After 25 years of uninterrupted activity in marble craftsmanship, Claudio, who had been guiding his family business for a few years, realized that this activity was outdated in this new millennium. However, he was not prepared to passively surrender to this situation that was overwhelming the entire sector. So, at night, when the machinery stopped, he read marketing books and analysed the model ‘Lean Manufacturing of Toyota Production System’ until he decided to create an informal network of companies. In 2014, he launched the project “Fabbrica Diffusa” (literally, “diffused factory”) as a first step of a marketing, research and development and shared technological innovation approach, intended to last in time.
The basic research started from an analysis of the local manufacturing base, keeping in mind that most companies still dealing with marble transformation were small-sized. As a lever to maintain the present occupational level, the research underlined the use of technology to increase the qualitative improvement of production to contain the falling revenues due to the competition, but even more their use in order to coordinate relations among small-sized businesses according to the new Factory 4.0 model. This way, a high added value per single product could be obtained, thus recovering new qualified job opportunities throughout the supply chain.
Claudio researched and experimented alone on the field for 5 years. Then, in July 2019, Apuana SB was born from the meeting between Engineer Fabio Gatti and Engineer Virginio Mori. They inherited the knowledge and the experience gained under the brand “Fabbrica Diffusa” (diffused factory) and created an economical, ethical, and social project, which came to life under the form of an innovative start-up founded as a Benefit Corporation. Currently, the company is made up of 20 subjects, equally distributed among individuals and joint-stock companies.
The corporation’s mission is to protect, promote and increase the quality production of ‘Made in Italy’ supported by the development and marketing of innovative services reserved to companies. To achieve this, Apuana established a statute drawn up according to the legislation of Benefit Corporations, which includes an annual drafting of an Impact Report, testifying to a rigorous and objective compliance with the basic principles of Corporate Social Responsibility.
To pursue its goals, Apuana SB manages two trademarks – Apuana Corporate and MyLedger – in addition to coordinating the operation of a platform for custom manufacturing, summarising, in terms of a Factory 4.0, its two identities – analogical and digital. Both proposals are inspired by the guiding values of Apuana SB (authenticity, uniqueness, sustainability, and transparency). These same values are acknowledged by other partner companies involved in this project at different levels, based on two similar but separate networks.
The first network – the informal one by Apuana Corporate, formed by small manufacturing companies – is designed to apply the futuristic concept of a flexible production named “Production as A Service” also at a local level. Here, the supply chain is composed automatically, in the most performing configuration in terms of time, using new technologies. The second – the MyLedger server network – is formed by public and private organisations sharing with Apuana SB the common aim to provide high added value services to enterprises based on the blockchain technology.
The “Research & Development” section is the beating heart of the company. Over the years, through a tireless experimentation in the field, the most modern cutting-edge technologies have been applied to the craft production. It is worth remembering the introduction of the economic management principles derived from the aerospace and automotive sectors (six sigma and TPS) in small and very small companies; the integration of sensors and data transmission detected from handcrafted marble objects; the use of nanotechnology (plasma jet) for the functionalization of water-repellent surfaces in water-based digital printing processes; the use of structured-light scanners to certify the authenticity of works of art; and many other laboratory experiments. All these experiences, combined with the Benefit principles carried out by the company, brought out a very human approach towards technological and social revolutions in our R&S department, that await us in the near future.
THE LATEST ENABLING TECHNOLOGY
WE DECIDED TO UNDERTAKE
The blockchain platform is a distributed and immutable registry that simplifies the data sharing process and the tracking of exchanging digital assets in a business network, with the highest safety standards. Any object that has a value in the world can be exchanged and tracked on the blockchain platform, reducing risks and costs for the people concerned, provided that a digital twin is created. This twin can virtually share the same physical destiny of the object, including the rights claimed on it, and the related liability derived from the subsequent owners and holders.
The blockchain of MyLedger was developed thanks to the skills of Apuana SB’s founding members, along with a public contribution from the Region of Tuscany. This allowed to increase the research in modern technological solutions, in order to give precise answers not only to the needs of the most structured companies, but also to the small and middle-sized Italian enterprises, that represent 90% of the national productive infrastructure.
Apuana SB is a network of producers who present themselves on the market in a structured way through a common brand, with the satisfaction of the final consumer as its primary objective. Through a series of affiliated websites and proprietary e-commerce sites (e.g. – the Apuana Corporate showcase website, and the platform for the production “Just in Time” by OB_Made), it will be possible to choose among different items, possibly also to customize them, with a wide range of possibilities.
Projects are a world apart in the Apuana SB galaxy. Be they for research, experimental development, or used as trailblazers for the introduction of new social experiences and technologies, they are considered by the Apuana SB TEAM as the starting point to understand and influence the future, with a practical, positive, and bold approach, without ever considering playing defence.
A clear testament to the above are the activities in progress: