Geared for the Fu­ture: De­vel­op­ing Cus­tomer- Spe­cific So­lu­tions

Re­main­ing true to a found­ing vi­sion

EME Outlook - - Contents - Writer: Phoebe Calver Project Man­ager: Thomas Arnold

ila Group has ex­panded sig­nif­i­cantly in both size and scope since its es­tab­lish­ment in 1943, ini­tially oper­at­ing as a small, fam­ily owned, Ital­ian me­tal com­po­nents com­pany in Turin.

With a grad­ual shift dur­ing the fol­low­ing 30-40 years, Sila moved from be­ing a small me­tal com­po­nent man­u­fac­turer to be­come a fully- fledged, Tier 1 au­to­mo­tive com­po­nents man­u­fac­turer and a lo­cal Ital­ian sup­plier for Fiat. In the early 80s, Sila be­came one of the first sup­pli­ers to de­velop and pro­duce man­ual shift­ing sys­tems that con­nected the gear shifter to the gear­box us­ing push-pull ca­bles, pro­vid­ing the au­to­mo­tive cus­tomers it worked along­side with some great ad­van­tages; in­clud­ing ve­hi­cle lay­out flex­i­bil­ity, vi­bra­tion re­duc­tion and sig­nif­i­cant gear- change noise re­duc­tion. This tech­nol­ogy changed and very quickly be­came the stan­dard for most man­ual shifters.

“With thanks - in part - to that ini­tial ex­ten­sive devel­op­ment work with Fiat, dur­ing the 1990s Sila was able to fo­cus on in­ter­na­tional ex­pan­sion,” ex­plains Chris Dixon, Sila Group’s Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer. “Sila had ex­panded to cre­ate man­u­fac­tur­ing op­er­a­tions in Poland, France, Brazil, Turkey, Ar­gentina and Morocco. By the be­gin­ning of the new mil­len­nium, Sila had grown to be a truly in­ter­na­tional au­to­mo­tive com­po­nents sup­plier.”

Dur­ing the fol­low­ing years Sila Group’s devel­op­ment con­tin­ued to the point it has now reached in the present day, hav­ing ex­panded and then con­sol­i­dated its foot­print to seven sep­a­rate man­u­fac­tur­ing op­er­a­tions in six coun­tries and three global re­gions. With its head­quar­ters and tech­nol­ogy cen­tre still based on the out­skirts of Turin, Sila Group has wholly owned man­u­fac­tur­ing op­er­a­tions in Italy (two), Poland, China, Brazil, Ar­gentina, plus a ma­jor­ity owned joint ven­ture in In­dia.

To­day, Sila re­mains pri­vately owned by the same Brero /Pavesio fam­i­lies who started the busi­ness 75 years ago.

Sila Group, with an es­tab­lished rep­u­ta­tion to ri­val com­peti­tors across the globe, is de­vel­op­ing in­no­va­tive au­to­mo­tive shift­ing sys­tems that make it anideal busi­ness devel­op­ment part­ner glob­ally

Share­hold­ers are part of the top man­age­ment team and Edoardo Pavesio is the Pres­i­dent of the Sila Group.

Dixon con­tin­ues: “While a sig­nif­i­cant pro­por­tion of Sila’s global busi­ness is still sup­plied to the wider FCA Group in­clud­ing Fiat, Jeep, Alfa Romeo and Sevel, in re­cent years we have sig­nif­i­cantly grown our sales and widened our cus­tomer port­fo­lio to in­clude many im­por­tant ve­hi­cle pro­grammes with Mercedes Benz, BMW, Mini, Toy­ota, Gen­eral Mo­tors, Maruti, Suzuki, PSA, Geely, Great Wall, Iveco, Volvo Truck, and many more.”

Adapt­ing tech­nol­ogy

With such a long­stand­ing his­tory, the Com­pany has re­mained true to its vi­sion through­out and works tire­lessly to be recog­nised as the cus­tomers’ pre­ferred au­to­mo­tive gear shift­ing sup­plier.

“The vast ma­jor­ity of our work is not sim­ply tak­ing the cus­tomers’ de­sign and man­u­fac­tur­ing the fi­nal com­po­nent or as­sem­bly. In many cases, we co-de­sign along­side the cus­tomer and bring both well- es­tab­lished and in­no­va­tive so­lu­tions to their at­ten­tion,” af­firms Dixon. “This means that we are able to take the de­tailed per­for­mance re­quire­ments of each cus­tomer, and trans­late this into a de­tailed shift­ing sys­tem so­lu­tion that will both guar­an­tee shifter per­for­mance and of­fer a cost ef­fec­tive so­lu­tion.”

“Lead­ing on from the im­por­tance of co-de­sign, it is very im­por­tant to be able to of­fer the cus­tomer in­no­va­tive new so­lu­tions to meet the rapidly chang­ing mar­ket needs,”

ex­plains Pavesio. “We are clear that fu­ture growth will not be achieved sim­ply by do­ing more of the same, which is where our in­no­va­tive spirit as a com­pany comes into its own; for such rea­sons in the past few years we cre­ated a spe­cific team fully ded­i­cated to in­no­va­tion.”

The in­dus­try it­self and au­to­mo­tive shift­ing prod­uct re­quire­ments are both chang­ing much faster than in the past and Sila there­fore needs to op­er­ate in a more in­no­va­tive man­ner to fa­cil­i­tate these ad­vance­ments. Sila is now strongly fo­cused on the de­sign and in­tro­duc­tion of new high-per­for­mance tech­nol­ogy with a range of elec­tronic, by-wire, shifter prod­ucts as well as many value-added fea­tures for cur­rent man­ual and au­to­matic shifters.

