Micro Detectors: Racing Into the Future with Sensors Technology
What do sports cars, opera, balsamic vinegar, and industrial sensors have in common? The answer is Modena, Italy. This part of Northern Italy is home to world renowned opera tenor Luciano Pavarotti, founder of Ferrari Motor Company Enzo Ferrari, the finest balsamic vinegar, and MD Micro Detectors, an Italian sensors technology company. While MD Micro Detectors may not be as famous as Ferrari sports cars, the company is well known in the field of factory automation where it has been a leading innovator and developer of photoelectronic sensors since 1971.
For many decades, this area of Italy has produced thousands of entrepreneurs and inventors both big and small as well as world famous performers. This is a land where people have a strong working culture, are generous, pleasant and friendly, and always looking for challenges. So, while Enzo Ferrari was dreaming about racing, Mauro Del Monte was fueling his own passion by inventing sensors for MD Micro Detectors.
MD Micro Detectors was founded in 1971 by high school teacher Paolo Iori, together with his wife and Mauro Del Monte as their first employee. They started the operation in a tiny two-room garage that served as their laboratory. This company at the beginning was called Diell (Didactic Electronic) and created sensors for, what was new at the time, the ceramics industry. These mechanical sensors with levers were used to detect the presence of tiles. The sensors were photoelectronic with good repeatability, long life and mechanical strength and soon became in great demand for automation development.
From that partnership, came many technological advances. In the 1980s, MD Micro Detectors developed the first scanner photoelectronic sensor which is credited as the birth of the miniaturized M18 cylindrical standard sensor and has now become the international standard. During its 43-year history, the company also went onto create TFT (thick film technology), area sensors, a range of ultrasonic sensors, a trimming laser, and one of its most successful custom products: a bar code reader for a coffee and infusion machine.
The accomplishments of MD Micro Detectors caught the eye of another Italian innovator, Marcello Masi, the founder and owner of the Finmasi Group. As a successful entrepreneur, Masi has built the Finmasi Group over 50 years to a powerhouse of several companies performing in different sectors, with total consolidated revenues of approximately 150 million Euros and more than 500 employees. It is active in the steel and electronic industry (sensors and printed circuit boards) as well as the service sector. MD Micro Detectors became part of the Finmasi Group in 1995. Masi leads the Finmasi Group with his ideas, passion and strategic thinking. His “shops,” as he likes to call the companies belonging to the Finmasi Group, are always open, often on Saturdays and sometimes on Sundays, night and day, for customers all over the world.
To help MD Micro Detectors develop and reach its fullest potential, Masi and CEO Giacomo Villano raised the bar for the company’s quality by putting into place a “Lean Thinking” program. These key changes allow the company to attain a level of absolute excellence in terms of manufacturing performances and service to its customers.
The company’s real “Lean Thinking” system has provided efficiency improvements throughout the organization from research and development to customer delivery and service. MD Micro Detectors is now completely structured and managed according to this system.After this major change in the operation, the company now works according to an efficient, practical, effective and simplified system. MD Micro Detectors can offer its customers an excellent level of service and a manufacturing system in which quantity, efficiency and total quality are guaranteed. Mauro Del Monte proudly states, “MD sensors have always excelled in quality and strength. Our products might be unearthed by an archaeologist in the next millennium and found to be still working.”
In 2013, MD Micro Detectors manufactured 1.3 million pieces and has operations in Italy, Spain, and China with more than 170 employees and 18 of those dedicated to research and development. The Italian operation is vertically integrated allowing everything, from the development of new products to final customer delivery, to be performed internally by MD Micro Detectors employees. The company has made a strong investment in the areas of research and development and manufacturing providing full control of the technology and processes which in turn allows MD Micro Detectors the utmost level of flexibility and reactivity to fulfill customers’ needs.
MD Micro Detectors products include photoelectric, inductive, ultrasonic, safety, and area sensors for use in the factory automation process with applications in the packaging, wood, glass, plastic, paper, vending machine, ceramic, automotive, and logistic industries.
Much of the company’s success is due to the corporate culture and its people. According to Marcello Masi: “Thanks to the important and clear objectives we have set for ourselves, our company is the ideal place for those who like to work hard and take up professional challenges. We have been working a lot to create and keep the enthusiasm of our people and their work ethic is certainly higher than average. The strong commitment to achieving excellent results, the struggle for perfection, the desire to do a good job — all these values are very important.”
As for the company’s future, MD Micro Detectors CEO Giacomo Villano is proud and optimistic. “We have an ‘MD Style’ within our organization,” he explains. “Our people are filled with team spirit, professionalism, quality, courage, initiative, and an ability to work hard to get the job done. Each member of the MD team is a living example of this company philosophy and continuously challenges each other to create something that can be useful to everyone both inside and outside our company. We are proud of our past but, at the same time, focus on what is yet to be done and achieved.”
And in the land around Modena, Italy where the worlds of sensor technology, opera, balsamic vinegar, and Ferraris come together surely the future is bright.