The managing director (with her brother Enrico) of Aetna, a group with 400 million revenues that produces packaging machines, has found the winning formula to compete in foreign markets: through strategic acquisitions and customer care. “A spirit of service has always guided us”, says the entrepreneur. Aetna Group’s focus is on sustainability and digitization. “This is now essential.” How will this impact 2023? “Orders are already in, our backlog is strong, this will be a transition year. We are strengthening our market position and brand awareness in the USA and we are strategically looking at Asia. I say to the industry in general: we need to believe in service, sustainability and digitization as the necessary tools to strenghten our competitive advantages World Wide."
Lesson number one of the patron Alfredo Aureli: anticipate needs, be global, but also local, offer 24-hour assistance, be a reliable and consistent technological partner to our Global Customer base . Smiling with conviction, Valentina Aureli says “To sum up our beliefs: is the spirit of service that has always distinguished us.” Valentina Aureli, 50 years old, who is Alfredo's daughter (she calls him “our base camp”), is part of a third generation of the Aureli family of entrepreneurs from Romagna.
Valentina today leads with her brother Enrico, Aetna Group made up of Robopac and OCME with 400 million in revenues and 1,850 employees. Both Robopac and OCME are globally recognized as leading brand names in end-of-line packaging (also referred to as secondary packaging). Robopac and OCME provide high quality equipment and solutions to securely package products for shipment and transportation. The Group is currently structured with twelve branches and four production companies abroad in China, Brazil, the USA and Germany. Six more production facilities are in Italy, where the heart of the organization is located in Castel San Pietro.
A global leader in end of line packaging, founded by Alfredo forty years ago, has grown internally as well through international aquisitions, with an obsessive attention to innovation and made to fit market specific solutions. The group is one of the Champions of the annual research by L'Economia with Italy Post, which identifies the companies with the highest growth and profitability performance. In 2022, in spite of the geopolitical crisis and the return of inflation, the Aetna Group has continued to flourish with the acquisition of the German company Meypack. This addition "is part of a strategic plan of growth through external channels, with production presence in countries with a manufacturing vocation, while expanding the range of products in this case aimed at the food and personal care sector"
Valentina shares the leadership, in the CEO role, with her brother Enrico. Both are also on the board of directors of SCM of Rimini, founded 70 years ago by their grandfather Lanfranco, which is a leading manufacturer of woodworking machines for wood, plastic, glass, stone and metals.
The CEO’s have just returned from a scouting trip to Germany. The objective for the trip? “We went to investigate the manufacturing excellence of the area, a practice born after the start of Covid. In this particular case, it was a company that deals with the circular economy, a field we look at with great interest”, explains Aureli. After all, sustainability is one of the trends in which all packaging companies are investing, and the Aetna Group is leading the way. "2023 will be a year of transition. We are optimistic about being able to sustain double digit growth as done in recent years (according to the ItalyPost survey, the average CAGR from 2014 to 2020 was 21.15%)" .
Even during Covid, the group was never at a standstill. The commitment to investing in research and development exceeded 7% of revenues in that period. New machine technologies were developed to meet changing customer needs and requirements, with even greater attention to sustainability and savings for customers.
“Digitization continues to grow in importance. We are strategically communicating to ensure maximum flexibility and presence. We are also implementing a One Global System including CRM, as part of our global strategy”, explains the CEO. The successful strategy of the company allows each branch to be structured with its own identity and entrepreneurial approach, including a number of business partners such as distributors, Integrators and OEMs counting now on a total network of 300 strong worldwide and growing. In contrast to many of its direct competitors in 2022, the Group has successfully participated in a wide range of sector specific events.
Broadening her spectrum, Aureli flies from Germany to the Asia-Pacific area, “where we would like to have a stronger position. We have a base operation in Thailand, but it is not yet clear what the future holds. India captures our attention, but it is not an easy country. In Asia, we already serve market leaders in the beverage industry such as Pepsi Cola. Our top technical resources fly from Emilia and go to support and adapt our technologies according to their local specs and requirements.
Another front on which we are experiencing tremendous growth is the USA. We understand that the American market rewards reliability and continuity. Our focus is on understanding and successfully meeting the customers unique needs. We must be good at overcoming all challenges", the CEO repeats like a mantra.
Is there a plan to win these challenges? “For the last three years I gave my people a series of goals: to accept and face the market changes with a creative spirit and curiosity, which are the best antidote to uncertainty. We gave people in the roles of accountability and responsibility a new handbook on antifragility. This is because 2023 will not be an easy year. The unknowns remain. Our goal is to invoice and deliver at the pace we have maintained over the years, but continued success is not taken for granted". Rhythms that have led the company to exceed - by far - the overall growth averages of other Italian companies. “Because of the competitive environment we are living in – specifies the CEO -. Our task now is not only to expand the perimeter, but also to grow the local branches, so that they in turn become poles of attraction, for the future talent of the organization”.
At Aetna Group, we think on a global perspective, while the company remains safe and secure in the hands of the founders. “We have completed the generational transition, dad is still active, work is his hobby. We have never had problems in governing the company, my brother and I have always done everything together. We share work and sport, sailing, skiing, and dancing. We are equally strong and complementary."
And, in fact, it seems that in the packaging industry, being a woman and leading one of the main players in the sector is not a problem. “The packaging industry is more suitable for women than many believe, smiles Valentina. It is a dynamic sector. The industry appreciates our energy, sense of responsibility, knowledge and drive”.