Behind the scenes: Visiting the developers at fischer Italia8. January 2021
In the first part of our ‘Behind the Scenes’ series we had a look behind the scenes of fischerwerke with Rainer Fischer, Head of the Plastics Business Unit. But in order to develop innovative fastening solutions, we don’t just tinker, design and test in Germany. Michele Martini and his team at fischer Italia create innovative products of the future at the Italian headquarters in the historic university city of Padua.
Michele Martini began his career in the R&D department of a renowned motorcycle manufacturer with a degree in machine engineering. He subsequently worked as a Project Engineer for a multinational company in the automotive industry before transferring to a leading brand in the lighting sector. He has been Head of Research and Development, Head of the Product Research and Development Department and Head of the Testing Laboratory at fischer Italia since February 2014. Among other things, Michele Martini is responsible for scheduling investments for new products in the field of commerce and OEMs. The 38-year-old pragmatist believes in teamwork and applying solid project management tools that leave room for creative thinking.
No development without brilliant ideas
Mr Martini, how is the Research & Development department at fischer Italia set up?
Michele Martini: Our department consists of a team of planners and a team of lab technicians. Each of us has different training and technical skills, but our competences are transversal, which means our planning team works on every product series without being assigned to certain product ranges or individual products. So there is no defined organisational structure in that sense. We work in an interdisciplinary manner, which makes our department a valuable, one-of-a-kind unit and ensures that our work is always exciting and different with every day.
How do you come up with ideas for new products?
Michele Martini: We take a practical and pragmatic approach. We only work on ideas and solutions based on actual requirements, or a new solution to an issue or an improvement on a specific application.
What does this mean in specific terms?
Michele Martini: The initial idea for a new product often comes from the General Manager, the Product Managers or our colleagues in Sales, who report back on the requirements of the market or a certain customer. And it comes from my team too, of course. The unique thing about our department is that we work side by side with the Product Managers, so we’re not just locked away in the planning office, on the contrary: We regularly accompany our colleagues in the field during their visits to customers. This helps us truly understand those that put fischer systems or products into practice.
Research and development at fischer Italia
Not all fischer subsidiaries have their own research and development departments. fischer Italia has a special history in this regard, as it began developing as early on as 1963 and went down a path of growth and change which led the subsidiary to be of significant importance to the company. In addition to its historical development, the reasons for this level of appreciation are due to Italy’s construction sector and the remarkable combination of technology and creativity on site. Products are designed, configured, tested, produced and marketed at fischer Italia. In addition to a research and development department, the headquarters in Padua also have a testing laboratory, plastics injection moulding, assembly and packing departments as well as fischer Academy training rooms. fischer Italia is also the company’s research and development competence centre for photovoltaics, plumbing fastenings and Lifeline.
Quality knows no limits
What happens next after you’ve come up with a new idea?
Michele Martini: Our process doesn’t differ much from that of our colleagues in Germany. The product development process has five stages: Brainstorming, a concept phase, development phase, implementation phase and market introduction phase. The development phase is the beating heart of the development process. We start by putting the idea to paper – we share, amend, delete and rewrite it. It is only over the course of this phase that we come to a structured draft and the first samples with various and increasingly detailed dimensions. We run through simulations, kinematics, 3D prints and finally run the function tests with subsequent adjustments until we end up with the final prototype.
What is the most important aspect of product development for you?
Michele Martini: The main aspect is safety, which is the true value of every fischer product. Next, there’s user friendliness. The internal fastening mechanism may be complex, but installation must be achievable in just a few simple steps. The new plumbing products we’ve developed come to mind as an example. Tradespeople only need a few fastening materials for installation, yet they still end up with a secure and watertight hold!
So test therefore, who join forever
How do you find out whether a product fulfils all the necessary requirements?
Michele Martini: Our development department has a testing laboratory where we test every product ourselves to start with. We also have products tested by colleagues in the field to get an unbiased assessment. In order to receive valid results, tests are carried out under various conditions. Our products are also tested by external laboratories at independent institutes, universities and certification bodies.
Where do you think fastening technology is headed in the near future?
Michele Martini: Technology and increasingly ingenious 3D printing applications are influencing our methods and work processes. But things always start with an idea and a sketch. We will set no limits on future areas of application. There are endless opportunities for new solutions, ranging from photovoltaics and floor reinforcement to seismic solutions!