If we pick up various sections of thermoplastic flexible hoses available on the market and inspect them, at first glance they all look the same, and yet it’s precisely what you don’t see that makes the hoses manufactured by ZEC so special.
Starting with the company’s history, with the selection of the raw materials used, the transformation and manufacturing processes used in the modern production units and so on up to quality control and the research lab; this is where every day experiments are carried out, tests and trials are undertaken using dedicated equipment, and new ideas and custom applications are studied at the request of customers. Standard and consolidated products are improved even further and small and large batches of hoses are shipped all over the world from a computerised logistic hub. All this takes place as part of a frenetic but well-organised daily activity.
The company is typical of those that were born and have grown up in a region with a strong and passionate technical vocation – Emilia Romagna – a collection of hard-working industrial districts where transformation and technology walk hand in hand together. This is a land of diligent and practical people able to look towards the future, with a willingness and openness towards the world and all its changes. It was here in the Province of Parma (Italy) that in 1961 Eugenio Zantelli, now chairman of ZEC, opened his first factory for extruding plastics. Since those beginnings, ZEC has undergone changes and sweeping technological transformations, expanding its range of products to meet the demands of a market that has become global. This is a company that has emerged unscathed from international crises and one which is fuelled by a capacity for diversifying the products on offer and for finding new fields of application.
A warm and pulsating heart
It was in the early 1970s that ZEC, one of the leading manufacturers in Europe, began researching and experimenting with new and more sophisticated thermoplastic flexible hoses. This was not for reasons of competition but rather a natural and instinctive way of catering for the numerous requests from an increasingly demanding customer base. Such continuous development has taken the company to some of the highest qualitative and quantitative supply levels on the international scene. Production is organised and managed in new production units where the machines, skilfully overhauled by technicians, are methodically housed in a safe and modern environment. “We work with increasingly higher quality standards, in terms of how the company is run as well as with regard to the health and safety of the workforce” says Dino Zantelli, General Manager, «The production processes are structured to increase efficiency and effectiveness, in order to keep down company costs which benefits the final cost of the product. The company operates under UNI EN ISO 9001-2008 guidelines and quality system. At ZEC we have invested considerable resources into certification processes because we are aware that, even if declared, the quality of our products must be confirmed and documented by third party accreditation bodies. We do not know and are not aware of the situations of our strongest competitors, but our company definitely has a heart that is warm, sportsmanlike and beats hard. We know we have to give our very best to guarantee customers quality products at an acceptable cost.»
Every hose has its own application
In the new logistic hub it’s an endless stream of forklifts, warehousemen picking up reels of thermoplastic hoses neatly stacked on the shelves and trucks being loaded and unloaded. In one of the long corridors all the samples of thermoplastic hoses sit proudly on display. A card states their product reference code. Each code encompasses a number of characteristics. «Today we make over 200 different types of standard and special thermoplastic hoses which account for over 1,500 items. They are used all over the world and in all types of industry to carry fluids and gas. By virtue of our certified production processes we can guarantee technical advantages that can surely be appreciated by even the most discriminating and demanding customers: reduced weight, size and bend radius, thanks to the use of raw materials of improved toughness and low specific weight, excellent resistance to fatigue stress, alternating flexing and vibrations, highly specular internal surfaces, for a higher flow rate with the same diameter, very strong anti-ageing qualities even under the most extreme conditions.
All conditions are confirmed through tests by European and International Certification Bodies.
There are so many industries that use our hoses that often we ourselves have no idea where they are used. The main applications are without doubt hydraulics and pneumatics, but both of these in turn cover a whole range of applications, from agricultural or earthmoving machinery to solar energy generating systems and wind turbines. Then there are the automotive, industrial automation, petrochemical, food processing and marine industries, or sectors such as refrigeration or those that use water for their processes. One series which at the present time is proving very successful is the Oil&Gas thermoplastic hoses, created in our laboratories to satisfy the demand for particular applications to do with offshore drilling and the extraction of hydrocarbons. Our technicians have managed to combine light weight, compactness, chemical compatibility, strong resistance to hydrolysis and durability. All of these aspects are important considering the extreme conditions under which the hoses must perform: wet and saline environments with strong temperature variations. Consider the hydraulic circuits on platforms, or those used for the remote control of submarine craft, or those for carrying oxygen, nitrogen and Nitrox. Sometimes even we are amazed at what we can achieve and how our products are used.»
Sizes, materials and features
The ZEC production of thermoplastic hoses includes, in general, external diameters ranging from 2 to 40 mm, working pressures from 5 to 1,280 bar, and depending on the model, working temperatures of between -200 °C and +260 °C. For low pressure applications, the hoses are extruded in RILSAN, a high-quality polymer especially suitable for industrial pneumatic systems that ensures excellent resistance, great flexibility and very low bend radius. The range includes single, multiple or spiral hoses in PA12, 95 and 98 Polyurethane, HTR polyester (with no plasticising additives and therefore contamination-free), Polyamide and in PTFE (for high temperatures). For medium, high or very high pressures the production range includes hoses reinforced with polyester textile or Aramid fiber braid, steel, high tensile steel braid, with single or double braid in AISI 304 stainless steel. The production range also includes multiple ducts, especially used in modern industrial systems to facilitate the transfer of different impulses along the same pipeline. There is a wide range of colours, series of fittings, accessories and protective sheaths, to complete the system of conductive and non-conductive thermoplastic hoses.
Walls, machines and men. The numbers of a positive and dynamic company
«ZEC’s success in the world is the result of constant evolution, of various processes, of important choices and the sum total of so many jobs well accomplished by all those concerned, each with their own specific expertise, excluding no-one. For us quality means simply doing the right things in the right way” emphasises Dino Zantelli, “Then obviously the modernity and autonomy of the production technologies comes into play along with the ability to respond to the market needs, the commercial organisation, the abilities of the individuals, the technicians, the internal quality control system and so on up to the automated management of the logistics, which is essential for ensuring quick deliveries anywhere, regardless of the size of the order.»
Two modern production units, a new logistic hub with a management centre and a total covered surface area of 15,000 m2, 100 employees, a series of extrusion lines, the manufacture of reinforcing braids (simple, double or multiple) in various materials and the exterior covering in antiabrasion polyurethane. 35% of turnover is generated in Italy while 65% of business is from exports to 86 countries around the world. These are the numbers of a thoroughbred Italian company that has nothing to fear from the competition of its international “sisters”.