Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Ducati: learning outside the classroom

Whatever your professional or academic aspirations, it's important to complement classroom learning with experiences outside the classroom.

With that in mind, the SAIS BC International Finance Club organized a recent visit to the Ducati factory to talk to the motorcycle maker's CFO, Paolo Poma.

Bologna-based Ducati Motor Holding is one of the world’s leading producers of performance motorcycles. Racing is a core part of the company as it subscribes to the "win on Sunday, sell on Monday" business model that allocates 10% of revenue to racing.

Europe and the United States are currently Ducati's largest markets, but the company is expanding aggressively in South America and Asia. Ducati bikes aren’t free and typically cost 8,000 to 25,000 euros ($10,400-$32,500).

Our visit to Ducati started with a tour of the factory. Walking around the plant, dodging forklifts carrying  motorcycle parts, we glimpsed Ducati employees assembling all aspects of the bike. The tour guide told us about the firm's philosophy of “just-in-time” production to increase efficiency and speed of assembly. We were able to peek inside the R&D area for the Ducati Racing Team.

Following the factory tour we headed to the Ducati Museum that chronicles the history of the company and its transformation from a diversified electronics company into an iconic motorcycle brand. It was interesting to learn that Ducati got its break after World War Two making small, low-cost push-rod engines for mounting on bicycles. Every successful modern-day performance bike company needs to start somewhere!

Poma then welcomed us into the museum auditorium for a presentation about the company's financial performance, expansion plans and new shareholder Volkswagen. As part of its expansion strategy, Ducati  plans to open new factories in Thailand and Brazil. It hopes eventually to use VW’s distribution channels to drive up sales.

Opening the floor to questions, Poma shifted gears to offer us some career advice.

"As a student interested in governmental energy policies and their impact on private companies, I was fascinated to hear about how Ducati approaches compliance with international standards,” said Polina Bogolomova, a first-year SAIS student concentrating in Energy, Resources and Environment.

Fentress Boyse (BC12)