A Chat With Mario Stroppa

On a recent visit to the Gildemeister Italiana plant near Bergamo, Italy, I was given the opportunity to spend some quality time with its managing director, Mario Stroppa.

 

On a recent visit to the Gildemeister Italiana plant near Bergamo, Italy, I was given the opportunity to spend some quality time with its managing director, Mario Stroppa.

PM: You and I go back to the old Gital days before Gildemeister reacquired the company. How is that working out?

MS: As you know, most Italian machine tool builders are relatively small companies. While we are the second largest builder in Italy, we employ fewer than 500 people. In today’s global market, a certain critical mass is needed to participate in the traditional markets and the emerging markets in Asia and Eastern Europe. DMG has the critical mass to market successfully globally.

Another advantage for Gildemeister Italiana is a diversified line of products. We make mechanical and CNC multi-spindle machines, sliding and fixed headstock single-spindles and even a three-spindle multi. A smaller company usually searches for a niche [in which] to live. We take a different tact by manufacturing and servicing a broad line of turning machines. DMG gives us a connection to numerous other types of machine tools—and vice versa.

PM: How do you see the development and application of CNC to multi-spindle machines progressing?

MS: I do not think the mechanical multi-spindle is dead or dying. CNC has a place and a market, but I don’t think it is the total future for this class of machine tool. In about 2 to 3 years, there will be a clear division between the mechanical and CNC multi-spindle machines. The key for a builder like us is to have both types of machines for customers to choose from.

PM: What will drive that division between mechanical and CNC multi-spindles?

MS: Although increasingly rare, large volume jobs still exist. The cam-actuated multi-spindle is still a very viable technology for this kind of production. We see CNC going into customers dealing with shorter run jobs and JIT inventory constraints. For these applications, quick change-over is critical to get more jobs across a machine. CNC works well for this.

PM: What other new developments are you seeing and working on?

MS: One big success has been the Sprint line. It uses a linear motor on the X axis and is very quick. Its innovation is that it has a moving headstock but no guide bushing. We found that many shops using traditional Swiss-type machines are actually making short parts that really don’t belong on a Swiss—it’s a misapplication. We, and some other builders, have developed the bushless sliding headstock design to fill the void between fixed headstock and Swiss. It is selling very well both in Europe and the U.S.A.

PM: These days, one cannot do a proper interview without asking about China.

MS: China is the biggest opportunity that our industry has probably ever had. They do not have the internal capacity to supply the domestic demand that’s growing every day. A middle class is arising in China. Ferrari, which is located not too far from here, sold more cars in China last year than any other country. In time, the internal consumption from this middle class will reduce exports. China is going to be a large customer for the rest of the world. And it’s moving faster than anyone could predict.

PM: Thanks Mario. It’s always good to see you.

MS: I’m glad you were able to be here. I’ll see you at IMTS.