Factory and field: Mapei meets goals

U.S. Sassuolo team captain Francesco Magnanelli with the author. Photo courtesy Mapei Sport.

WHEN I FIRST RECEIVED an open invitation at a trade show 18 months ago to visit Mapei facilities in Milan, Italy, if I was “in the neighbourhood,” the chance seemed remote at the time. There was also an added sweetener: the corporation owns U.S. Sassuolo, a top-flight (Serie A) soccer team in Italy and I’d be invited to sit in the owner’s box for a home game if the timing was right.

By Mike Edwards, contributing editor

As luck would have it, this spring I got to meet the c.e.o. and industrial chemist, Dr. Giorgio Squinzi, and his wife, Dr. Adriana Spazzoli, corporate operational marketing and communication director, at their Milan corporate headquarters — the day after a Sunday home game.

Dr. Edoardo Bornatici, Robbiano di Mediglia plant manager of Mapei.

With revenues that exceed €2 billion, Mapei is a going concern as a chemical company in global surface materials, adhesives and sealants markets. For Squinzi, however, Canada has a soft spot in his heart as the market where Mapei first opened an overseas manufacturing facility in 1978. Located in Laval, Que., the manufacturing plant is now also an R&D Centre of Excellence for Concrete Restoration Systems, one of 18 R&D centres worldwide. “Now we have 20 manufacturing plants in North America — 15 as Mapei operations and five as Polyglass USA (a subsidiary),” says Squinzi. Mapei has grown partly through some acquisitions, but “mostly through internal growth,” says Squinzi, investing $100 million US corporate-wide over the last 12 months. The commitment to Canada hasn’t stopped, he said. “We have a Toronto (Brampton) plant now, strengthened the Vancouver location over the last five years and are planning new investments at the Laval location,” adds Squinzi. “We’re dominating the market share there in Canada.”

Mapei World at Milan City receives architects and designers to provide professional guidance on projects.

Adjacent Mapei’s corporate headquarters I’m taken to a training and demonstration centre called Mapei World: Milan City. The facility provides a venue for architects and designers to view demonstrations of the latest products from Mapei and to consult with resident architectural specialists. I’m told — and shown — that the company has such a broad product offering that it needs the centre to demonstrate how it can fit in at different stages of a design project.

After this tour, I’m whisked off in an all-electric BMW i3 by a private driver to the company’s Robbiano di Mediglia manufacturing plant at the outskirts of Milan.

The Mapei manufacturing plant at Robbiano di Mediglia.

Mapei invested €1,200,000 for improvements to the Mediglia production site in 2016 so there is evidence of that as the company brings more capabilities to market. My tour guide here is plant manager Dr. Edoardo Bornatici, pictured at left, who tells me the “dry,” cementitious products made there such as the Topcem and Mapefill brands, are also produced in facilities around Europe closer to the raw materials at hand. He calls it a “500 km strategy” — as the geographical demand increases, plants can serve their local markets more efficiently. Certainly, on the upswing at the Mediglia plant is the building producing “wet” products such as Mapeflex PU 45, Ultrabond Turf, Keralastic T and Keracolor GG.

Even though the plant was built in 1975, improving production efficiency is the main objective, Bornatici says, so equipment and structures are continually being enhanced. In 2011 alone, more than 600,000 tonnes of products for the building industry left the facility, a number that keeps rising. Today, from all Mapei facilities globally, it ships over 21,000 tonnes daily.

Mapei Stadium in Reggio Emilia, Italy, with Sassuolo vs. Sampdoria (1-0), May 6, 2018.

As a v.i.p. at the soccer game 150 km south of Milan in — what else — Mapei Stadium, I’m invited out to the grass playing surface prior to players emerging from the tunnel. Leading up to the pitch, however, is not grass but Mapei’s own Turf product.

Sassuolo defeats Sampdoria 1-0 on the day and secures its place in Serie A for the next season, avoiding relegation. There is much to celebrate with my gracious hosts.

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