t’s spelled IM (the founder is Inkmaker) but it’s read “I am”, in the English language, with a statement of existence that is impossible to ignore. Because the manufacturer of ink management systems is developing at the speed of light, following a clear strategy of technological and organizational evolution. And because it shows that business and social responsibility can go very well together.
“Our professional maturation happened in a company that gave us the opportunities and space to grow, and that was an invaluable fortune. Today we have our own business and we would like to be able to ‘give back’ some of that good fortune, helping other young people build their future.” The speaker is Valentina Cigna and she expresses the same sentiment as Roberto Guerra and Christophe Rizzo, lifelong experience partners and now on the board, with whom she leads the new IM Group in the role of president and global HR director. We were talking about corporate social responsibility and the Inkmaker Foundation, which I imagined to be peripheral to the focus of this interview – dedicated to the strategy, management and technology of the Piedmont-based group – but it was precisely there that the “soul” of IM emerged, its distinctive feature, beyond the vision and the rational calculation of objectives and resources.
Because abstract intelligence is not enough to achieve success: generosity, sensitivity to the collective dimension and a sense of the future are also required. It is no coincidence that in Italian, a company is also called a “society”, that a commonplace (too little used) reminds us that companies are made up of people, that the IM Group credo is “The color of trust”. This emerged clearly during the branding process and was readily grasped by Silvio Cimenti, head of branding, marketing and communications for the new group: “Knowing each other so well and for such a long time has given rise to the respect and trust that are the basis of everything”, is the choral affirmation of the three entrepreneurs. And Cimenti, creative and marketer “embarked” in IM together with his inhouse agency, Think, nods.
The model and the recipe
IM Group was founded in April at the behest of the Inkmaker board, after a large and rapid series of acquisitions that opened up new markets, supported by extremely rigorous financial management (“which has given us a good rating and the availability of credit institutions”, says Christophe Rizzo, subject matter expert for the group). The objective of the rebranding: to present itself to the market not as a mere sum of companies nor as an all-eating company, but as an organic whole of identified and synergistic components, structured to become leaders in their respective fields of competence.
IM is the last stage of a journey that began in Piedmont at F.I.S.A.T., Giuliano Cigna’s (Valentina’s father) ink factory. Based on the idea of dosing automation, Giuliano Cigna launched a start-up dedicated to mixing stations and immediately opened up to large international markets. This was Inkmaker, which grew in quantity, quality and competence. Some of its managers now work in IM together with Valentina, Roberto and Christophe, who are respectively responsible for business development in the East and West of the world (together with Lau Kar Seng, General Manager of Inkmaker Shanghai).
The three Inkmaker-born colleagues in 2018 take over the ownership of the company and change the mix. Their recipe is: take quality technology and update it to the state of the art; adopt an organizational and financial management that is precise and without smears; embrace a strategy of international growth through external lines, which aims to enhance specificity and synergies; equipped with internal marketing and communication resources, in constant connection and alignment with the board… With, in addition, an inclusive and motivating personnel policy and the launch of local initiatives of social and cultural relevance, managed by an ad hoc Foundation.
Total Process Engineering and sustainability
The summary is a bit schematic, but the substance is just that, and it has enabled the creation of a complete and reliable supply chain for the ink, coating and other applications industry, whose strategy is to offer the global market total process engineering. “Buying companies (and we will do so again) – says Roberto Guerra – entails a subsequent change in the mentality, procedures, marketing, R&D of all the companies… In these first three years, we are working intensively towards our objectives and we are very proud of our project. We are laying the foundations for an even brighter future for a company that today already employs 160 people and for which we feel responsible”.
The role of technology is paramount. First Inkmaker and now IM Group are distinguished by advanced electronics, which is giving new 4.0 life to an already important offer “giving legs to our mission of suppliers of complete solutions, able to reduce costs and raise the product quality of our customers. Some lines of machines have been discontinued, others redesigned and significant investments have been made in the Software&Automation division. Because software is the heart of our technology, and it allows us to increase the level, performance and energy efficiency of all our machines”, explains Christophe Rizzo.
On the other hand, underlines Valentina Cigna, “for us the strength of being a group comes from the ability to grow guided by the great drivers of sustainability, which must be pursued and “grounded” also for the direct benefit of customers. And from this point of view IM is also an open yard”.
As of today, the group makes half of its sales and 70-80% of its installed base on the color kitchen for liquid products, and aims to expand into new markets and areas of the world. “Thanks to the acquisition of Tecnopails,” Rizzo explains, “today we are also able to offer end-of-line filling lines for the entire chemical industry. As for geographic expansion, we are aiming first of all at Germany, with the support of the newly acquired Swesa, and at North America, where we have plenty of room to grow.”
But business is not everything. “My wife Alice – says Roberto Guerra – is an established Malaysian artist who has put her skills and relationships at the service of social causes. In collaboration with facilities and institutions in various countries of Southeast Asia, she has involved autistic children, orphans and young people with various other types of disabilities in the creation of art objects, which were then sold to finance charity programs. We are starting to bring this kind of experience into the group and we are seeing the great potential. Nor are we alone: in Asia, where we work for multinationals of the caliber of Tetra Pak, Alice’s activities have attracted attention and interest, and some clients are asking us to help them develop similar projects.”
Charity does not mean charity
“This kind of relationship with society is fully in tune with our idea of corporate responsibility, and we want to activate it here at home as well,” says Valentina Cigna. “Therefore, we thank Alice Chang Guerra for accepting the chairmanship of the Inkmaker Foundation: with her and Silvio’s commitment we will lay the foundations for our social activities also on this side of the world. In Italy we don’t have such a strong sense of community as in other countries, but that’s why we have so many things to do. Maybe starting from San Gillo, where we operate as a parent company and we have recently activated a job start-up initiative in collaboration with a local mechatronics institute. Working in a small town can be an advantage from this point of view.