These days, the leading supplier of blasting abrasives celebrated its 60th anniversary in the French Alps together with employees, customers and representatives from all over the world. After a long period of hardship, it was a great opportunity to meet and celebrate with many colleagues and experts from the industry again.
During this on-site visit, Foundry-Planet was able to see how complex the production of high-quality abrasives is and how the challenges of the future are being addressed here.
Read here our interview with Winoa`s COO, Christophe Bertoncelli:
1) Winoa just recently celebrated its 60th Anniversary, that means a lot of experience, an international presence and a large portfolio. How do you tackle the great challenges of the time?
Christophe Bertoncelli: The experience accumulated throughout those years and Winoa unique worldwide presence are key assets to leverage our knowledge of this industry to the highest standard. Practice sharing, should they be in product development or production technologies to take two examples, are standard processes for us. It allows the whole organization to benefit from good ideas wherever they were initiated. Let's take as an example the recent development of our Hybrid shot, a steel abrasive specifically designed for grit removal in foundries, or the WA Clean, a unique device for reading the cleanliness of surfaces. It is thanks to our vast experience, the work in concert with our technical centers and the long partnership with our customers that have enabled the development and production of these products. This has clearly been a key advantage of Winoa group over the years and will continue to be so for the years to come.
Additionally, to meet our customers' demand, we have continued to invest and grow over the past 12 months: With the recent acquisition of Peerless Abrasives in the USA, the creation of 2 new technical centers (USA and Eastern Europe) and the development of a shot peening service center in India.
2) In your opinion, where are the most important areas of application in the abrasive blasting market and did you noticed any change in market?
Christophe Bertoncelli: The main markets for our products are the automotive market, road and non-road transport. These markets represent more than 35% of our volumes. Mainly used for desanding and descaling of casted iron or forged parts (i.e. driveline, engine, axles.), applications also include surface preparation prior to coating (i.e. frames) or peening (i.e. springs, gears…). Another important sector is the Metallurgy market, where our products can be used anywhere from descaling to surface preparation.
And, generally, the trend is to move from surface cleaning towards surface preparation with an increased level of requirement on both quality and productivity levels : The right selection of steel abrasives is key to optimize these two parameters. Other trends have developed with the evolution of blasted materials. Increased use of stainless steel and aluminum alloys into produced goods (e.g.: automotive & transport industry) will call for more specific media such as stainless and cut wire abrasives, which Winoa has been promoting quite strongly on the market. Finally, the need to preserve natural resources and increase recycling should boost the use of steel abrasives vs. mineral ones too.
3) Are there any current problems from the crisis scenarios with Covid-19 or the Ukraine conflict?
Christophe Bertoncelli: Indeed, the crisis that started with Covid early 2020 and continued early 2022 with Ukraine conflict is posing new great challenges to Winoa and across the industry in general. The two keywords here are anticipation and reactivity. In our way to conduct business, we must anticipate various scenarios and prepare ourselves accordingly. If anticipation is the basis, there is one sure thing, events will likely be different than our anticipations! This is where reactivity will come into play to navigate those periods at best, based on adjacent scenarios. Apart from the significant costs increases induced, components availability has been for sure a daily topic for the past 2 years.
4) Keywords such as Industry 4.0, transformation, sustainability and climate neutrality have become basic conditions today. Can customer and competitive advantages be derived from this?
Christophe Bertoncelli: We already observe that some of our customers are becoming much more sensitive to those aspects in their request for quotes. We expect this trend to develop and, as for ISO certification, to become a requirement for any supplier homologation. Beyond this aspect, those development axes push us to relentlessly search for new, more efficient solutions that will ultimately translate into increased competitiveness. As an illustration, ISO 50 001 certification (Energy efficiency management) obtained by our French facility in 2013 has been a driver toward lower energy consumption and therefore positions us well in our journey towards carbon neutrality.
5) We understood you have a Zero Carbon Green Pledge through your Green Agenda 2025, can you tell us more about it? What are the technologies you are investing in to achieve this objective?
Christophe Bertoncelli: With its headquarters in the middle of the beautiful French alps, Winoa has been for a long time very sensitive on minimizing its impact to its environment. The alarming reports from GIEC has pushed us further on a path of carbon neutrality. For years, we have been modernizing our production tools with techniques such as frequency variators, high efficiency burners, heat recovery systems, LED lighting, etc. In our journey towards carbon neutrality, we have already identified and planned some technologies such as electricity self-generation, moving away from natural gas usage…. Regarding the latest steps that will bring us to full neutrality, as some technologies are still in early development stage, we monitor closely R&D developments to be ready for investing as soon as they translate into industrial solutions.
6) We look forward to the tour of your production facility in France. What can we expect here?
Christophe Bertoncelli: You can expect to see in Le Cheylas the biggest, steel abrasive plant in the world. It carries most of the most recent technological developments in the industry in terms of quality, automation, energy efficiency and much more.
Thank you for the interview and your hospitality.
Happy anniversary and all the best for your company and its employees worldwide.