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Continuous sandwich panels: a global marketing goal for Cannon!

Francesco Abbà, Corporate Marketing Manager of the Cannon Group since 2008, has been assigned Sales responsibility for the Insulation Panels market segment. Cannon manufactures equipment and turn-key solutions for both continuous and discontinuous panel-manufacturing technologies, and we ask him to report about his activity and the current state of this important segment of the Polyurethanes market.

Cannon News: Can you describe the strategy implemented by the Cannon Group in the Insulation Market? Francesco Abbà: Our strategy stems from simple considerations, and it develops as a logic consequence. It is well known fact that we cannot keep going on indiscriminately consuming energy resources of our planet on a global basis. Therefore, a part from utilising energy sources different from oil and

natural gas, the most effective way to grow in a “sustainable way” is simply to save energy wherever it is spent. Usually it requires time to develop - or even simply to scale-up – new technologies, but the application of the “energy efficiency” concept is a cheap, clean, and quick process. As a matter of fact Cannon is strategically present in this market where national governments promote energy efficiency on a worldwide basis to achieve healthier economies, a cleaner environment, and greater energy security. If we consider that another major activity of our Group deals with high efficiency energy production and environmental sustainability, then, according to our CEO Marco Volpato opinion, the Cannon strategy of “Energy Production & Energy Saving”, implemented through our network of local offices with a global approach, is perfectly matching the above mentioned concepts. We want to help our customers to produce energy in a very efficient way, using renewable resources whenever this is economically wise, we want to help them reduce their emissions efficiently, and we want to provide them with the best thermal insulation tools to avoid unnecessary waste of produced energy. I have played the first time of this game for many years at Bono Energia, leading the Sales and Marketing Group in charge of Energy Plants, and I am now trying to play the third time dealing with the insulation panels plants.

CN: Can you tell us something more specific about the characteristics of this market, and how you approach it? FA: In the developed countries (Europe, USA, Japan) we often hear that new “Energy Standards for Buildings” are set in order to promote energy efficiency improvements, which will be of at least 25% within the next 5 years and of up to 75% in the next 10 years. In this frame, Polyurethane sandwich panels bring essential solutions to the design, construction and plan for operation of high performance “green buildings” in the developed countries as well as for basic construction of “affordable houses” in the developing ones. The potential growth of this market is justifying Cannon presence in this strategic sector forecasting double digits growths in next few years. While in developed countries architectural and aesthetic aspects are predominant in the design of energy-saving buildings, in developing countries economy, quick and easy installation are fundamental aspects for local standards. Therefore the market segmentation could be described as follows: • “Architectural Market”, where form leads function and the aesthetics is driven by architects and designers; manufacturers provide design and details for integrated systems and solutions. The products can be horizontal or vertical with very good flatness, finishing and innovative design. In this market segment garage and sectional doors are playing an important role. The sandwich panel in this market segment is mainly with rigid facing including, but not limited to, pre-painted steel sheets for cover but not excluding aluminium, stainless steel, copper or other valuable finishing materials.

• “Commercial-Industrial Market”, where function leads form, product decisions are driven by owners or contractors and architects have only a marginal involvement. The growth in this segment is really high, driven by big retailers, car dealers, manufacturing plants, warehouses etc. It requires minimal design and detailing but competitive prices and fast “time to

market”. Panels are usually made with rigid facing including pre- painted steel sheets; sometimes one facing is flexible to reduce the costs as much as possible.

• “Insulation”, where the function and insulation properties are

the key features and no importance is given to form, since very often these panels are hidden by other construction materials. Contractors and architects have an involvement here just to grant the right performances in term of isolation properties. Normally these panels are designed to be coupled with other materials and are made with flexible facing in order to reduce the cost.

• “Cold Storage Market”, where specialized owners and contractors are leading the market, usually a niche for the Commercial-Industrial sector. Function and form are equally important ; very high thicknesses are necessary in order get the right insulation properties required for food conservation.

• “Roof Market”, where function leads form, product decisions are driven by owners or contractors. Architects will have more involvement due to the aesthetics taking part to the decision. In Europe “tile roof” style is taking place in the market in the countries where historical reasons are matching the isolation function.

• “Air Ducting Market”, where economic, aesthetic, functional aspects are sharing equal importance in order to allow contractors and engineers to design effective ducting at reasonable or low costs. This technology is slowly taking place since it needs an efficient distribution network.

