Nearly at the same time as the company’s 25th anniversary, iMAGE S has inaugurated its new headquarters in Mariano Comense, designed and organised down to the last detail to promote the wellbeing of its staff and make daily activities more environmentally sustainable. We could visit the new headquarters and talk to the management about governance, vision culture, research trends and about the opportunity to make the know-how gained over several years of activity available to the younger generations.
by Fabrizio Dalle Nogare
“Right during an important year for us, the twenty-fifth since the foundation of iMAGE S, we have managed to fulfil a project that we cared about a lot, the transfer to the new headquarters. Milena Longoni, Marketing Director of the company that since 1994 has been an actual benchmark in the distribution of machine vision components and systems in Italy, welcomes us with visible satisfaction to Mariano Comense in a building that – it is clear to us right from the start – has been designed and thought out in detail. “We cared about our colleagues and their well-being, first and foremost”, she says. “The work environments were designed so that everyone has an adequate work space. We also believe that the greenery around us can help achieve greater wellbeing”.
The idea of space seems to be dominant with regard to the new location: from the broad entrance hall that welcomes visitors to the meeting rooms; from the laboratories equipped to carry out tests with customers on several products up to the storage area. Here, investments in automated warehouses ensure greater efficiency in finding products and optimal support for customers. As Milena Longoni puts it, “this marks an important step forward in the evolution of iMAGE S. Now, we can organize courses, training days on machine vision and, more generally, events addressed not only to our current or potential customers, but also to all those interested in machine vision technologies”.
Increasing attention on training
During our visit, we have mentioned several times the word training. “It is part of the evolution of a company like ours”, says Paolo Longoni, founder of iMAGE S together with Milena Longoni and Marco Diani. “Supporting the sale of products with the commitment to providing services, focusing on the skills that we have gained in these 25 years. In order to help generate a ‘culture of vision’ that is so much needed, here in Italy, this year we will hold 120 hours of lessons at the Politecnico di Milano and will participate, with Fondazione Cariplo, in the Project named SI – Scuola Impresa Famiglia (which was created with the intent to promote a community made of these three subjects for the development of school structures and skills of students in Lombardy, ed) by donating, among other things, some kits for vision. We want to give more and more space to projects like these”.
The core of the company’s activity, however, remain the products and the people, with 45 brands currently distributed and a workforce that is expected to exceed 40 people by the end of the year. “Our idea has always been to focus exclusively on the distribution of components for machine vision, also providing excellent technical support and committing ourselves to finding the most advanced technological solutions on the market”, continues Paolo Longoni. “It is no coincidence that we have always had more technical specialists than salespeople within the company”.
Not only machine learning…
Focus on research, therefore, and on the ability to plumb the market in order to find products that may solve concrete issues, in industry and beyond. We ask Marco Diani, who has been working on machine vision since his university studies, what are the current R&D trends within iMAGE S. “We talk a lot about machine learning applied to machine vision, and there are many reasons to do so”, answers Mr Diani, “even though this concept has been in vogue for several decades. We see that the evolution of machine learning will make it possible to solve quite a lot of problems even in machine vision, even if, so far, there still few applications have been actually developed. In short, we are making great strides forward and we too, in our portfolio, have a young Italian company, SqueezeBrains, as well as the the MVTec HALCON software, for example. We see the development of artificial intelligence as an extension of the potential of machine vision rather than a possible replacement for more traditional technologies”.
Speaking of machine vision, what are the trends and requirements coming from manufacturers of special assembly and testing machines? “Sensors, in the broadest meaning of systems that collect information from the field and transmit it to a controller, provide technologically advanced solutions, perhaps even anticipating market requirements. If we want to identify a trend – adds Marco Diani – we see a growing interest in hyperspectral imaging technology, that is to say systems capable to divide the image into all its spectral components instead of the three classic bands (red, green and blue). Therefore, some special cameras are used detect even, in certain cases, the chemical composition of an object”.
Governance evolution and networking initiatives
There’s more to say about iMAGE S, besides the change of headquarters. Since last December, in fact, the company has been part of the Next Imaging Group, controlled by the Italian private equity fund Ambienta, which focuses on sustainability issues. This is a further step in the governance of the company itself. A step which does not involve any change in operational management.
“In addition to the focus on sustainability, which we fully share (the new iMAGE S headquarters has photovoltaic cells, a water purification system, an air purification system and, more generally, aims to be as self-sufficient as possible in terms of energy consumption, ed), the Ambienta fund has a deep understanding of the machine vision market. Our entry into the Next Imaging Group is part of a broad project aimed to make the company more stable. This will also be made possible by building relationships with the other companies, both Italian and international, that are part of the fund”, explains Mr Diani.
Milena Longoni confirms that iMAGE S has always believed in knowledge sharing, in being part of trade associations and in networking, as highlighted by its long-standing membership in the main international organizations – EMVA (European Machine Vision Association) and AIA (Automated Imaging Association) – but also by its commitment to revive the IMVG (Italian Machine Vision Group), gathering together the main companies working in machine vision in Italy. The renewed IMVG also helped to organize the Smart Vision Forum, scheduled in Bologna on June 25.
“The event is supposed to be the starting point for the relaunch of the IMVG: the definition of the sector guidelines is only one of several initiatives that can be carried out with a goal that we believe to be crucial for the future of our companies: to spread the culture of vision as much as possible, and with the utmost competence”.