A start-up company’s biggest challenge is convincing the market of the quality of its solutions. Sixteen years ago, the Italian systems manufacturer DOTECO successfully gained a foothold in the plastics industry. The secret to their success: Credibility. DOTECO consistently delivers on the promises it makes to its customers. Technology and solutions from B&R have helped make this possible.
When starting a company in an established market, you face a daunting challenge. The founders of DOTECO were well aware of this when they started out in 1994. They stood up against an array of prestigious names who had been dominating the market for decades. Nevertheless, this didn’t stop the founders from setting themselves some lofty goals. “Our goal is to beat the leading competition in their own field,” says Fulvio Soriani, DOTECO’s founder and current president and CEO.
The founders had a clear vision of how they would turn their ambitions into reality. “We will achieve perfection in our solutions, build the credibility of our products with no compromise and combine technical service with customer care skills,” said Soriani at the time. He was also fully aware that this would be no easy task: “We knew our situation was sink or swim.”
DOTECO’s success in numbers
Since the company’s founding, it has produced more than 6000 gravimetric feeders, nearly 680 of them in 2011 for a total revenue of €11.4 million. DOTECO has fiftysix employees, including twelve R&D engineers and eleven full-time technical service representatives. With a branch in the USA staffed by four employees and another in Brazil with six, the company boasts a diverse range of customers. In the textile industry, these include BB Engineering, Oerlikon-Neumag and SwissTex-Winterthur, and in the packaging industry companies such as Bandera, Colines, CMG-MAM, Davis-Standard Group, Gloucester, Hosokawa-Alpine, Kuhne, Leitritz, Macchi, Macro, Reifenhauser Group, SML, Torninova and Windmöller & Hölscher.
DOTECO works closely with its customers to ensure that even the most demanding requirements are met. This intimate contact has helped the company gain a clear understanding for how the extrusion process has evolved and to more accurately interpret the implications of new trends. As a result, DOTECO has been able to develop control and automation solutions with ever-increasing precision and efficiency in order to fulfill the needs of both OEMs and end users. The technical team has an especially low turnover and excels through combining experience with flexibility, careful attention to its customers and the determination to act quickly. These are the characteristics that have come to define DOTECO.
Where vision becomes reality
After thirty years of sales experience in various industrial sectors working for eight different companies and groups, I had decided not to be an employee anymore,” recalls DOTECO sales manager Pierluigi Francheschi. The reason for this decision? “I had never found a company that really lived up to its promises. Eventually, however, I changed my mind after realizing that there was one, hidden in the Po valley, where the vision, mission and customer care ideals weren’t written anywhere, but they were concrete facts,” says Franceschi, “and they were perceptible every day, from anyone in the company you would get in touch with.“
Even now, the company’s core focus remains on its gravimetric metering systems and control solutions for extrusion processes. This is the sector where DOTECO claims the highest market share compared to its competitors. The company continues to grow, as demonstrated by the fact that four of the their top ten OEM customers were added between 2010 and 2011.
DOTECO’s “Adroit” project has received a great deal of attention for the technological innovation and the level of engineering that DOTECO put into the gravimetric metering system. Prior to this project, such systems always had the appearance and design of a handmade product.
The Adroit project represents a conceptual shift, embodied by the addition of a B&R automation solution. A Power Panel, an X20 PLC and several decentralized X20 I/O modules on a POWERLINK network lend the solution exceptional processing power and hard realtime communication. POWERLINK technology also guarantees a high level of EMC reliability. Moreover, the customer can decide to expand the I/O system at any time by simply adding X20 modules. This configuration can now run up to twelve dosing systems with a single controller, where a previous CAN bus solution would have required several.
Since the beginning, DOTECO products are delivered to customers only after being tested – one by one – in the required configuration and deemed ready for installation. The service department, with nine engineers at the headquarters and six at the subsidiaries, is able to offer technical service all over the world in 24-48 hours, both during commissioning and as part of aftersales service.
The art of control
The other products that make up DOTECO’s portfolio were developed, built and handled with the same passion: systems for online measurement and control of the thickness profile in blown film extrusion, systems for IBC control and automatic layflat changeover for blown film, full supervision systems for lines and plants.
“For these systems we also decided years ago to go with a complete solution from B&R,” reports Daniele Cazzola, senior software engineer in charge of R&D.” In the ProTune system (control of thickness profile) the X20 CPU and the X20 I/Os combine to make up the perfect solution: The PLC and 15” Panel PC provide clean configurations because there are no cables connecting the display to the PC, which are integrated in a single device.
“In the Dotexa Manager and Dotexa Vista systems the PLC is a powerful X20 CPU, and for the HMI we use a 19” Panel PC. B&R’s Automation Studio development environment guarantees a uniform programming interface and scalability through different configurations. This minimizes the effort involved in managing different types of machines,” explains Cazzola
System operators trust in proven industrial electronics
“Our largest R&D investments are in our applications, which demand a modern development tool. The decision we made in 2003 to move from custom to industrial electronics represented a qualitative leap forward,” recalls Soriani.
From the beginning, some of DOTECO’s customers had expressed doubts about relying on custom electronics available only from the manufacturer. “This was understandable because when a production line stops, even one day more can make a big difference. At the time, DOTECO was still a small company, only really known at the national level. The problem became more pronounced once we entered the European and North American markets, where OEMs distrusted anything that wasn’t industrial electronics with a prestigious brand name. Considering that the software we program and install is our greatest advantage, it didn’t make sense to continue keeping costs down by using custom electronics if that would come at the price of successfully entering the market.”
“Back then, most industrial electronics suppliers were offering strain gauge systems with a maximum resolution of 16 bits. Yet we were already working with 24 bits,” says Cazzola. “So we decided that the brand we selected had to be an undisputed leader, well-known and present all over the world. We were unanimous that B&R was the best choice for us. Over time our experiences have confirmed that this was the right decision.”
“B&R’s Italian branch is extremely well organized. We have always received information thoroughly and quickly. B&R is really customer-oriented: we have noticed that since the very beginning,” praises DOTECO’s managing director Marco Reggiani.
“We have received excellent support from B&R’s technicians in rewriting and testing our existing software, making it easy to adapt our solutions to B&R hardware,” notes Cazzola, adding, “Our investment in B&R has paid off through the credibility of their products and extremely efficient after-sales technical service. In terms of increased revenues and margins, our decision to move away from custom hardware has certainly been confirmed over the years, especially in the most demanding markets. B&R gives us a lot of attention and is very dedicated to maintaining personal relationships. This is really important to us. In fact, I must even admit that their customer service is almost on par with ours.” concludes Cazzola with a wink.
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