CN: Then the products required by these various segments are quite different: how do you approach these different needs? FA: In terms of panel-making technologies Cannon can offer the widest product portfolio: counting on the proven experience of a solid staff of technical and process engineers, we are able to offer, design, manufacture, test and run the most sophisticated continuous and discontinuous production lines for sandwich panels. When the targeted panel market is identified, the continuous lines, due to their high productivity, are the most effective solutions for satisfying highly demanding panel producers. Crios, the Cannon Division dedicated to continuous sandwich panel production, can benefit of the customer's opinion about the qualifying points that can be summarized according to:

• Complete “in house” production – in our Italian qualified

mechanical shops – of the most critical and sophisticated parts of the plant, including the dosing machine, decoilers, roll forming machine, double belt, cutting and stacking equipment and, last but not least, the control system for supervising the line. The quality of the final products strictly depends on the precision applied in manufacturing the whole line. Engineering and design of the equipment together with machining accuracy and quality controls allows for effective panel production.

Precision machined slats guarantee optimum surface aspect to the finished sandwich panels.

maintenance. These hidden costs for the clients are taken in due consideration during the design phase of the project starting from the proposal phase.

Fast cutting precision, stacking suction hood design and

allow for a clean working environment, easy maintenance and equipment reliability.

• Tank farming for the chemicals required by the continuous production are engineered and built for optimal storage and temperature control.

• The capacity to handle “turnkey” projects, from the large storage tank farms for the raw materials to the panels packing equipment including all the safeties, production planning and control protocols.

• The capacity to speak the customers' language “technology

wise”, proposing solutions tailored to their actual needs are key factors for conscious and fulfilling technical investments.

• Local presence with local companies and offices offering qualified service engineers and spare part from stock.

All above mentioned features and the care for the complete design of Cannon continuous sandwich panel lines is positively effecting the result: our plant's efficiency is allowing our customers for a reduced level of downtime for line configuration, shutdowns, scrap and trimmings – sometimes below 2 % even with a complex production mix – and optimal utilisation of the raw materials. This is counting for our customer competitiveness on a market more and more demanding for optimisation, that basically means “reducing the panel cost”, and quality assurance.

CN: Can you give us some examples of successful installed plants? FA: Sure, speaking only of the most recent ones I can say that Lissant – the St. Petersburg, Russia, based panel manufacturer – confirmed their trust in Cannon signing a third contract for a continuous line in Nevinnomyssk – about 1,000 km from Moscow – producing wall and roof panels for the southern area of the Russian Confederation. This sophisticated plant that includes embossing equipment for special panel surface finishing (“stucco” and “wood grain” styles) will be delivered within the first half of 2011; it shall be able to produce about 2 million square meters of panels per year, thus covering a larger market share within the Russian Confederation “top” market and adding further capacity to the Lissant Group, which already successfully operates two Cannon continuous foaming plants. Two more plants will be delivered to the Mediterranean Area within the end of 2010 and beginning of 2011. Tecknopanel, a Cannon customer in Turkey, decided to double the existing line for the production of wall and roof panel. Another customer based in Libya, Al Najah, decided to enter the continuous panel market due to the local needs that are not covered, at present, by local production.

Dosing equipment produced by Afros, Cannon Group's

Division for metering machines, is worldwide recognised the “state of the art” in this sector. New development concerning the mixing head, air nucleation, foam distribution system shall be soon available on the market for those demanding customers asking for consistent performance.

?• Double Belt, patented “screw driven” driving system (a unique feature in this field), machining precision and strict quality control avoid undesired surface markings due to polygonal effect to the movement of the panel through the press.

• Decoilers and relevant automation for cutting, joining,

matching, embossing, “on the fly” presses, roll forming equipment are designed to reduce as much as possible the length of the line, nevertheless granting easy access for

Cannon provides complete “in house” production of the most critical parts of the plant, including the dosing machine, decoilers, roll forming machine, double belt, cutting and stacking equipment and the control system for supervising the line.

CN: And, to conclude, can you disclose what's going on in the “engine room”? FA: More projects – some of them involving innovative solutions – are being currently discussed with existing and potential customers in USA, Far East Asia and Middle East, but let me keep them confidential until the contracts are signed! I can only tell you that the increasing interest towards the economic and quality results provided by our complete production lines testifies that Cannon is recognised by the market as a leading supplier for PUR/PIR sandwich panel equipment. We like to handle complex foaming problems, and we like to solve them for the interest of our customers! We can't have success unless they do, at the end!


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