Quality on the first try for ARS Tech thanks to the measurements!
ARS Tech, based in Abruzzo, Italy, is an extremely innovative company known worldwide and a valued supplier of composite material components to the major automotive players. It also stands out for its extensive use of measurement and control instruments and services, which include the PolyWorks|Inspector™ software.
ARS Tech was looking for a way to increase their market offerings. Their plan was to optimize the manufacturing process for high-performance carbon fiber components and to deliver perfect components each time, and on time, for high-end customers. They needed to invest in metrological technology and their human resources to make that possible.
As Piero Consorti, General Manager for ARS Tech, explains, “Our company was reborn in 2014, building on the experience and skills of the key resources of ARS Tech, one of the most important automotive composite companies in the world. We decided to put them to good use in a different context, characterized by greater market offerings and the absolute need to provide customers with increasingly high-level skills that can make a competitive difference. Specifically, the new main objective was to optimize the manufacturing processes of high-performance carbon fiber components, destined for high-end and very high-end customers, used in both road and racing vehicles, through the most advanced technologies. These include the ‘one-shot cure’, an innovative hot joint autoclave assembly process which, compared to traditional production methods, allows a significant increase in reliability and repeatability in addition to reducing processing times and the need for labor.”
The competitive recipe of ARS Tech includes high perceived quality, advanced customer service, and an unbeatable turnaround time. Their strategy is underlined in their message to customers: “When time is extremely critical, and no one is able to satisfy your requests, that is the time to contact us!”
Piero Consorti and Marco Acciarri
“For the business model that inspires us, it is essential to be 'vertical', that is, to manage everything internally in order to have the process completely under control. This means having all the necessary skills to be able to offer the market the most extreme technological solutions and, consequently, more added value.”
With this business model, it is essential to hit the target without any room for error and to have the ability to deliver a fully compliant product to the customer on the first try each and every time. An anecdote from Consorti illustrates just how essential it is to guarantee absolute conformity through measurement: “An important customer, involved in the winter testing of a racing car, urgently needed to receive a new aerodynamic component, which we could not immediately put through all the planned tests, since the first measuring arm was still being installed and started up. We had to resort to an external service company, which took several hours to do the work on our behalf, forcing us to make an unplanned trip to Hungary to deliver the part within the tight time frame available, as is always the case in the racing world!”
Consorti explains the importance of measurements when delivering perfect parts each time: “Product conformity of components produced using the autoclave process can only be guaranteed by monitoring the entire process. This means generating a whole series of measurements that not only concern the final object but also include the workflow, including the equipment, tools, models, and stamps, keeping a check on the processing methods, and taking into account all the variables that we have to deal with on a daily basis. This is undoubtedly a challenging area to manage. But as I already mentioned, it is crucial to enable us to offer the market a truly industrial product and become a solid partner for the leading companies in the automotive sector. I can safely say today that investing in measurement and control is for ARS Tech like taking out a 'results insurance policy’, which describes well our openness to investment in metrology.”
He continues, “For the business model that inspires us, it is essential to be 'vertical', that is, to manage everything internally in order to have the process completely under control. This means having all the necessary skills to be able to offer the market the most extreme technological solutions and, consequently, more added value.”
Of course, good measurements require hardware and software that are up to the task. In 2014, ARS Tech purchased their first FARO measuring arm with a license for the PolyWorks|Inspector software platform, which the company sales engineer presented as the “Ferrari” of tools in this field. PolyWorks|Inspector is a universal 3D dimensional analysis and quality control software for checking the dimensions of tools or parts, diagnosing and preventing manufacturing and assembly issues, guiding the construction of assemblies through real-time measurements, and controlling the quality of assembled products using portable metrology devices and CNC CMMs. Based on the excellent results obtained, ARS Tech soon decided to purchase a second measuring arm from FARO (without a software license) and then, in turn, a CMM (coordinate measuring machine) from HEXAGON, with its own software license. Thanks to their contacts at PolyWorks Europa – Italia, they quickly realized the potential of a universal software solution that would allow PolyWorks|Inspector to be used as a single interface with different tools.
Consorti points out that, “Companies usually pay a lot of attention to how much it costs TO DO things, but almost never to how much it costs NOT TO DO them. Thanks to our business model and our investment in measurements and controls, we have increased our annual turnover to 16.8 million euros and the number of employees to 295 in 2020.”
The move to a single metrology language was decisive in terms of competitive improvement. Marco Acciarri, Human Resources Manager of ARS Tech, explains, “It has allowed us to manage three workstations without any slowdowns: a huge gain in terms of data acquisition and processing speed without reducing the level of accuracy in the slightest. And, frankly, I believe that we would not have achieved such positive results in just two years if PolyWorks Europa – Italia had not supported us on a consultancy level as they had decided to do.”
For ARS Tech, a profitable partnership with PolyWorks Europa – Italia had begun, which even today continues to develop, contributing to their innovative and competitive development. Acciarri says, “This partnership is not dictated by mere economic motivations, but rather by a precise company policy: to provide the best solutions for our specific needs and available budgets. In our strong relationship with this supplier, which we consider to be a priceless opportunity for daily exchange, I would like to highlight not only the more than 110 telephone contacts we have had in less than two years for various types of support requests but also our direct participation in technical presentations and training seminars, in person and online, which proved to be concretely useful in our everyday work.”
Consorti feels that ARS Tech is well-positioned for the current, somewhat hectic evolution in the automobile industry: “The automotive sector is strongly influenced by the big players, especially at a time like the present, when there is a race to radically renew models, materials, safety criteria, energy sources, etc., and where, above all, after many years, it is possible to start production lines featuring manufacturing processes. In this context, our main weapon will always continue to be credibility, one of the cornerstones of our business success and our present stability, which is measured by our ability to keep our engagements with suppliers. And so far, we can say that we have not missed a single one! Think of the supply chain as vault gymnastics: the customer launches the project and the suppliers hold it up−if either one of them collapses, it can hurt a lot! Today, not only in the automotive sector, scenarios are also evolving very rapidly, undermining those who are unable to express flexibility and understanding of customer needs. In our field, that of composite materials, the trend is to work on increasingly customized products, which demand maximum performance and require the supplier to be able to offer the maximum added value in the market.”
In the next few years, ARS Tech foresees a more competitive market with growing demand, where a certain selection of suppliers may occur. But they are confident that their real worth will continue to be appreciated and valued by the most demanding customers, and that the skills on which the company is founded will be the most important asset for years to come. Consorti proudly comments, “The results of our efforts give us great satisfaction, such as being chosen as a partner in Toyota’s most advanced activities, in cooperation with their research and development departments in Japan. We are therefore a credible supplier; one the customer sees as a partner that is actively involved in the project conception phase. All this is thanks to the punctuality, precision, and cooperation that we know how to express, and we are sure, especially in the medium to long term, that it is also thanks to the measurements!”