“The mar­ket trends which will im­pact Sila are pretty clear and in­clude au­tonomous driv­ing, cock­pit space op­ti­mi­sa­tion and er­gonomics, a grad­ual shift from man­ual to elec­tronic shifters, more am­bi­tious aes­thetic de­signs, etc. It is there­fore es­sen­tial that we con­tinue our devel­op­ment of, and fo­cus upon the in­tro­duc­tion of elec­tronic shifters which now fit well into our prod­uct port­fo­lio.”

Strength in part­ner­ships

These changes in mar­ket re­quire­ments mean that Sila and its part­ners have also had to adapt rapidly, in­clud­ing an ex­ten­sion of man­u­fac­tur­ing and tech­nol­ogy skills – mov­ing from me­chan­i­cal ex­cel­lence, through mecha­tron­ics to elec­tron­ics, soft­ware and hard­ware devel­op­ment. The way Sila does busi­ness and the way it pro­duces and de­signs its prod­uct has also had to evolve. While Sila is nur­tur­ing many of these new skills in- house within the Group glob­ally, it has also re­cently part­nered with ex­ter­nal tech­nol­ogy and de­sign ex­perts to ac­cel­er­ate its re­sponse to these mar­ket changes.

“We have drawn up these part­ner­ships with com­pa­nies in­clud­ing

Lead­ing on from the im­por­tance of co-de­sign, it is very im­por­tant to be able to of­fer the cus­tomer in­no­va­tive new so­lu­tions to meet the rapidly chang­ing mar­ket needs

The In­sti­tute of Euro­pean De­sign (IED) and Po­litec­nico di Torino amongst oth­ers,” adds Pavesio. “Util­is­ing one of these part­ner­ships, Sila was present at the re­cent 2018 Geneva Motor Show as part of a joint project with IED. In Geneva, we were able to show­case our in­no­va­tive shifter ideas with a func­tion­ing and novel de­sign pro­to­type shifter, as part of an off- road con­cept ve­hi­cle (Kite) which was de­signed by IED on be­half of Hyundai.”

In par­al­lel, Sila’s new prod­ucts and de­signs are also di­rected to­wards the needs of younger driv­ers glob­ally who have been brought up in the com­puter and com­puter games age and who may have less need for direct ve­hi­cle own­er­ship. Sila’s new prod­ucts are also there­fore di­rected at this group in­clud­ing safety and se­cu­rity fea­tures that can be ad­van­ta­geous for car shar­ing.

“In the past cou­ple of years, we have had to shift our de­sign and prod­uct en­gi­neer­ing fo­cus to­wards these new trends, re­cruit and de­velop new peo­ple & skills, and en­sure our peo­ple are knowl­edge­able in these ar­eas mov­ing for­ward,” ex­plains Dixon. “We have an ex­cel­lent core team around us lo­cally, as well as glob­ally; how­ever, we have had to en­sure we source the right peo­ple to meet the chang­ing in­dus­try needs. Although we may be smaller than some of our global com­peti­tors, we have the ad­van­tage of flex­i­bil­ity in the face of the rapid changes we are wit­ness­ing in the mar­ket to­day.”

World-class prod­ucts

When it comes to com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tages within the in­dus­try, Sila’s global foot­print, his­tory and strong cus­tomer base con­tin­ues to make it a force to be reck­oned with.

Dixon con­tin­ues: “Our cus­tomers know that they are go­ing to re­ceive world-class prod­ucts and that is a defin­ing fac­tor for us. We are also in­creas­ing our fo­cus on in­no­va­tion within these prod­ucts. We recog­nise the im­por­tance of main­tain­ing our strong com­pet­i­tive po­si­tion to stay ahead of the in­dus­try in terms of growth.”

Sila can demon­strate an ex­am­ple of a re­cent suc­cess from this ap­proach with the award of new busi­ness from VW Group which will go into pro­duc­tion at the be­gin­ning of 2020. Sila is also work­ing closely on po­ten­tial ad­di­tional pro­grammes with the same cus­tomer.

Dixon and Pavesio con­clude: “In or­der to en­sure that we are prop­erly equipped to han­dle these new op­por­tu­ni­ties and the mod­ern mar­ket de­mands, we must also look closely at main­tain­ing and strength­en­ing the core foun­da­tions of the busi­ness. To that end, Sila is in­tro­duc­ing new ERP and fi­nan­cial con­sol­i­da­tion soft­ware and hard­ware, ini­tially in Europe in 2018 to be fol­lowed by a global roll-out in the fu­ture. In 2018 Sila will be­come one of the first au­to­mo­tive Tier 1 sup­pli­ers to in­tro­duce the new Mi­crosoft Dy­nam­ics 365 ERP sys­tem, run­ning com­pletely on cloud. While this is a ma­jor step for Sila, we are con­fi­dent that this will in­crease op­er­a­tional ef­fi­ciency and ef­fec­tive­ness through­out our busi­ness.

“Over the next three-five years, we con­fi­dently look for­ward to see­ing the fruits of to­day’s ef­forts and of the work that we are do­ing to­day re­gard­ing in­no­va­tion. While we ex­pect our his­tor­i­cal prod­uct base will con­tinue to go from strength to strength, these new tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vance­ments are be­com­ing firmly in­grained in the Sila DNA and will be­come a core el­e­ment of Sila’s global busi­ness in the 2020s.”

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