Brembo Expands R&D Footprint As ‘Solutions Provider’

Larger U.S. technology presence is part of grand new strategy by Schillachi, CEO of major Italian brake maker.

Brembo’s bright red calipers have been showing up on the wheels of more and more performance and luxury automobiles in the U.S. market, a true badge of upscale standing for consumers seeking a new way of saying they’ve arrived.

Now, the global CEO of the Italy-based brake manufacturer is seeking to raise the major supplier’s profile in America in a new way: establishing a significant new research-and-development center here.

It’s just part of Daniele Schillachi’s new strategic plan for “break[ing] new ground” in the company’s intensifying “journey to become a respected solutions provider” by automakers in North America and around the world that are seeking stronger partnerships with key suppliers to confront industry challenges and opportunities in electric and autonomous vehicles and other areas, he said in a recent press presentation.

“We’re a highly respected company with a strong brand,” Schillachi told Chief Executive. “This is not a reinvention. It’s just a step up in our way of doing business in a world that is changing rapidly and continuously through geopolitics, technology and so on. And COVID is accelerating the volatility. The best way to stay on top isn’t to be satisfied with what you’re doing.”

So, in his position as CEO of the half-century-old company since July, 2019, Schillachi has hatched a plan with several significant aspects: enhancing Brembo’s digitization and overall innovation, adding to its global presence, and playing up its growing status as what he called “a cool brand.”

Consider Schillachi’s plan for creating new R&D “centers of excellence in [the company’s] main regions for creating cross-fertilization of innovation,” as he put it in the press briefing. The centers will be in the United States, China, India and Europe, said Alessandro Ciotti, director of advanced R&D for Brembo, in the presentation. “They will be located in these different places to make us faster in creation and implementation of new technologies,” he said. “This also will give us an opportunity to have kind of a different mind of people inside the organization, a diversity in mind and approach.”

In elaborating, Schillachi told Chief Executive that the creation of these new R&D centers “is a natural consequence of our  new vision and mission. Already today, we have R&D departments in our entities, such as in North America. But how can we be close to where the technology is but also at the same time leverage diversity by employing people locally who challenge Brembo on new technologies, ideas and solutions?”

In the presentation, Schillachi described this aspect of his strategy as “a huge and fantastic opportunity for us to speed up diversity and be closer to areas where we can really have a lot of information about artificial intelligence implementation and technology.”

This might have suggested creation of the new center in California, Schillachi allowed. “If you talk about software and AI, the first place you think about is Silicon Valley,” he said. “But if you talk about technology engineering, of course Michigan and the Detroit area are where you want to be.” Brembo’s big U.S. manufacturing center is in Homer, Michigan, in the south-central part of the state. “We haven’t decided on the location yet,” Schillachi said.

At the same time, another aspect of Brembo’s new strategy suggests that the company wants be physically closer to original-equipment manufacturers (OEMs) which, in North America, are clustered in the heartland.

“The megatrends in the automotive business – such as electric and autonomous vehicles – are putting a lot of pressure on OEMs in terms of managing resources,” Schillaci said. “Those are changes we need to deal with. We can’t ignore them.

“Think about this: For many OEMs, in the powertrain area they used to have to deal with two main technologies: petrol and diesel. Now it’s more complicated, with electric cars and [hydrogen] fuel cells. That tells you that they need to make a a very high prority to allocate resources.

“At Brembo, we thought that now is the right time to do more to help our partners,” he continued. “Today we are a respected product supplier. But we need now to move more and more to become a solution provider, challenging ourselves. You always need to reinvent yourself, especially now with technology moving extremely fast.”

Schillachi said that “the difference between being a respected product supplier and a solution provider is that product suppliers fill gaps. Now, we need to do more, [establish] a hand-to-hand process for helping customers anticipate new customer needs. That’s why we felt we need to move the company toward becoming a solution provider.”