National Laboratories and other U.S. universities, and which is focused on developing and exchanging the scientific and technological knowledge necessary to shape future industrial processes.
Camozzi’s latest research and development collaboration is with Swiss-based Sauber Motorsport and the Alfa Romeo F1 ORLEN racing team, announced in March this year. The partnership covers new materials, additive manufacturing, mechatronics, and process modelling to help accelerate Alfa Romeo’s racing car performance within the strict F1 guidelines.
“The evolution of the industrial world towards the concept of an “autonomous enterprise” is leading to more and more interactions between very different devices and technologies.”
In our latest Dialogue with a manufacturing industry thought leader, Lodovico Camozzi, who took the helm of the family business as Group President and CEO in 2015, talks to Manufacturing Leadership Council Executive Editor Paul Tate about his view of manufacturing’s autonomous future, how advanced additive manufacturing approaches promise new production paradigms, the importance of collaboration in driving innovation and excellence, and why the industry must maintain a human focus in an increasingly digital world.
Q: How do you see the future of manufacturing as the industry moves inexorably towards more digital models of production and operations?
A: I see the future of manufacturing, or the factory of the future, as an “autonomous enterprise” in which the relationship between people and machines plays a fundamental role. Automated robotic systems with advanced features, total interconnectivity, and integration with the Metaverse, which will incorporate virtual reality that simulates the entire factory, will make all kinds of new experiences, interactions, and training possible, even remotely.
Robots will be able to perceive spaces, analyze environments in 3D, avoid obstacles, and move objects with advanced gripping skills and screen images. They will be able to interconnect with enterprise management systems, digital monitoring systems, sensors located across facilities, and with corporate audio and video systems.
I can also imagine robots that will be able to control other robots, program production lines, manage maintenance operations, and even teach other robots. Furthermore, I see a very close collaboration between robots and humans: not just as assistants, but also in other functions, like controllers, security, and environmental attendants. Finally, machines will have the ability to recognize staff faces and voices, and to act as a repository of the company’s know-how, experiences, market information, and historical information, all accessible at any time from any part of the world.
I see that future factory, and the enterprise itself, as an increasingly integrated environment, exchanging information, knowledge, and skills both internally and with other external environments at a very high speed, thanks to quantum computing, so it will be able to automatically adopt, adapt, and modify products and technologies in real time. Simulations of all the quantities, of all the measurements, of all the tests, of all the processes will be so quick and accurate that new products will be released onto the market almost immediately.
Q: How does the recent Formula 1 racing partnership with Sauber and Alfa Romeo fit into Camozzi’s strategy and future vision?
A: There are two reasons. On one hand, The Camozzi Group loves rising to technological challenges and achieving excellence. On the other, Formula 1 is the ideal place for us to showcase some of the most technically advanced products to the world.
We specialize in the production of components and systems for high tech automation across a variety of sectors: machine tools, textiles machinery, raw materials processing, including additive manufacturing and systems for Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). But the unifying factor is always innovation, and innovation that is based on hard work, reliability, and qualified partnerships.
“Machines will have the ability to recognize staff faces and voices, and to act as a repository of the company’s know-how, experiences, market information, and historical information, all accessible at any time from any part of the world.”
Formula 1 is the place where innovations converge and can be showcased. That’s why we entered Formula 1 racing in the 80s with the Arrows and McLaren teams, and that’s why we are back today, with Valtteri Bottas, Zhou Guanyu, and Alfa Romeo.
The Alfa Romeo / Sauber partnership is particularly interesting because of our technological affinity and compatibility. The sporting aspects are very stimulating, but with Sauber there is also a common vocation between us in the development of new materials, mechatronic systems, process modeling, and 3D printing. Sauber Technologies, for example, has established one of the world’s largest and most modern additive manufacturing facilities in Switzerland, while The Camozzi Group has created the largest 3D printer in the world for carbon fiber and composites, called MasterPrint.
But that’s just the start. The partnership agreement also includes a new talent and knowledge exchange program, through the creation of a Joint Development Lab involving the Camozzi Research Center (CRC) in Milan, Italy, and the Sauber Technologies headquarters in Hinwil, Switzerland. Internships are planned for technicians, engineers, and researchers from both companies to allow the cross-pollination of ideas and dialogues in key areas of collaboration.
So, it’s a dual partnership, both technological and sporting, and based on a mutual commitment to create synergies between technologies, experiences, and people, all united in excellence.
Q: You highlighted the use of additive manufacturing in the partnership. How important do you think this technology will become for the future of manufacturing?
A: I believe additive manufacturing processes are capable of revolutionizing traditional production paradigms.
We became involved with 3D printing after the acquisition of Ingersoll Machine Tools in 2003. During the 1990s Ingersoll had pioneered automatic fiber placement and automatic tape laying technologies for composite manufacturing. The expertise, methodologies, and techniques Ingersoll had acquired in developing composite manufacturing served as an extraordinary technological springboard that allowed them to enter the additive manufacturing sector and differentiate themselves from the competition with wide-and-high 3D printers.
Since then, we have created multiple components by printing them layer by layer, following virtual 3D models. Not only that, the MasterPrint system allows us to additively produce parts of an extremely significant size (up to 12m x 4.6m x 2m), as in the case of the robots we created for the new San Giorgio Bridge in Genoa. This bridge, opened in 2020, was built in just two years after the collapse of the previous Morandi Bridge. Our group, in collaboration with the Italian Institute of Technology (IIT) have been able to create a robotic system, unique in the world, for the continuous monitoring and prevention of infrastructural risk.
There are several advantages to additive manufacturing – production flexibility, product customization, speed of creation – all the elements that make it possible to reduce costs and waste, allowing companies to manufacture products on demand and without the need for a minimum order.
These advantages are multiplied if combined with design systems that uses digital twin models that make it possible to virtually test a product in advance. So, we can eliminate the trial-and-error phases that characterize traditional production, where several prototypes need to be created before reaching the final result.
“The challenges and opportunities ahead for the manufacturing industry will be guided by two primary drivers: digitization and sustainability.”
Another key feature of additive manufacturing is the optimization of materials and the resulting waste reduction. Since it is not necessary to print any excess, nor to cut out large quantities of unnecessary materials, a greater efficiency in the production processes is obtained, saving time, energy consumption, resources, and emissions. Masterprint can also use materials originating from recycling processes and materials with low environmental impact.
Today, we mostly print in carbon fiber and composites, and this allows us to produce lightweight and cheaper components. But our frontier is metal 3D printing, even for large components. We are working on that now.
However, additive manufacturing is only one of the technologies that are revolutionizing the production system. The evolution of the industrial world towards the concept of an “autonomous enterprise” is leading to more and more interactions between very different devices and technologies. Thanks to the cloud, machinery, plants and buildings, HMI, warehousing, and logistics systems can all now exchange information with each other, and perform actions independently and automatically, helping to improve performance and the use of resources.
Ultimately, our mission is to create a digital factory where everything contributes to value creation. We aim to drive innovation by uniting our knowledge of real-world industrial applications and the digital landscape of production processes, and to interconnect people and assets in those smart factories, where robots work in close harmony with operatives and where machines are able to adaptively control themselves in the event of malfunctions.
Q: What would you highlight as the greatest business challenges and opportunities for manufacturing over the next 5 years?
A: The challenges and opportunities ahead for the manufacturing industry will be guided by two primary drivers: digitization and sustainability.
In digitization, I believe the manufacturing industry today is still experiencing the development phase of the fourth industrial revolution, in which digital technologies are added to traditional production methods blurring the boundaries between the real world and the virtual world. Sensors and control devices already make it possible to connect machines to robots, networks, and people. Machines and plants will thus become increasingly intelligent systems capable of exchanging information and tracing all the production domains of interest, enabling the vertical and horizontal integration of production in order to guarantee flexibility, efficiency, and transparency.
The drive towards a more sustainable world is the second key driver for the future. Institutions, companies, and consumers are increasingly united in promoting and requesting products and activities that have a lower environmental and social impact. The current evolution affects not only the corporate world, but also institutions and governments, with reform plans aimed at decarbonizing the economy. Among these, the European Green Deal represents a new growth strategy which aims to make the European economy modern and competitive, but also respectful of the health of citizens, resources, and natural capital.
I am convinced that the key to addressing these two challenges is interaction with universities and research centers. This is a theme that is stronger in the U.S. than in Italy right now, but much effort is now being made here to close that gap, learning from U.S. practices.
Q: How is the Camozzi Group responding to that research challenge?
A: We have established many long-term partnerships with companies, authorities, and institutions involved in research and innovation over the years. That network currently includes 11 university Institutes, six technological partners, and four research centers. In the USA, for example, the University of Maine, the University of South Carolina, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory are part of the network. Our recent partnerships with Sauber Technologies and Seco are also focused on accelerating innovation for the future.
