Two like-minded friends

Veronesi, Italy

Curious, eager to learn, capable of changing: Gianfranco Pandolfo and Giuseppe Baldrighi are linked not only through their lifelong friendship, but also their shared urge to be successful.

When young Giuseppe Baldrighi was travelling happily through Lombardy in May 1987 after completing his training as an industrial electronics engineer, he happened to pass by a large construction site. Veronesi, a meat and sausage processor and producer, was building a new animal feed manufacturing facility. A large sign posted on the side of the road said the company was seeking new employees. Giuseppe immediately felt that this concerned him. He did not hesitate to write an application for a job and was soon invited for an interview – and was awarded the job after a short talk. It took them only a short time to agree, him and Gianfranco Pandolfo, the plant manager.

Despite the difference in age, one thing became immediately clear: Two like-minded friends had just met. For all their Lombard cordiality and relaxed friendliness, the two are also dynamic, ambitious, and quality freaks. “We function according to the principle that we’ll do it even better tomorrow,” says 60-year-old Pandolfo. This was the start of a friendship that has lasted to this day – and the continuation of the success story of Veronesi, to which both have contributed their share.

With his attitude of “continuously striv-ing to improve,” the expert Pandolfo, who at that point of time had been with Veronesi for ten years, became the mentor of young Baldrighi. It was not long before he detected his qualities and fostered his development wherever he could. Together, with the help of a very special team, they transformed the factory in Cremona into a “best-in-class” plant, with Gianfranco showing Giuseppe how to transfer competence, the research of continuous improvement and the relevance of team work. Together they optimize the quality and the plant productivity, creating the foundations for future evolution towards just-in-time philosophy (JIT) and the complete automation and informatization of various processes.
Because both are successful, they can embark on a career at Veronesi. Gianfranco is soon summoned back to the headquarters in Verona in order to fine-tune the production processes of all factories on the basis of new IT systems to just-in-time production. Finally, in the mid-nineties, he is appointed head of Verona plant and subsequently head of all the factories of Veronesi – and has remained so to this day. At this point of time, Giuseppe helps build a new plant in Cuneo and is finally appointed as factory manager, for at that time the seventh production site.

«Tomorrow, we’ll do even better. We strive to improve continuously.»

— Gianfranco Pandolfo, Plant Manager Veronesi

Emphasis on quality control, automation & traceability
These are precisely the people behind the success of their company. The people who perfectly fulfill the high quality demands. For Veronesi’s needs were and still are anything but run-of-the-mill. “Our goal is not just to produce feed, but to bring healthy and tasty meat to the consumer,” says Gianfranco. Almost 60 years ago, the Italian company started producing high-quality animal feed, and is now doing so in seven plants across Italy. It places great emphasis on feed safety and therefore also on quality control, automation, and traceability. To achieve its ambitious goals, it has partnered with Bühler for 50 years now. One of its targets is to reach a zero cross-contamination level. Cross-contamination is caused by the presence of substances which are not part of the feed, but have been carried over from previously pro- cessed batches. Therefore, all process steps must be linked with the most advanced mechanical and pneumatic conveying systems in order to mini- mize cross-contamination. But also the control of quality in all these conveying and processing steps during feed production is essential. Online quality monitoring, and with it total traceability, is crucial nowadays. For instance, in case of a recall due to salmonella contamination, the feed miller must backtrack every single step of the production process and trace every feed batch back to its origin.

“In almost endless discussions, we worked on finding ways and means to achieve this with the most complete process automation and networking level possible,” remembers Giuseppe: “Veronesi is by far my most demanding customer,” says the key account manager.
Customer? Yes indeed, customer! For whereas the working life of Gianfranco continues to be centered on Veronesi, Giuseppe decided in 2001 to switch sides. Bühler had asked him whether he would like to. The first time Giuseppe asked his supervisor, he (and Bühler) met with refusal; there was simply no alternative. The next attempt two years later was successful. After making the most of his engineering talents, he was tempted by the mission to be in direct contact with Italian feed customers and to make them happy by providing top-notch service. The next challenge came a mere four years later: Giuseppe was offered the chance to switch from the engineering to the commercial side and to take charge of Feed, Oil, and Extrusion sales – which brought him back to work with his former employer.

Nothing could have been better for all the parties. “With Giuseppe on Bühler’s side, we had gained someone who knew our needs intimately from his own experience and could thus offer us the best possible advice,” says Gian- franco. And, on the personal side, he came into closer contact with his friend again.

Bühler technology places Veronesi at the vanguard of the feed industry.

40,000 measuring points ensure quality
Together, they continued to improve the quality system – based on a parti- cularly pure version of the lean and flexible automation system. Veronesi and Bühler have been working on this automation system for some 40 years now, steadily refining and perfecting it. Today, thousands of sensors measure a wide range of quality parameters such as temperature, pressure, time, weight or strength, feeding them into the system to allow online monitoring of all the process steps and parameters. “Veronesi can inspect all the production operations in all our factories from a single centralized point, making sure that everything is running as planned,” says Giuseppe. At the same time, the control system allows integral and extremely efficient management of the entire production process. Several million data records are processed every day, coming from around 40,000 measuring points in seven plants, with 30 ACOS servers forming the backbone. Should any important characteristics stray from the target values, this will immediately

trigger alarm messages, which are escalated on the basis of clear criteria. “The people involved are continuously informed about quality and production, even through alerts, which are visible from my office on time,” says production manager Gianfranco Pandolfo.

Full control of the entire process chain
This enables the company to prove whenever required what has been pro- cessed and when it was processed along the entire process chain. Anyone in a supermarket buying a pack-age of poultry meat or ham or a salami produced by Veronesi can retrace the process chain as far back as to the feed that has been fed to the individual chicken, hog, or cow and can see how production took place. “This places Veronesi at the vanguard of the feed industry,” says Giuseppe.
Modest as he is, his friend Gianfranco has no comment; but his smile shows that he in no way objects to this assessment.

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