Franco Cesarini, president of AVIOGEI Airport Equipment, talks about his many years of experience in serving the aviation sector and how AVIOGEI has developed into a major GSE supplier
AVIOGEI first began manufacturing in 1969 as a division of a company called Officine Meccaniche Latina, or OML, a prominent player since 1952 in the field of precision mechanical construction and also a producer of aeronautical equipment for civil and military applications. But, says Cesarini: “I separated AVIOGEI from OML activity in 1970, so in that year the company became completely independent.
“During the subsequent years, we expanded our business, and AVIOGEI has de facto become the AVIOGEI Group, made up of highly specialised companies that have highly customised manufacturing capabilities, a global service offering and training, as well as short- and long-term rental and purchase options on a wide range of ground support equipment.
“Our headquarters is in Ariccia (Rome). In Italy, we have two plants: one in Campoleone and another in Aprilia. We also manage an airside workshop at Rome’s Fiumicino International Airport where we undertake trials and maintenance activities.”
Plus, AVIOGEI has a facility in the US, with a plant in Dallas, Texas, dedicated to the manufacture of electric GSE. “Over the years, AVIOGEI has become the most important manufacturer of GSE in Italy and a leading global player in the business,” Cesarini asserts.
Today, AVIOGEI maintains a lean organisation and management structure model, and employs about 70 highly qualified staff. “Since the beginning with the company, my aim has always been to provide every customer with high-quality and technologically advanced, as well as durable, airport equipment,” he adds.
As part of that strategy, AVIOGEI integrates in its production process the latest-generation technologies as regards electric and control systems, Cesarini informs.
Working with customers
When he started out in the business, the industry was already characterised by intensive collaboration between the manufacturer and the customer, and gradually there developed an increasingly varied offer from GSE manufacturers, Cesarini outlines.
For AVIOGEI: “Our policy is to be a partner of our customers, and in general of the airport and handling world,” he advises.
“It is essential for GSE manufacturing companies to establish a high level of product offering, with an excellent quality/price ratio, plus after-sales assistance,” Cesarini continues. AVIOGEI’s technological sophistication has evolved over time, as has the breadth of the products it offers, complemented by its customer-oriented approach and flexibility.
Also critical has been its commitment to continuous innovation. Finally, “The brand has always been recognised as a ‘Made in Italy’ quality product,” Cesarini notes.
As for what lies ahead, further changes are certainly on the horizon both for the industry and for AVIOGEI, he believes. “In recent years, airports have gone through a wave of digitalisation, and all stakeholders are interconnected, allowing for greater proactivity in airport management.
“Investment in digital solutions at airports has increased to improve passenger experience and airport operations and it is expected to grow in the coming years.
“Civil aviation authorities, airport managers, airlines and handlers are looking for solutions to digitise fleet management that will allow them to tackle many of the issues relating to GSE. Plus, across Europe, airport operators, competent authorities and carriers are looking for telematics solutions.
“We have supported the increase of services for customer support and the increase in partnerships among our main stakeholders, while autonomous machines is another area in which we are investing as part of our research and development efforts.”
And on the subject of collaboration and its criticality for the industry’s move towards a greener future, he opines: “Partnerships will be very important for meeting sustainability goals, as this will require the collaboration of different partners (airports, ground handlers, GSE manufacturers, energy providers and civil aviation authorities amongst them).
“While our products help in reducing the total cost of ownership (TCO) of GSE for operators, they also offer higher levels of safety and sustainability.”
Demonstrating its priorities
AVIOGEI showed off its latest designs at the GSE Expo Europe show held in Paris in September. In particular, it decided to emphasise its environmental awareness, choosing for exhibition on the stand its green products. Inside the AVIOGEI booth, it presented a small-scale prototype of a hydrogen hybrid powertrain for GSE; in the outdoor area, it exhibited a passenger stair powered by means of photovoltaic panel, as well as its electric Thunderlift 6000 and its new NS450LE electric conveyor belt.
“AVIOGEI has always had an open-minded approach in relation to new energy sources that can reduce the impact on the environment,” says Cesarini. “Our R&D Department considers any sustainable energy source for GSE, although currently the effort is focused on hydrogen technology that is expected to be a key element of future strategies as we look to clean and renewable energy transition.
“For example, we are currently undertaking R&D activity with an important university on a hydrogen-related project and for electrically motorised wheels for our GSE.
“In the future, we aim to organise our plants with specific areas for electric and hydrogen-related production. The company is growing up and intends to hire new talented and specialised resources, especially highly qualified professionals able to manage complex projects that rely on the use of new technologies.”
Meanwhile: “In our vehicles, we also integrate industry 4.0 [the fourth industrial revolution] technologies, in particular Internet of Things [IoT] applications and analytics. The operators that use our GSE (drivers and fleet managers in this context) have access to different vehicle parameters that they can check easily and without being present thanks to remote diagnostics.”
GSE Expo Europe was a good show for the company. “We received many guests, very interested in all our products, but especially so in the Thunderlift that is dedicated to passengers with restricted mobility (PRMs),” Cesarini declares. “Many customers got in the passenger compartment of the unit and were impressed by the reliability and comfort of our GSE.”
The expo gave AVIOGEI an opportunity to demonstrate that its products meet the challenges that face the civil aviation sector. However, Cesarini also notes that, “We are continuously working to improve our military range as well; plus, we have been involved and we are involved in pandemic and humanitarian projects.”