“My watchword for the future would be “technological humanism” – ensuring human individuals remain the focal point in a world where machines, data, and algorithms are becoming more and more important.”
In Milan, in a historic industrial area of the city, we have also recently set up the Camozzi Research Center. It’s one of its kind in Europe in terms of technology applications for large-scale manufacturing and cyber physical systems for automated production lines. The CRC combines research, contract manufacturing, advanced manufacturing, and 3D printing processes in a hybrid technology structure where new production models and new approaches to scientific and technological training are being developed to help meet the future digital and human challenges facing manufacturing.
Q: What kinds of skills will the next generation of manufacturing leaders need in that new era?
A: The true wealth of a company is in its employees. As we imagine future autonomous companies and smart factories, we have to keep in mind that innovation always springs from human ideas, creativity, and talent. I often quote a phrase which impressed me: “The majority of today’s students will do a job that does not exist yet.” So, they should be willing to face ever new problems because they are the generation that will have to find new solutions and imagine new scenarios. So, when we speak about skills, attributes, and roles, I believe that more attention should be paid to so-called character skills, or soft skills, or non-cognitive skills. Technical and scientific knowledge is essential, of course. But these are not enough. To guide, lead, manage, and exploit the global industrial transition towards more digital and sustainable operations, we need skills like flexibility, consciousness, perseverance, teamwork, altruism, cooperation, curiosity, and empathy. These are fundamental for defining and evaluating human capital. The mere reference to qualifications and knowledge is not enough. Some of these skills are innate, but most can be developed. There is space here for targeted training, for inbound orientation, and lifelong learning. This is what we are focusing on with our new corporate training academy program.
Q: Finally, if you had to focus on one thing as a watchword or catchphrase for the future of manufacturing, what would that be?
A: It would be “technological humanism” – ensuring human individuals remain the focal point in a world where machines, data, and algorithms are becoming more and more important. Ultimately, industry is for the benefit of people. Technology is for the benefit of people. But the place where people really grow is not in a technological system, but as part of a community. Across both society and industrial world, we need to combine the human factor with the new digital era. That is the key to our future. M
FACT FILE: Camozzi Group S.p.A.
HQ: MIlan, Italy
Industry Sector: Industrial Automation
Revenues: $490 million (€455 million – 2021)
Net Profits: $25.8 million (€24 million – 2021)
Employees: 2,900 Employees
Presence: 78 Countries
Production Sites: 25 Manufacturing Plants
EXECUTIVE PROFILE: Lodovico Camozzi
Title: President and Chief Executive Officer, Camozzi Group S.p.A..
Education: Accounting Diploma, Brescia
Languages: Italian, English
Additional Roles Include:
President and Chief Executive Officer:
– Camozzi Automation S.p.A. – Brescia
– Campress S.r.l. – Paderno Franciacorta – Brescia
– Camozzi Technopolymers S.r.l. – Castrezzone di Muscoline – Brescia
– Camozzi Advanced Manufacturing S.p.A. – Milan
– Innse Berardi S.p.A. – Brescia
– Marzoli Machines Textile S.p.A. – Palazzolo sull’Oglio – Brescia
– Camozzi Research Center S.r.l. – Milan
– Camozzi Digital S.r.l. – Brescia
– Managing Director: Fonderie Mora Gavardo S.p.A. – Gavardo, Brescia
– Member of the Board of Directors: Ingersoll Machine Tools Inc. (USA)
Other Board Memberships
– Member of the Advisory Board and Senior Advisor, Industry 4.0 Fund, Quadrivio Group
– Member of the Board of San Benedetto Foundation in Brescia
– Member of the Board of Governors of the Lumezzane Football Club.
– Member of the President’s Board and General Board of the Brescia Industrial Association (2017-2020)
– Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Diocesan Museum in Brescia (from 2011-2015).
– Member of the Board of Governors of the Mille Miglia Museum (2018-2021).
– Member of the Local Consultation Committee of BPM Credito Bergamasco Div. (2014-2019)
– Member of the Board of Governors of the Credito Bergamasco Foundation (2018-2020).
Awards & Honors
– Certificate of Merit from the City of Palazzolo sull’Oglio, 2019
– Oscar dei Bilanci for his commitment to the reconstruction of the Morandi Bridge in Genoa, Brescia, 2019
– Sport Team Award for supporting sports activities for the disabled, Brescia, 2018
About the author:
Paul Tate is Co-founding Executive Editor and Senior Content Director of the NAM’s. Manufacturing Leadership Council.