Pierluigi Zampieri, Innovation Manager at Ducati Motor Holding and alumnus of the BBS Executive Master in Technology and Innovation Management, has worked for 15 years in the design and development of production and racing vehicles in international environments.
“I’m more interested in the next 5 years than in the past 5,” he says about himself. “To date, I have acquired a fair amount of expertise and experience, which I use to look to the future with the conviction of being able to face the challenges that await us in the right way.” The future, in fact, is his job.
Tell us a little about yourself: where do you come from, what kind of person you are and what career path you have undertaken since you were very young.
“I like to define myself as person who is starting to have a bit of experience, with a career in which was able to see many different situations, but who is especially interested in the challenges that we will live in the immediate future.
I studied Mechanical Engineering in Udine but my passion for engines comes actually from much further. Already as a child, while playing with the toy cars, I had decided that the engines, the cars, and everything that moves and makes noise would become my job. When I grew up I had some hesitation, but it did not last long. Immediately after graduation I sent my CV to the most important and interesting companies of the country in this sector. The first to answer was Ducati, where I started my career in 2002, taking care of various experimental activities related to the development of production bikes, and then I spent almost 6 years in the Racing Department. In 2009 I moved to another company, part of the BMW Group, where I covered for 4 years positions of responsibility in the development of off-road motorcycles, before returning to Ducati in 2013 because it opened the position of Innovation Manager, which I still cover today.”
How did you get in touch with BBS and how did you get to choose to participate in EMTIM?
“My return to the company coincided with the start of another professional, but above all personal, adventure, namely the participation in the BBS Executive Master in Technology and Innovation Management. Our company has always had an excellent relationship with BBS and the University of Bologna, so much so that several of my colleagues participated to the Masters held at Villa Guastavillani. The EMTIM was designed precisely for those involved in managing innovation in the company and having just assumed the role of Innovation Manager, I immediately took advantage of the opportunity.
Returning to the classroom was beautiful, exciting. One of those things that you remember for a long time. But it was also a very intense and demanding year. Having two children, I began to study when they went to sleep and I remember a few sleepless nights doing the exercises and preparing for the tests.”
What do you remember the most about your period at BBS? Did attending EMTIM make the difference in your everyday work?
“It made the difference, absolutely. With the course of Prof. Silvi I learned, for example, to understand a budget. And for a mechanical engineer this is a big step forward.
More than the individual course, however, it was the path as a whole to be important. I fully understood how the different departments of a company work, what is the usefulness of each one of them, their functions and the responsibility of each of these entities. And this obviously gives you a much more complete vision and approach to your work. Taking a step further with my studies I would like to continue with an MBA, to deal even more in detail with the themes already approached during EMTIM.”
An Innovation Manager is expected to be constantly struggling with technology and innovative projects to be implemented in the company. But, in everyday life, what does your job consist of?
“The job title is undoubtedly extremely fascinating, even if the everyday activity is composed of numerous projects and parallel tasks, some more and others less related to innovation. In practice, I follow open innovation programs, relations with the University, research projects and various interesting collaborations with third-party organizations, with the aim of finding and carrying out projects born outside the company that can create value for Ducati. At the same time, I deal with issues that are a little more bureaucratic, such as the management of intellectual property and patents within the company. Moreover, I often find myself managing cross-cutting activities in collaboration with other corporate bodies: the field of innovation is incredibly dynamic and affects the whole company and its various segments. As a result, my role is also extremely multifaceted.
There are several occasions in which I carry out activities and projects independently, managing internal or external resources and finally presenting prototypes that are then evaluated by colleagues. Today, for example, I am going to try with my team a modified HMI (Human Machine Interface) of a motorcycle that we have studied and prototyped. In addition, I am also the corporate tutor of a group of students from the University of Bologna who is designing an electric bike for a very fascinating competition, the Motostudent.
Other activities are then devoted to improving the product development process. For example, I am spending part of my time in an experimental projects to make measurable a whole series of quantities that were not measurable before.
The company is also part of the VW Group and we are now used to making a five-year plan in which we have to define the company’s income statement for the next 5 years with a fairly high level of detail, to which we add a vision to 10 years on the product strategy. During the drafting of this plan, I am in charge of processing (together with some colleagues) the business cases of possible or potential activities, different from the core ones of the company. An analysis is normally carried out to understand which are the best proposals to carry out by studying the business cases of the single project. In this, the experience gained during EMTIM for the creation of the business cases was fundamental.”
Nowadays we hear so often talk about innovation that the term seems to have lost its meaning. What are the greatest difficulties encountered when working in this sector?
“Innovation is now a ubiquitous and extremely inflated theme. Every day I receive at least a couple of offers from companies and consultants who propose to bring innovation into business processes, but just few projects really succeed in generating added value for the company and its customers. Today, talking about innovation is a must and there are many people who propose themselves as experts in the sector: the greatest difficulty lies in skimming from all that is chatting the ‘golden nuggets’ that can lead to a concrete innovation. In order to do this you need a great preparation, a lot of experience, but also an in-depth knowledge of the company in which you operate. What may work for others does not necessarily work for us, and vice versa.
Basically, you have to be able to find projects that can add value to your company but that are also feasible, because it is extremely difficult to get to the end. At Ducati we produce motorcycles that must first be safe, reliable and validated all over the world. So, to identify the really interesting innovations, first of all we need to know in depth the industrial reality in which we work. All companies have a series of constraints and limits, and this means that only a small number of ideas have the qualities necessary to become a finished product. Identifying them in the mass of proposals is not at all simple.
To bring a practical example, Ducati is developing a new model in which various functionalities will be implemented thanks to the use of radar sensors, both front and rear. An important innovation in terms of safety, because it will keep the other vehicles under control by talking to the cruise control and alerting the driver whenever there is a risk of impact. This project, which stems from my research of 2015 and then developed with the Milan Polytechnic in 2016, will see the light as a finished product in 2020. As you can guess, the path that brings an idea, however brilliant, to its realization, is long and often tortuous.”
What would you recommend to the new generation of EMTIM students?
“The advice I would give to a future student is to live the whole period very intensely. The EMTIM is an exceptional experience, to be taken with the right enthusiasm and the great desire to learn that strikes you when you get back to the classroom. It is not just an investment in the skills necessary to perform better your job, but a path of personal and cultural growth, a baggage of tools to carry around for life.”