Italian Carrier Expands Company By Wielding Focused Strategies

Jan. 1, 2001
A joint agreement with a French company is one of several recent moves by Star Trasporti Internazionali SPA to grow its European business. The Milan,

A joint agreement with a French company is one of several recent moves by Star Trasporti Internazionali SPA to grow its European business. The Milan, Italy, bulk carrier began operating with Samat SA, a Paris-based transportation company, in September 2000.

"This agreement with the French company gives us better access to major shippers," says Emanuele Remondini, Star president. "Our clients, and those we wish to gain, want full service. Until now, our focus has been on transporting toxic wastes, chemicals, and liquid petroleum gases. "Naturally, our operations have to be specialized because of the hazardous materials handling that is required. Our specialization makes us fit well with Samat. Putting our resources together will allow us to develop extensive chemical services.

"At the same time, Samat already has one Italian company, so that means there is a familiarity."

The Star/Samat agreement is just part of Star's broad European strategy. The company began service to Hungary in October 2000 and by November was operating in Romania. Earlier positioning placed subsidiaries in Rotterdam, the Netherlands; Essen, Germany; and Brzeg Dolny, Poland.

A small sector of the company is involved in refrigerated transportation that stretches to Malta and North Africa. In 2000, Star annual revenues totaled about $50 million.

European Unification

Like many European carriers, Star's growth has been prompted by the unification of Europe, which among other things opened borders to road traffic. "Europe means one country, today," says Remondini.

Carriers also benefit from the dominance that truck transport holds over rail. While trucks tend to move throughout Europe with little restraint, many countries' railroad engines continue to be stopped and switched at borders. These delays, and other factors, have perpetuated the truck-over-rail advantage.

However, Remondini points out that bureaucracy continues to restrain carrier development, particularly in Italy. "Historically, there has been no incentive for large companies," he says.

That hasn't stopped Remondini from growing the company through continuous investment in the renewal and modernization of equipment, participation in efficiency and cost reduction research projects, and close monitoring of all sectors of the business in an effort to recognize developments and trends that will advance the company.

"We think our strategy provides the best solution in dealing with pan-European multi-modal transport," says Remondini.

In addition to its growth in European logistics, Star and its sister companies, Marcevaggi SPA and Loginvest, have been active in the development of dedicated equipment. The newest effort is a swap body tank container for liquefied petroleum gas transportation. The companies have established an alliance with the container manufacturer, Comef SPA, to market liquefied propane gas. The container is mounted on a 40-foot chassis manufactured by Menci SPA. The capacity of 53,300 liters (14,000 gallons) and the tank container's ground stackable convenience lend themselves to added profit, says Remondini.

Family Influences

All of Star's European innovation and expansion has occurred with Remondini at the helm, but the history of the company began in 1934 when Remondini's father founded Marcevaggi SPA in Genoa. The senior Remondini owned two horses and four wagons that were eventually replaced by 40 trucks. World War II devastated the company, but the family-owned business slowly recovered to specialize in liquid gases transportation.

Star Trasporti was founded in 1954 in Milan, says Italo Braghieri, whose father started the company. Braghieri now serves Star as director of operations. Star began hauling general cargo, eventually expanding into chemicals. The two companies were later merged through various arrangements.

"As much as our field of expertise has changed over the years, we hold onto family traditions," says Remondini. "We operate in a flat organizational structure and emphasize direct communication. We train our personnel to provide direct and accurate one-on-one answers to our customers' logistic issues. Our long-term experience and service awareness enable us to provide flexible and efficient solutions to the demands of customers."

Part of Star's strategy included a recent company reorganization into divisions based on products hauled. One division handles gases, another chemicals, and a third, hazardous waste products. The gases division handles propane, carbon dioxide, and ammonia. The Samat agreement will enhance the chemical side of the house. Samat will be involved in the tank container sector, and Star will handle the tank trailer transport of liquid chemicals and petrochemicals. The waste division will continue to be a primary Star service.

Remondini decided early on to install computers for administrative tasks. An IBM AS-400 server system is available to each branch office. At various stages in the company's growth, proprietary programs have been added. Today, maintenance is tracked and forecasts are made for vehicle repairs and preventive maintenance. Parts are tracked in order to reduce inventory. Global positioning devices have been tested, but no decision has been made to install them in tractors.

Certification Standards

Another effort Star has made in its growth strategy is to meet certification standards in order to demonstrate to customers the company's dedication to safety. The company holds ISO 9002 and Safety and Quality Assessment Systems (SQAS) certification. In addition, training programs for drivers and office staff are designed to comply with the European Agreement Concerning the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road (ADR).

Recruiting drivers is as difficult in Italy as it is in the United States. Star has about 150 drivers, including owner-operators.

"The driver situation does seem to be improving somewhat," says Braghieri. "And, our drivers today are better educated. They speak several languages."

Dispatchers are assigned to specific divisions, and they communicate with drivers on the road via cellular phone. All dispatching originates in Milan. There, e-mail, fax, and telephone are used to receive customer orders and relay the details to drivers.

Drivers receive training in the handling of dangerous goods and the various regulations governing European transportation. After they are qualified and on the road, drivers are further observed by instructors following in another vehicle.

"We consider safety our daily business," says Braghieri, adding that safety also applies to vehicles, which means keeping vehicles in excellent working order.

Keeping equipment in good working order has always been a priority with Remondini. As the years have passed, technology has enhanced new equipment and its maintenance, and he expects the trend to continue to improve as new developments occur.

Tractors are traded every five years. The company performs routine preventive maintenance on the 150 tractors in the fleet, including Volvo, Mercedes, Iveco, and Renault. Most tractors receive an oil change and lubrication at 30,000 kilometers (18,640 miles) to 35,000 kilometers (21,748 miles). Star also has contracts with the manufacturers for more comprehensive maintenance.

Tank trailers and tank containers are serviced and repaired in Star shops in Genoa and Milan. About 300 tank trailers and the same number of tank containers are in the fleet. The shops are equipped to handle almost all trailer and container maintenance, except for pressure vessels.

Cleaning Facility

A tank cleaning facility at the Milan depot is used for the company equipment and provides commercial service, as well. The two-bay facility is two years old and is equipped with a Karcher computerized cleaning system and Garoni boiler. No water is recycled and wastewater is treated on site before it is released into the municipal sewer. Solids are captured and placed in drums for disposal.

Tank trailers typically are supplied by Magyar Group SA, and tank containers come from MTK Containers Ltd, GOFA Gocher Fahrzeughau GmbH, and TransAmerica Leasing. Components include Drum hydraulic pumps and Fort Vale and Perolo valves. All new tractors and trailers are specified with antilock braking.

Tank trailers vary in capacity from 26,000 liters (6,870 gallons) to 37,000 liters (9,777 gallons). They have single, three, and four compartments. Trailers used for solvents and resins are equipped with compressors and pumps.

There are 20- and 30-foot tank containers that vary in capacity from 23,000 liters (6,077 gallons) to 36,000 liters (9,512 gallons). Two kinds of swapbodies are used, one group for chemicals and the other dedicated to gases. Pumps for gases are mounted on the trailers.

There's more in the future for Star than just technology development. Remondini envisions continued growth in Europe from the operations that are in place, as well as additional joint ventures. Star may even reach across the Atlantic to the United States where alliances with companies in the tank container industry may materialize.

For now, plans are on the table for a new Milan corporate headquarters where offices and other facilities will accommodate the company's development as it expands service throughout Europe.

About the Author

Mary Davis