AntiCovid19%: Doing, Besides hoping

AntiCovid19%, a proposal by Smith & Mason Italia and StrikoWestofen to promote investments and the recovery of foundries in Italy

The Covid-19 pandemic hit hard on our physical health, on our perception of safety, on our work. Lockdown has also accustomed us to waiting and being afraid. Now we are emerging from it, with fatigue and with the traces of what we experienced, especially in certain areas and in certain contexts which unfortunately unite the Italian aluminium foundry and the pandemic in its most devastating form.

Marco Checcacci (left), owner of Smith & Mason, with Davide Bresciani, director of Pressofusioni Sebine Marco Checcacci (a sinistra), titolare di Smith & Mason, con Davide Bresciani, amministratore di Pressofusioni Sebine
Marco Checcacci (left), owner of Smith & Mason, with Davide Bresciani, director of Pressofusioni Sebine

We like to be positive, we see with great satisfaction the EU’s industrial renaissance plan which focuses strongly on sustainability, local economy, small and medium sized companies, the Green Deal which privileges our metal as a champion of resource saving, environmental protection, recycling and circular economy, we therefore present a case, that of the AntiCovid19% by Smith & Mason Italia, which seemed interesting and which shows a desire for recovery with a concrete value going far beyond the great amount of words which we have heard in recent months. For years Smith & Mason has been operating on the Italian market, delivering to aluminium smelters some of the world’s leading brands: Refratechnik, a German manufacturer of refractory materials, StrikoWestofen, world leader in the production of aluminium furnaces (Westomat and StrikoMelter), Eccomelt, Canadian producer of an environment-friendly alternative to AlSi7 ingots. Connected to the core business of its international partners, Smith & Mason provides technical service and innovative plants developed for aluminium foundries. For over twenty years it has been growing continuously, until February 2020.
During the forced closure, in partnership with the top management of StrikoWestofen, the owner of Smith & Mason, Marco Checcacci, configured a proposal to face a difficult period which was going to be absolutely inevitable. We asked him to briefly explain his initiative, with the comment of one of the companies which joined the AntiCovid19% initiative, Pressofusioni Sebine.

T-Ladle, safe transport and weighing system for liquid aluminium
T-Ladle, safe transport and weighing system for liquid aluminium

“After having taken advantage of the euphoria of Industry 4.0 and its tax advantages in recent years,” Marco Checcacci explained, “I saw the damage caused by the automobile crisis coming to the foundry sector, without, however, being personally involved in it, because until February 2020 we held our ground, even regarding the sale of the plants. I’m talking about both StrikoWestofen furnaces and our innovative T-Ladles, designed for the safe transport of liquid aluminium.

The market in February seemed to show signs of recovery for everyone. Then Covid-19 arrived and everything stopped. All productive investment projects (even small ones) were blocked. With Burkhard Schaeck, sales manager of StrikoWestofen, we asked ourselves what we could do concretely in that situation. The forecasts were of a collapse of StrikoWestofen’s sales for many months, no advantage from being the only furnace manufacturer present in the whole world, because from all over the world came the same news of investment freeze. So we decided to help ourselves by giving a hand to the Italian market”.

StrikoWestofen StrikoMelter melting and holding furnace Forno fusorio StrikoMelter di StrikoWestofen
StrikoWestofen StrikoMelter melting and holding furnace Forno fusorio StrikoMelter di StrikoWestofen

Why Italy?

“Because Italy, from the beginning, was the symbol of the pandemic in the Western world, because Italy in recent years has been the first market for StrikoWestofen and, certainly, because Italy is my market. This is how the idea of AntiCovid19% was born, to exorcise the monster. A banal initiative if you want, but concrete: until the end of August, on the whole range of StrikoWestofen ovens, we offer a 19% discount, for deliveries within one year, on the 2020 price list”.

Well, this is the commitment of StrikoWestofen; what about Smith & Mason?

“You can’t wage war hidden in the rearguard. We immediately extended the proposal to our machines: T-Ladles, T-Heaters, Aluguard ovens, De-Tector, interconnected fixed thermographic systems. We also included SmartFond, our new system for remote control of the foundry, in the promotion”.

SmartFond, the cloud-based control system for furnace and foundry performance SmartFond, il sistema di controllo in cloud delle prestazioni dei forni e della fonderia
SmartFond, the cloud-based control system for furnace and foundry performance

Did you envisage any special limits or conditions for this Anticovid19% promotion?

“Certainly. The first boundary is temporal, everything ends at the end of August, when hopefully the situation will begin to show signs of normality again. The second limit is geographical because for StrikoWestofen it absolutely concerns only the Italian market; for Smith & Mason, however, the initiative is valid for the whole world”.

What response did you get from the market?

“I would say very positive, in line with our objectives and our expectations; we achieved the goal of giving a wake-up call to the market, we showed confidence and generated confidence. The essential point for us was to give a boost to our business, even at the cost of cutting profits, and in a few months we will have a more precise final picture. In the meantime, let’s say that someone had courage and cashed in the benefit, as it should be. We sold some Westomats, even to a new customer who was perhaps waiting for an economic opportunity to approach a technology new to him. We also have some new requests for StrikoMelters in the works. The most positive response we had was for the SmartFond, the system we developed to control the operating parameters of the ovens from the cloud: temperatures, production, consumption, alarms. Even before we were offering the system at an aggressive price, the AntiCovid19% made it even more convenient or maybe the system is in line with smartworking and in general with the need to control industrial processes remotely”.

We then heard the comment of Davide Bresciani, director of Pressofusioni Sebine, a well-known manufacturer of aluminium die-casting products, active for over fifty years and operating in the automotive, household appliances and general mechanics sectors, as a player directly concerned by the AntiCovid19% initiative. Located in Val Camonica, between Brescia and Bergamo, in the centre of the area most affected by Covid-19, the company has certainly experienced very difficult times, but today it has purchased a T-Ladle from Smith & Mason, with the promotion bonus. It’s certainly comforting to see that the entrepreneurial strength is stronger than the pandemic and its consequences, thinking about investing at this time certainly means believing in the company and seeing a future picture with some certainty.

“I must say that perhaps we have also shown a touch of madness, however, what made the difference was the desire to believe in what we have always done, with efforts and difficulty, but always with enthusiasm, gathering the results of our work. Our company was in fact experiencing a trend of continuous and strong growth before the pandemic, a situation that undoubtedly mitigated the effects of the general collapse due to Covid-19.
Of course, if I look at today’s figures, maybe I should be more conservative, but we have new demands for the world of hybrid and electric cars, with castings in new aluminium alloys. We needed a new ladle for the new alloy and we took the opportunity of the Smith & Mason promotion to buy at a good price a machine which gives us many advantages over the traditional solution. Greater safety, less heat loss in transport, longer life of the materials. These are all worth money. After all, investments are made to earn money”.

Confidence in the company is the strength of our manufacturing, particularly in the aluminium sector. We concluded with Marco Checcacci asking him to briefly explain the meaning of the AntiCovid19% logo which supports the campaign and which we have reproduced here.
“Very simple: two hands clasping. An action prohibited today in physical reality but which well represents the need for collaboration, an essential component to get out of this incredible situation. I also liked the meaning of normality contained in this gesture, a gesture which to be honest I miss in the many meetings on Skype, Teams, Zoom. A gesture which I miss the most now that, having finally returned to visit my clients, I still cannot say goodbye the old-fashioned way with the classic handshake”.