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Niche Fusina Rolled Products Srl is one of the leading European manufacturers of rolled aluminium products. The factory was built over 50 years ago and is in Italy in the industrial area of Fusina, near Venice. Over the years, the plant had a succession of owners, and now is owned by DADA Holding Group and Invitalia (via their Fondo Salvaguardia Imprese Fund, a Private Equity style fund which invests, at market base conditions, in companies considered important in Italy). Niche Fusina company aims to become a major player in the global markets for high-quality rolled aluminum products.

Manufacturing Journal magazine interviewed the company’s CEO (Mr Vincenzo Zinni) to discuss the company’s activities and recent developments.

Niche Fusina Rolled Products Srl is a company with a very rich tradition and history. Could you give a brief history of the company’s development?

The plant is in the industrial area of Marghera, in the province of Venice, and was built in the 1960s to support the Italian aluminum industry. Over the years, several companies have succeeded in owning the plant and some important investments have been made to improve the plants to maintain a competitive position in the marine and road transportation markets. Following a period of financial difficulties, the company changed ownership and it’s with the new owners since March 31, 2022. The change of ownership has brought new investments and new management style as well as a more focused approach on production, customer service.

Can you tell us more about the offered products and service, production technologies of the company? Does Niche Fusina fit into the Industry 4.0 trend and invest in the latest technologies and solutions?

Niche Fusina is a vertically integrated company with foundry, rolling mill and finishing lines. It has a rolling capacity of at least 75,000 tons per year and a slab production capacity of 95,000 tons per year. For over half a century, Fusina has been an expert in the production of high-quality slabs, slates and sheets - serving customers in the marine, commercial (road) transportation, automotive and general industry sectors around the world.

Over the years, many investments in the plant have improved the equipment to maintain a competitive position in the market.

The Casthouse is equipped with two modern casting lines with melting furnaces, casting furnaces, degassing and filtering units and can deliver up to 95000 MT of slabs to the Rolling Mill Plant, 90 % of which of hard alloys. After the preliminary scalping and preheating operations, the slabs are rolled by the Hot Mill to produce coils and plates to feed the main products lines (Sheets and Plates).

The Sheets, from 2 to 8 mm thick, are cold rolled by a state of art IBK Cold Mill (2500 mm net width), thermal treated (three batch annealing furnaces), de-coiled and cut to length at the final dimensions; heat treatable alloys from 2 to 5 mm can be solution heat treated with the Continuous Furnace Line.

The Plates, with gauges above 8 mm, are stretched, thermal treated and sawn to size; roll products above 80 mm are also feasible in the soft annealed condition (up to 110 mm indicatively). The combination between the alloys and the production processes allow to reach the different physical properties defined by the International Standards that fit with customer needs and expectations required by the markets.

Niche Fusina is offering flat rolled aluminium products and fit to use alloys for industrial use. We offer our customers dedicated material, e.g., specific developments for corrosion resistant alloys and temper which are used in hull and ship superstructures, hard alloys which have high brinell hardness in case of loads in a tipper, high elongation alloys for road tankers, combination of process and melting to get high ballistic response plates for the defense industry.

Our first investments were focused towards Industry 4.0. A new testing laboratory was commissioned and a new robotic testing system. Additionally, a complete revamp to the “continuous furnace” was completed in December 2022. These are just two examples of the recent investments done by the new owners. A full-scale replacement of the rolling table will also be completed in the summer of 2023.

There are also various initiatives to reduce and track the environmental impact. We have recently partnered up with a UK based company that will allow us to produce a Co2 certificate for each product produced and delivered to our customers. With this initiative we think Fusina is well ahead of many of our competitors.

Where are your sales markets?

Niche Fusina has a worldwide presence, supplying clients from New Zealand to the USA. Notably, we also occasionally achieve booking volumes from clients in China – this is thanks to our highly recognized quality and support from the maritime inspection authorities that approve Fusina’s materials.

What are your plans? Is there any new sector you would like to focus on?

The pandemic has increased transport costs and disrupted trade routes, so now we are working to rebuild exports and regain business in some of our exports markets like the US where the company has always had a strong presence.

The “silos market” is also a target for Fusina both in Europe and the Export market; in this segment, we have the widest range of products and we can supply all levels of thicknesses requested. One of the additions made this year is the “brushed surface”. The “mill finish” is not uniform for high-end customers, so our brushed surface finish has been welcomed by some of our Asian customers.

To ensure the highest quality of products – Fusina company complies with a number of global requirements and cooperates with many inspection bodies. What are the most important ones?

For sea or commercial shipping, our material is certified, we cooperate with inspection authorities such as RINA (Registro Italiano Navale), DNV, ABS (American Bureau of Shipping), Lloyd’s Register, Korean Register, NKKK (Nippon Kaiji Kentei Kyokai), Bureau Veritas. We are also TÜV approved and responding to ADR regulations.

Please tell me what is most important in your business? What is the strategic potential of your company and the key to its success? What distinguishes the Niche Fusina brand from the competition?

At the heart of our business are our customers who work in a high-tech environment and who deserve the right quality at the right conditions.

What matters to us is being able to serve them on time and with the right product. Our unique advantage is our product range, Fusina can supply almost all qualities and widths from 2 to 100 mm thickness and from 1000 to 2500 mm width. Wider material can also be supplied with reduced finish or tolerances.

The success of the company would not be possible without proper management and qualified personnel. How many people does the company currently employ? Could you introduce the team of specialists hired at Niche Fusina?

Fusina currently employs around 260 people, in addition to these we also use a number of external contractors for our maintenance activities.

Since the new ownership, the management’s focus has been on:

  1. Add rolling mill and cast house operators
  2. Increase the number of processes engineers
  3. Implement a rotation program across for young engineers, fresh out of university
  4. Rationalise the production processes such as operators can work on different subsets of production

Fusina location is also critical, being based in the most industrial advanced area of Italy (and probably Europe) means that we are constantly competing for the best talents. We understand that this is a strength but also a weakness and we need to constantly adapt to the job market requirements.

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