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AI interview with Ali Reza Arabnia, President and CEO of Geico

INTERVIEW – When it comes to tier-one Paintshop specialists in the automotive industry, we can count them on the fingers of one hand. And Geico is one of them: the Italian leader in the world of the coating industry. 

From a traditional family-owned company, Geico, in almost half a century has become one of the most important industrial groups of Turnkey Original Coating Plants for the Vehicle Industry and thanks to the exclusive acquisition of Haden and Drysys’s patents and intellectual properties in 2008, has secured its intellectual know-how worldwide. Strategic partnerships and alliances with companies all over the world guarantee geographical presence and technical-commercial assistance to any car manufacturer. 

An example the Greenfield plant in Talegaon, India for General Motors where just on 30th December Geico was awarded the Safety Performance prize: 4 millions and 600 hundred man-hours without lost work day case… “It is truly an honour for Geico. – says Dr. Ali Reza Arabnia, President and CEO of Geico – Our collaboration with GM has been educational and fruitful for both resulting in having realized a great plant for India”. Geico’s success in India is not limited only to GM’s project since it has been awarded others such as that of Force Man, Fiat Tata, Renault, and Nissan thereafter.

AI. What does Geico do to generate such a success story in India? Surely your competitors did their best not to let you enter this market. 

ARA. We listen, act, and do our outmost best to deliver what customers’ most critical expectations are in the most open and honest way possible. Geico is a strongly customer –oriented company, we are truly committed to pursue customers’ critical expectations. We pro-act and re-act to customers’ requests trying to offer the best solution in terms of quality, costs and timing. Never forgetting people, the community and the environment; as far as you understand the local culture, you can’t be disappointed.

AI. How are you dealing with the current crisis in the automotive business? 

ARA. This crisis is not the automotive issue; it is general and sudden. It seems all the industries in the world have gone in a coma. If this situation still stays as it is even after this summer, then I believe everyone will be in trouble. Geico is lean and made to deal with yo-yo economy. We are focusing a lot on training, re-engineering of our processes, and innovation to bring unique values when business goes back to normal. It won’t be as it was before so you need to be ready to face new challenges and Geico shall be. 

AI. Have you ever thought about business diversification? 

ARA. Of course we did it in the past. But at the moment it cannot be a solution; when a company switches its core business to other areas, the market has to be ready to the change and usually it is takes 2 or 3 years to have a response from the market itself. That’s why we keep concentrating on original coating plants; our activity of main contractor always needs to be behind the times and, often anticipate them. Economy ups and downs are normal, and Geico is facing this crisis as a challenge. Difficulties may be transformed into opportunities and that is the moment to put it into practice. We are concentrating on our financial and human resources through an intense scheduling of training courses at all levels. We have organised an internal Campus, the Master in Original Coating Plants for the Vehicle Industry (MCOAT), delivering specific elements of our engineering activity and focusing on a systemic vision. It aims at enriching the knowledge of Geico team in order to create a distinct, perceptible and appraisable value recognised by our present and potential Customers.

AI. You seem to be investing a lot in your internal know-how; can you tell us some of Geico’s experiences? 

ARA. Geico adopted Six-Sigma methodology years ago and, as you may know, this is not only a methodological issue but a cultural one. It is a data-based culture that we share and promote with passion and motivation. 80% of our employees are involved in process re-engineering activities covering all areas: from the operations, to lay-out, project and detail engineering, to project management, information technologies, sales and proposal activities. And of course, what is rising is an innovative impulse in all areas; we are improving day by day.

AI. Is it a fair statement that taking advantage of this particular difficult period to focus on the future challenges by Innovation? 

ARA. Yes it is true. Our engineers and technical team is working hard on that and is producing great solutions in terms of innovation, quality, energy-saving and sustainable technologies. Some of our latest solutions involve, for instance, our new liquid paint booth Caleidos, our new Blow-off installed at Fiat. Concerning integrated handling systems we have developed a new version of J-Jump, already installed in Force Man and Sih Iveco China, and, with great success at the Berlin International Conference, we are improving our J-Flex which is the result of 35 years of experience. We are very proud of this new conveyor system for pre-treatment and e-coat plants whose flexibility and tank volume optimisation is perfectly in line with environmentally friendly technologies.

AI. Today ecological issues play an important role in every business. What Geico is doing in terms of energy saving projects? 

ARA. Of course we are prepared to environmental challenges; it is not a choice, it is a must in terms of social responsibility. Just think that paint-shops consume about 70% of electric energy and 80% of heat energy necessary for vehicle production and painting a body means producing about 235 kg of CO2 , only considering electric/heating and refrigeration consumptions. Or, let’s consider that the energy consumption of a paint-shop of 300.00 job/year is about 250 GWh, what would need a city of 50.000 inhabitants. 

Geico has its own internal division called Pardis which is particularly dedicated to energy saving and environmentally friendly solutions. It aims at arranging economically appealing solutions for the respect of BAT considering a global reduction of thermal consumptions from 1500 MJ/body to less than 800 MJ/body. And, in addition to that, last July we signed an important agreement with Fenice, an Italian/French company of Electricitè de France (EDF), which is an Energy Service Company (ESCO) and operates in the market of Green and White Certicates. As a matter of fact, Europe is moving towards a energy saving policy and has launched the 20-20-20 Directive which aims at a 20% reduction of energy consumptions, a 20% reduction of CO2 emissions and a 20% production of energy from renewable sources. In order to comply with this directive, Geico is studying new solutions in order to create a self-sustainable paintshop. We have a very ambitious goal which is the “Energy Independence Day” scheduled for 16th June 2020 when we want to offer a self-energy sufficient paintshop to the market.

AI. Does this new approach at green solutions has influenced your daily life? 

ARA. Yes… people in Geico is awaken of ecological issues and just think about that we have bought an area in Milan that will be planted by our employees’ children in order to reduce our impact on the environment. We have called it “Ecological Debt-Free Day”…a symbolic initiative that will translate in a more and more application towards environmental issues.

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