Success story: two companies in the same league

VM Motori produces Diesel engines applying know-how and tools from CERATIZIT

Emilia Romagna – the country of Italian car freaks
VM Motori, founded by the entrepreneurs Vancini and Martelli in the year 1947, specializes in the manufacture of Diesel engines. At the beginning the engines were exclusively applied in agricultural machines and ship building as well as in general industry. Later, however, they were also used in automobiles thanks to an innovative generation of engines provided with a supercharger system as a standard feature.

In 1990 VM launched the Turbotronic engine which through its electronic control of the combustion process and the recycling of the exhaust gases guarantees high performance combined with minimum pollutant rates. Turbotronic was a revolutionary engine, the cleanest of its class, that was mounted for more than ten years in cars produced by General Motors, Ford and Rover.

VM Motori is located in Cento, a town in the Italian region Emilia Romagna. Enzo Casanova, Head of Manufacturing Engineering: “We live here in engine country. Our area is known around the globe for its know-how in the field of engine construction. Not for nothing are the firms Ducati, Ferrari, Lamborghini and Maserati based here. The people here love cars.”

Main topic: efficiency
Casanova: “VM Motori operates in a niche market which is appropriate for our production capacity, and allows our company to extend our know-how, simultaneously improving our position as a professional supplier and optimizing our competitiveness in the smaller Diesel car segment. All suppliers – even those who were against the use of Diesel fuel – had to deal with these business segments as they were aware that it would be difficult, uneconomic and slow to build and produce a Diesel engine themselves.
VM’s market position in fact results from the capability to produce small quantities of reliable and durable engines at competitive prices. In addition, every engine must conform to the latest environmental standards for the relevant market.

We consider ourselves the ‘tailors’ of the automotive industry in order to underline VM’s capacity to meet the customers’ demands offering engineering, research & development, production and tests.”

In one word: flexibility
“The automotive industry demands ‘just-in-time’ production from us,“ explains Casanova. “Neither we nor our customers have a warehouse for engines. These specifications force us to remain flexible.“ Such flexibility requires maximum efficiency: at VM Motori every step has to be spot on.

Efficiency in production and in the product itself.
Diesel engines have always been very efficient: at low revolution speeds they deliver higher torque than petrol engines. A Diesel engine has a quicker response, and thus a more direct acceleration. In addition there is the enormous advantage of very low fuel consumption. The search for ways to further increase efficiency however also continues in the field of Diesel engines. Diesel engines are the heaviest engines available in the market.  Casanova states: “We are striving to reduce the weight of our new V6 engine by applying compacted graphite iron (CGI). Thanks to the mechanical properties of this material we are able to produce parts with thinner walls than would be needed for conventional grey cast iron.

Furthermore we produce camshafts from thick-walled tubes. The cams are mounted on the tubes. In this way we are not only able to obtain a reduction in terms of weight but also of machining time.”

Original and surprising developments are much appreciated
VM Motori and CERATIZIT have been business partners for a long time and have clocked up numerous successes. “The HEC-11 system from CERATIZIT, for instance, has been a great success“, says Claudio Grisetti, production engineer at VM Motori. “We are talking about a solution here which brought in a lot of cash. After the first successful tests we integrated the system into the ‘crankshaft’ production line.” Casanova: “The milling cutters have shown advantages such as reduced cutting forces which have increased tool life. The geometry of the inserts has enabled a cost reduction of 20% compared to the previous solution – we like being convinced in this way!”

“The HEC11 system applied at VM Motori combines a close pitch with eight usable cutting edges and high process security through stable tangential inserts. The system operates with minimum cutting forces, thus reducing both deformation of the components and vibration“, says Jürgen Duwe, research & development department, CERATIZIT Austria.

Giovanni Pante, Key Account Manager Cutting Tools, CERATIZIT Italia explains: “The essential thing when attending to the needs of key account customers is being able to listen and to fulfil their demands. The customer tells us what he needs, while we help him to come to an appropriate solution. Developing products autonomously hoping that they will sell in the market is just not an option.”

Casanova also confirms that it is not sufficient to offer standard solutions. “We receive input from our business partners that induces us to find solutions and procedures which would not have occurred to us without them. We want our business partners not only to fulfil our wishes but to simply surprise us. This is how a business relationship based on trust is created.”

Interview with Enzo Casanova
Head of Manufacturing Engineering at VM Motori

CERATIZIT: What are the trends in the engine industry?
Casanova: “There are very clear trends towards increased efficiency and improved performance. An engine with 150 hp can almost be considered a standard engine and does by no means represent an exception. Another tendency is towards engines with smaller capacity (e.g. 1.5 litres) but high performance. There is a strong tendency towards the construction of engines with low fuel consumption which meet the ever stricter laws on exhaust gases. It is a tough job to take all these factors into account. The electronics of the engine are therefore gaining importance as the potential in this sector is still enormous.”

CERATIZIT: Why did you choose CERATIZIT?
Casanova: “After having looked at some prototypes we decided to start a test phase with CERATIZIT products which were not available in batch production at the time. We firmly believed in the technological and human potential of CERATIZIT. Now, some months after the tests, we can say that the performance has more than confirmed our choice.”

CERATIZIT: What are the misconceptions in the engine sector?
Casanova: “There are two subjects which come to mind. First of all, it is often said that Diesel engines are rather loud and do not run smoothly. This is not really true. In fact the noise level of an engine depends on the way it is mounted in the car, i.e. how much vibration is transferred to the body and how well it has been insulated. Another misconception is that Diesel engines are big pollutants. Here it must be said that the Diesel engine has undergone a change: it now has lots of power and, thanks to innovative technologies, at the same time it is relatively clean (e.g. Diesel particulate filters).” 

CERATIZIT: What are the test procedures for engines at VM Motori?
Casanova: “All engines run for a few minutes in the lab in order to check their performance and a certain percentage of them is subjected to a stricter reliability test. In the near future a ‘cold test’ will also be introduced where the engine runs without consuming fuel, thus making the tests more environmental-friendly.”

CERATIZIT: Can you give us some basic data on the Diesel engine and its manufacture?
Casanova: “The weight of an automobile engine can be between 240 and 280 kilos. The engine itself consists of 460 components including small parts such as screws, clamping pins etc. The assembly of an engine takes between two and three hours. The guaranteed performance depends on the type of engine and on average this lasts for about 200,000 kilometres.”

CERATIZIT: How strict are the specifications of the automotive manufacturers?
Casanova: “The automotive industry requires that numerous quality assurance measures are carried out as well as procedures assuring repeatability in batch production. Some of these are quality systems like QS9000 or ISO TS16949. In addition there are customer-specific requirements to ensure that determined specifications are met.”

CERATIZIT: And what does this mean for a company like VM Motori?
Casanova: “Our customers do not only demand that we build and deliver high-performance engines, but also set up a fully-fledged quality assurance programme. Qualified employees have to be able to provide the customer with detailed reports which in case of problems give an immediate remedy and have to prove at any time the quality of the batch production process. It has to be guaranteed to the customer that everything possible is being done to not only guarantee the product’s quality by analyzing its possible defects but also through preventive maintenance of all production plants. Already some eight or nine months before production starts the customer requires in addition that the production capacity is proved with plants operating at full load, which of course has effects on investments.”

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