Investing for the future has secured our future

Albano Bragagni, President of Tratos, looks back at 2011, a vintage year for Tratos
2011 for many manufacturers across Europe was a bad year. In fact, it was bad year following on the back of a period of bad, financially unstable years with an unclear future ahead. Not so for European cable manufacturer Tratos, which began to reap the benefits of its investment in its European manufacturing facilities in 2011 and is looking forward to the coming years with enthusiasm.

Albano Bragagni, President of Tratos for over 35 years, has clearly been an influential figure in the history of the company and its success, but he is not the type of man to sit back and reflect on past glories: “In manufacturing you have to continually strive for improvement in every aspect of your work. With low cost competition from the Far East and uncertain economic times, this has never been truer. We believe the key to success is to continually innovate – in our product R&D and in our manufacturing processes – and to invest. For a European manufacturer to not just survive, but to thrive, investment in people and plant is essential.

“The European manufacturing sector has suffered from lack of investment over the years. We invest our money to improve the quality of our output and quality of life for all of our employees. We hope other industries will follow our example and start to invest in manufacturing again.”

Investment in manufacturing is at the heart of the Tratos group ethos. As part of a planned consistent growth, in 2009 Tratos completed a €6 million extension to its factory in Arezzo, Italy to house a new Continuous Vulcanisation line for completely dry curing of polymeric high voltage cables up to 132kV. More recently, in 2011 Tratos invested £1 million in equipment in its UK manufacturing facility in Knowsley, Merseyside to ensure its long term survival as one of the last remaining cable manufacturers in the country.

“This investment in quality European manufacturing is now reaping rewards,” states President Bragagni, “with faster, modern machinery that enables us to compete with Far East on a competitive basis, but with a superior product offering manufactured with serious environmental credentials.”

As a result Tratos continues to win many impressive orders across a range of industries.

One of the company’s key markets is oil and gas and Tratos has seen continued success in this sector with the highlight of 2011 being a several million order for specialist fire resistant cables for oil and gas industrial.

Also in the energy sector, Tratos has been instrumental in the development of an innovative superconducting Cable-In-Conduit, for use in the construction of magnets for the world ITER reactor. Tratos processed the specialised superconducting material, worth €50 million, at its plant in Pieve Santo Stefano in Italy, after which it was transported to Criotec (a specialist in components operating at extremely low temperatures) near Turin for final assembly. In addition, the central tube of the superconductor will be produced by Tratos at its UK Knowsely plant.

“We are very excited to be involved in this ground breaking project” states President Bragagni. “From a business point of view, working with the Italian National Agency for New Technologies (ENEA) and Criotec has placed Tratos on an international stage with high level competitors. Furthermore, the four year group contract worth €50 million has contributed to our financial success and stability.

“On a wider note, this project is particularly exciting for us as it combines true innovation with sustainability. Tratos is excited to be playing a role in the development of new energy solutions.” The ITER project has been designed to explore the feasibility of energy production by controlled thermonuclear fusion, as opposed to fission which relies on a supply of uranium and thorium which are finite.

“In terms of its sustainability, I believe fusion power is at least as environmentally friendly as traditional sources of renewable energy. Fusion energy doesn’t produce greenhouse gases because it does not burn anything to generate electricity. Fusion power plants produce no gases such as nitrogen oxide or sulphur dioxide that could threaten our atmosphere by causing ground-level ozone formation, smog, and acid rain. Nor does fusion energy produce carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases suspected to cause global warming. The radioactive waste produced is minimal and well-contained, especially compared to fossil fuels. What’s more, fusion energy is an affordable and reliable economic choice; it has the lowest production cost of the major sources of electricity.”

Continued success in 2011 has also been witnessed by Tratos in the ports market, with a major contract awarded by Konecranes to supply 36 cranes’ cable lengths. The cranes have been purchased by Abu Dhabi Ports Company (ADPC) for an automated container yard system in the United Arab Emirates’ Khalifa Port. The new Port is being built over five phases, with an initial capacity of two million TEU (containers) and eight million tons of general cargo.

Tratosflex and Tratosgreen medium voltage rubber insulated and sheathed drum reeling cables are being used in Konecranes’ Automated Stacking Cranes (ASC). These cables have been designed to combat the common problem of twisting that affects cables reeling at high speed.

This same year, Tratos was delighted to host the Port Equipment Manufacturers Association (PEMA) Autumn 2011 Meeting in Bagno di Romagna, Italy in October. The 70 or so delegates attended the forum to discuss the valuable work and future role of PEMA and were invited to a tour of Tratos’ manufacturing facilities as well as a number of evening events, culminating in a magnificent flag waving performance and a dinner of exceptional Italian food and wine courtesy of Tratos. This, the second PEMA Autumn meeting to be held since the start of the association, was considered a great success by delegates.

“2011 really has been an exceptional year for Tratos which is all the more remarkable given the current world wide economic down turn” states President Bragagni. “We have had to invest heavily prior to this and work very hard to achieve these results and will continue to do so to maintain our position as a world leading cable manufacturer.

“A key part of this investment has been in the Tratos staff, to ensure we continue to attract the best designers, engineers and machinery operators. I would like to personally thank our new generation of forward thinking management that has made this possible. We believe this will place Tratos in a strong position for the future.”

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