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Franco Ballabio | CEO | COMI SpA

COMI SpA: Transforming the Dynamics of the Thermoforming Industry

In the late 1990s, when the world had just opened up for modernization, it touched every nook and cranny of the industrial world. Taking advantage of such favorable conditions, many innovators built products and brands to address the emerging needs of a dynamic world.

Within the list of global companies transforming the face of the manufacturing industry, COMI SpA emerged as an anchor amidst the rest. Enzo Ballabio and his partner Remo Sertori founded the company in 1973 to build and design transforming machines.  

In the wave of revolutionizing industries, there were not many competitors, and the production of machines was not highly specialized. With the perseverance and commitment of its founder, currently imbibed by its CEO, Franco Ballabio, the company has excelled in becoming a global leader in the manufacturing sector.

Today, COMI SpA drives machinery manufacturing and is an integrator of technologies in a global leadership position. It has now entered the refrigerator manufacturing line, with approximately 13,000 units installed worldwide, while continuing to design concepts and work with companies that manufacture standard and specialized machinery.

With its talented engineering department, COMI SpA has been able to incorporate robots, lasers, and many other technologies in its customized working environments. It is also recognized in many different sectors, such as the automotive and aerospace sectors.

COMI SpA is currently aiming to achieve its ambitious target of opening a production site in the Asia market and increasing its turnover by 15% by 2024.

Let’s dive into the highlights of the interview and learn more about COMI SpA!

Please brief us about your company and the ideas that led to its inception.

COMI was founded in 1973 by my father Enzo Ballabio and his partner Remo Sertori to design and build thermoforming machines for the refrigerator industry sector. In those years, there were not many competitors in the sector, and the machines in production were not highly specialized. It was only in 1998 that it decided to offer itself directly to the markets with its brand and became a global leader in its sector thanks to the quality and high-tech solutions of its products. In 2014 it will invoice around 24 million euros with amazing results.

The key to COMI’s success was the quality of Made in Italy, combined with the passion of its employees. They were not just employees of a company but a family working together on a joint project with the same goals. This has meant that the company developed internationally, exporting to over 50 countries.

Kindly tell us about yourself and your professional milestones so far. What has been your motivation to venture into the Industrial Machinery niche?

I have worked in the family business since I was a boy, and I learned everything from my father. He learned to draw on his own and gained experience in the industrial sector; the technical drawings were made by his hand, and with great precision, he redid them hundreds of times until they were perfect.

I took this attitude to work, perseverance, and precision from him. But since I have managed the company, I have decided to expand into other sectors and technologies as well. Today COMI is recognized in many other sectors, such as the automotive and aerospace sector, in which we have completed important projects, such as numerically controlled work centers for the construction of luxury yachts, ultra-light Nolan helmets, seats for Ferrari, and more.

What are the core values of the company? How are you driving the company to achieve its vision and mission statement?

My mission is to lead the company to be an increasingly well-known international player, not only in the refrigerator sector but also in many other sectors. But the core values of the company are always the same: precision, quality, professionalism, and high specialization.

What are the company’s key offerings that make it stand out in the machinery market? How is it revolutionizing the industry?

COMI stands out in the market for the specialization of its machines and the wide range of technologies. Many companies make machines like ours, but they are industrialized, always the same series of machines; while we can make customized machines according to the customer’s requests and deliver a final solution of multiple technologies.

How are you adopting emerging technological solutions to advance output in the industrial machinery market? How is it also ensuring the safety of employees working with your company?

We are investing more than 10% in R&D to increase patents and specialized technologies. We have also begun to digitize the company with increasingly intelligent control panels and software that detect anomalies in the production process and predictive technologies that can increase the efficiency of our machines.
As far as safety is concerned, it has always been a priority for our company, all machines have the strictest CE requirements, and our employees are constantly updated on safety.

What are the challenges that you encounter in daily operations? How do you infuse your leadership skills to turn them into opportunities for the success and growth of the company?

My philosophy is that there are no great problems without great solutions. If there is something that does not work, an alternative must be found; I also give a lot of confidence to my employees by encouraging them to bring out the best in them and, therefore, great solutions.

As an experienced leader, what advice would you like to give to budding entrepreneurs who wish to enter the Industrial Machinery niche?

I recommend gaining experience in small and medium-sized companies to test multiple roles and see how an industrial reality works and then find a niche in an area where there are competing companies and start to specialize in product customization. In my opinion, those who work tailored to customer requests always have the opportunity to find a market niche.

What are the future goals of the company? How do you envision upscaling its operations and reach in 2022 and beyond?

I would like to open a production site in the Asian market where COMI is very strong and lead the company to increase its turnover by 15% for 2024.

Please share any clientele, awards, or recognitions that correctly highlight your current market position. (If available/ permissible)

We currently have the record of having built the largest EU CNC milling machine with a rotary table. We also have a record of having built single-station thermoforming machines with a width of more than 12 meters.