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Sometimes the best way to tell people about a vision as bold as building a zero-impact paint shop by June 16, 2020 is to show them.

Geico, a global leader in the engineering and construction of turnkey automated car painting systems hosts Innovation Days every two years for its partners and financial institutions. “For us, growth equals investment, and investment equals innovation, even at the most critical times. Geico invested €27.9 million in the 2005 to 2013 period alone. Some 60% of this investment was allocated to technological and cultural innovation, with the remaining 40% being allocated to facilities and corporate structure and organisation,” says Dr Daryush Arabnia, Corporate Vice President of Geico.

The nerve centre for Geico research and development is the Pardis Innovation Centre in Milan, Italy, which was opened in 2009 and further expanded in 2013. “It is here that customers and partners are given the opportunity to closely observe new technologies in the different phases of the paint process,” says Arabnia. Customers are invited to attend “Experiment Days,” during which they are given a full day to visit the center, take a closer look at the daily breakthroughs and discuss their needs and expectations during brainstorming sessions.

All visitors are updated on progress towards achieving the Geico vision of “Energy Independence Day” on Tuesday, June 16, 2020. It is on that date that the company aims to introduce the world’s first “zero-impact” paint plant to the market. Geico’s focus on innovation in the paint shop is paying off for the company. After being awarded the contract to build a paint shop for the new Mercedes-Benz plant in Iracemápolis, Brazil, the German car manufacturer has awarded Geico the contract for the capacity expansion of its paint shop in Chakan, India.

Mercedes-Benz chose Geico after a visit by the top Mercedes-Benz management team to the Pardis Innovation Centre. “This is an important day for us, our team and our partners and suppliers. We have demonstrated that investing in research, culture, training, education and well-being for our employees leads to offer the best to our customers in a perceivable and concrete way,” said Arabnia.

In January 2015 Geico was awarded an important project from Geely Holding Group in China. The plant is located in Zhangijakou, Hebei with yearly production of 120,000 Geely and Volvo passenger cars. The first Geely delegation visited the Pardis Innovation Centre in July 2013 and then returned in December 2014 for final negotiations. “It is a great success for Geico team. It is more recognition for us from the Chinese market that once again chose Italian know-how and technology. This fills us of enthusiasm and honour,” he says.

Automotive Industries (AI) asked Arabnia what the company’s message is to its partners and financial institutions.

  1. Arabnia: The message we want to pass on is simple: in order to achieve excellence and to be considered a leader in the market, we need to bring to the table superior value to our customers. That’s why we need to continuously grow our internal know-how through both technical and cultural innovation. And the only way to reach this goal is to invest both time and resources. AI: What impresses visitors most when they visit Pardis Innovation Centre?
  2. Arabnia: It is not simply Pardis Innovation Centre that impresses visitors, but the whole experience that our guests go through when they visit us. We strongly believe that in order to bring true innovation people should develop both analytical and emotional intelligence. This is because without true passion, raw know-how would not be enough.

When visiting Geico we want our guests to deeply understand this concept. First, we show how we develop our know-how by visiting our offices where we introduce them to all Geico members. This is also to remind them that behind whatever we do there are people and not machines. Next is a visit to our internal school, Campus Pippo Neri, where training courses of all kinds are offered to our employees every Friday afternoon.

Then it is on to the place where we develop the emotional intelligence: Laura’s Garden of Thoughts. This is a 2000m2 covered area that reproduces a small Italian village. In the garden you can find a small park, a gym, a restaurant, an amphitheatre, an art gallery and a living room. This area is completely dedicated to Geico’s employees and stakeholders. In order to further develop the emotional intelligence every six weeks we hold a Teasing Friday.

This is an event where we hold lectures, theatre shows, concerts or anything that teases our brain and heart. Moreover, during these Teasing Fridays we change the art gallery, always trying to exhibit something that can enhance and open our minds. Once done with the garden we move to Pardis where we show the results of our innovation activities. I cannot really spot a specific factor that impresses our guests. I truly believe that the whole experience is what truly impresses.

AI: What innovation has come out of the workshops with customers?

  1. Arabnia: It is difficult to point out specific products that have been developed with customers. I believe that, instead, workshops with customers help us to understand which are the key values and needs that are important to our customers. We always try to understand the expectations and values of the customer. Everything we do is to reach the goal of the Energy Independence Day. This important date was set in 2005 when, talking to customers, we understood that decreasing cost of ownership was a must, and that the highest cost of ownership is energy consumption. You could say that the Energy Independence Day was born after many workshops both with customers and business partners.

AI: Is the deadline for zero-impact paint shop achievable?

  1. Arabnia: Yes. In order to achieve this goal we need to reach an average kWh per body of 270 and be able to supply the remaining energy need with renewable energies. Today we have reached 330 kWh per body and we already identified all activities that could bring us to 270 and maybe even less.

AI: What is the next breakthrough on the road to a zero-impact paint shop?

  1. Arabnia: Up until now our focus has been on making the process as efficient as possible. Now we are focusing more on energy consumption inside the paint shop. We are trying to completely rethink why we do certain things and the way we do them. I cannot disclose more than this.

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