When word spread that OPM and Carle & Montanari were in merger talks, one couldn’t blame many industry observers for not raising an eyebrow. After all, the two Italian-based companies have had a history of near acquisitions for the last several years.

As Moreno Roncato, ceo of Carle & Montanari –OPM (CM-OPM), explains, if it wasn’t OPM buying Carle & Montanari, then it was Carle & Montanari purchasing OPM. Although both supply chocolate moulding lines to the industry, the two companies also specialize in other confectionery and related segments.

Carle & Montanari has a century-long legacy in cocoa and chocolate processing as well as chocolate wrapping machines. OPM has established itself as a force in confectionery flow-wrapping and secondary packaging.

Still, it wasn’t until IMA (a multinational manufacturing company supplying machines to the pharmaceutical, cosmetic and food industries) acquired OPM that  merger talks took on a serious note. As Moreno points out, IMA and Sacmi (Carle & Montanari ‘s international parent company that manufactures machines and complete lines for the ceramics, beverage and packaging, processing and plastics industries) “are neighbors. They started talking about joining forces since IMA wasn’t that familiar with chocolate moulding.”

In 2010, the two companies formed a holding company, CMH, merging Carle & Montanari with OPM. Each of the parent companies retained a 50% share of ownership. Moreno, then president and ceo of Carle & Montanari became the ceo of CM-OPM while Aldo Abluton, who was the managing director of OPM, took over those same duties at CM-OPM.

This time, observers and customers did raise their eyebrows and cracked a smile. As Moreno explains, both companies received positive feedback from the very beginning. 

‘Chocolate Planet’ displayed at CM-OPM’s open house

When Carle & Montanari-OPM (CM-OPM) held an open house for customers at the company’s Rozzano, Italy facility earlier this spring, visitors had the opportunity to see the first Italian production hub for the chocolate and confectionery world. In doing so, attendees were presented with the latest solutions in the field of chocolate production, moulding, wrapping and packaging.

Thanks to the strategic alliance between Sacmi and Ima last year, Carle & Montanari and OPM combined the best of their respective production skills and know-how, creating a unique center capable of providing complete, turnkey solutions for chocolate processing and packaging.

This synergy between these two “chocolate planet” suppliers allows customers to interface with a single source that can propose flexible, personalized solutions for every possible production requirement.

“Our customers felt good about having a stronger, better organized partner instead of two smaller competitive parties,” he says.

That’s not to say that it’s been easy integrating the two companies. There are plenty of legal requirements involved in consummating such a merger, none the least of which is notifying unions and the public. Then there’s the internal reorganization as well as the tricky challenge of merging two competitive corporate cultures.

“We are completing the final stages of the merger,” Moreno says. But even in spite of the extended timetable to finalize the integration of the two companies, there have been already immediate paybacks.

First, sales projections for 2012 forecast a 20% increase for CM-OPM. Moreno attributes the double-digit jump to improvements in the marketplace as well as benefits evolving from the two companies becoming one.

“We’re working together as a team, and there are large opportunities out there which we’ve been able to take advantage of as a new company,” he says.

Moreno cites the example of moulding lines, which both former companies supplied and where customers still have very strong loyalties.

“We can now manufacture moulding lines from both sites, be it a Carle & Montanari moulding line at OPM’s Alba site or an OPM moulding line at Carle & Montanari’s site in Rozzano,” he says. “Even though we were a bit skeptical at the beginning, it’s really given us more flexibility in manufacturing and enhanced our efficiencies.”

But that’s really only the beginning, Moreno asserts. Now that the organizational restructuring has been resolved — there have been no layoffs, he emphasizes, simply reassignments — the company is looking to take advantage of the strengths of each core group.

“Our first step was to exchange technology,” Moreno explains. As a result, Carle & Montanari’s Fast Shell technology was installed on an OPM moulding line. With OPM, they have a depositor known as CORE that allows for quick changeovers. Those are capable of being installed onto a Carle & Montanari line.”

The company currently is working on a new moulding line that will incorporate the best of both and Moreno envisions the initial model to be out by year’s end. As he points out, CM-OPM now has a unified process and moulding technical office run by a single manager that’s solely focused on moulding lines. A team of four product managers is dedicated to reviewing the market, offerings, specifications and developing projects that address existing opportunities in each family of products.

For example, the company is also working on developing two different product levels for certain product lines, he adds.

“We see that different markets in different parts of the world have different needs,” Moreno continues. “As a result, we’re offering what we call our performance line, which delivers all the output required, but at a great value. Our ultra line delivers the same production capacities, but offers many other features, features that may be required by larger organizations or reflect specific standards in certain countries.”

Moreno foresees even more benefits to the confectionery community as a result of the merger. CM-OPM’s long-term strategy revolves around five families of product lines: cocoa processing, chocolate processing, flow wrapping and secondary packaging.

“We see our growth in revenues coming from improved market share, which will result from the introduction of new products and improved products,” he says. “We’ll be coming out shortly with a new conche and expect new and improved products for every family. “

Thus, at the upcoming interpack, expect “more complete product lines and interesting innovations,” Moreno asserts.

As it stands, CM-OPM’s chief executive sees continued double-digit growth for the company. Naturally, some segments of the five families may do better than others, such as packaging and chocolate processing, but the average should hover at 10% during the next coming years.

 That confidence stems from a commitment to invest in research and development, which is where “our future lies,” Moreno emphasizes. It’s also how the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts.