Cifa's birthday investments

By Chris Sleight16 September 2013

Zoomlion chairman Zhan Chunxin and Cifa CEO Davide Cipolla cut the ribbon on Cifa’s renovated headqu

Zoomlion chairman Zhan Chunxin and Cifa CEO Davide Cipolla cut the ribbon on Cifa’s renovated headquarters complex in Senago.

Concrete equipment manufacturer Cifa has had a colourful history. Founded in 1928 by Carlo Ausenda it has endured several changes of ownership, including, most bizarrely, being acquired by a group of its own suppliers in 1999.

The most recent chapter saw its acquisition by a group of investors led by Zoomlion, one of China’s largest equipment makers, in September 2008. It was the first major overseas acquisition by a Chinese manufacturer in the construction equipment industry, although others have followed since.

Speaking at the celebrations to mark Cifa’s dual birthday – 85 years since it was founded and five years since the Zoomlion acquisition – Cifa CEO Davide Cipolla was keen to emphasise the investment that has gone into the company’s headquarters in Senago, near Milan, Italy following the deal.

“Today we officially show and open the Senago headquarters and production building renovations, the new Cifa-Zoomlion ‘Testing European Centre’ (TEC) - an R&D centre and field test area for the group, the start up of new production lines with lean production technology, the new Cifa design centre, new products and technologies and the opening of a new showroom and multimedia area.”

All this investment will have a benefit to customers according to sales director for Europe, Middle East & North Africa, Daniel Metivier, who highlighted the introduction of lean processes throughout the organisation. “We will be able to fulfil orders in a better time and the quality will be more consistent. We want to continue to innovate but also achieve and maintain the quality you would expect from a German or Japanese manufacturer,” he said.

Cifa’s history of innovation includes over the last few years the introduction of carbon fibre boom sections on four of its truck-mounted concrete pumps. In an industry where steel is used exclusively for load-bearing components, this has been a radical departure. It is also interesting to note that Cifa manufactures its own carbon fibre components, rather than outsourcing the work.

“We think we have reached the limit with steel. There are other composite materials we are looking at – not just carbon fibre,” said Mr Cipolla.

The use of carbon fibre reduces the gross vehicle weight, which is an important consideration in developed countries where there are strict limits on truck weights and axle loads. Mr Metivier said, “We always have the longest boom that can be fitted on any given truck chassis. We also have weight to spare for additional accessories.”

The Carbotech range comprises four models with 39 m, 45, m, 62 m & 80 m booms, mounted on three-, four- five and seven-axle chassis, respectively. Of the 80 m reach K80H, Mr Metivier said, “That is the longest boom available in Europe.”

Parent company Zoomlion has also reaped the benefits of the use of carbon fibre. In November last year it used this technology to build the world’s first 100 m+ concrete placing boom, with engineers from both Cifa and Zoomlion working on the project.

And according to Mr Cipolla, Zoomlion’s investment in Cifa is continuing to play a part in the globalisation of both companies, with a strategy to offer both brands with different levels of technology on-board around the world. It is one part of the company’s aim to fine-tune machines to different customer preferences.

“It is impossible to serve the world from one plant. There are local requirements and machines can be expensive to transport. You must have a local presence, not only with production, but also R&D,” said Mr Cipolla.

He concluded by saying, “The concrete sector is very strange, with high peaks and deep lows. We invest during the down times to be ready when the market comes back.”

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