HP is one of the multinationals with the strongest presence in Catalonia. Located in Sant Cugat del Vallès, a few kilometres from Barcelona, it is the worldwide headquarters for 3D and Large Format printing businesses and a global point of reference in these fields. It came to Catalonia in 1985, initially employing 15 people, and currently it has a team of 1,800 highly qualified professionals, made up of more than 60 nationalities. It is the largest company campus outside the United States. Ramon Pastor is the HP's vice president and general manager of its 3D Printing Business and manages the Sant Cugat campus.
HP came to Catalonia 31 years ago ...
Yes, we started in Terrassa in 1985, near Barcelona and Sant Cugat, as a production plant of pen plotters to cover the European market. In 1990 we moved the plant to Sant Cugat del Vallès while gradually we added R&D engineers to the team so they could work on improving those pen plotters. 1993 we became the worldwide responsible headquarters for the large format printers business. This coincided with the technological change led by ink-jet printing that enabled the growth of the business to more than 1,000 million euros per year. The large format printing business was what launched this campus and what launched many other successful technologies such as HP Latex or HP MultiJet Fusion (3D printing). The site currently hosts 12 different businesses, including the R&D, Marketing and Operations of both HP 3D and Large Format Printing, plus the European Headquarters of the Graphics Business, Finance and Marketing Operations, Customer Support, etc. in a young, dynamic and diverse working environment.
Innovation, talent attraction and the ability to adapt are the key factors of making this HP campus one of the most important ones in the world.
At HP, and especially on this campus, we are known for always being ahead of the market needs and trends to integrate them in our innovation processes. This has allowed us to always lead a market that is constantly transforming, going from analogue to digital, adding features such as cloud connection, multifunction, colour and accuracy, speed, ecological inks, and more recently, transforming the manufacturing industry with our new 3D printing technology. But any of this would have been possible if we would have not been able to attract the best talent and to adapt to the world economic constant changes. When I say talent, I’m not only referring to engineering talent, but also talent in science, economics and marketing, and management: and all this is thanks to a very powerful educational ecosystem of scientific and technological universities, as well as management training centres. This combination is very important. Barcelona is also a very special city that attracts talent from all the world. So, to say you're settled in Barcelona means you have quality of life, great surroundings and climate, and also a creative ecosystem. The development of this ecosystem is what makes Catalonia a very important competitor in front of other regions of the world.
How would you define Catalan suppliers?
We work a lot with technology suppliers, universities and technology centres, engineering and design firms; they all join us in the task of innovation and development. In the end, the resulting ecosystem is a very competitive one compared to other regions in the world. We are increasingly more and more demanding, because market competition combined with our own commitment to excellence drives up the level of the ecosystem and, in turn, this self-same ecosystem helps us to inject talent into our companies. Furthermore, in terms of traction, it’s worth mentioning that a third of our investment in R&D goes to local companies, local universities and technology centres.
HP’s Catalan campus is the multinational’s worldwide hub for its 3D printing business. How mature is 3D innovation from a business perspective?
3D printing is not new. It has been in the world for 20 years. But the technology had not evolved and that is why the transformation from analogue to digital has not happened yet. Even though we are at a tipping point with 3D printing as a tool for digital manufacturing, with our new technology , we will help making a big leap into this transformation: we are multiplying speeds, reducing part costs, increasing quality. Manufacturers can now create prototypes in a single day, for example. They may now consider it economically viable to manufacture small to medium digital outputs, and that can represent a huge change on an industrial level - in getting more efficient and customised parts. But, above all, the changes are in the value chain and in supply. We start from a model where manufacturing is done in Asia and products are distributed to where there is demand, and we go to a far more modern model where design, manufacturing and distribution are much closer to the demand. Thus, we make just what is needed. With this paradigm shift, we move from mass production systems to demand and localized manufacturing, from generic products to customised products. We aim to accelerate innovation a lot with this new manufacturing model.
Is it possible that a company that had never heard of 3D printing three years ago can now see that their future depends on this technology?
For sure, and it is very important they adopt this technology, because the first companies or areas that to do so will gain an important competitive advantage. We have a very short window of opportunity, from the initial adoption phase until it becomes mainstream, and those businesses and areas that bank on this technology will have an advantage that can take them through the entire 21st century.
In HP, you work with 3D technology and industry 4.0. Your factory is now 4.0 or will be so in the future?
We are pioneers in the adoption of 3D technology. Look at our new 3D printer, over 50% of manufactured plastic parts are made with 3D technology. Beyond the economic benefits, they also offer a more efficient design process with, for instance, one part being made in one piece, whereas previously this part was made up of three or four different pieces.
How important is innovation in a multinational company like HP?
Innovation is in our DNA. As a technology company in a rapidly changing world, we either innovate or die. Not only in terms of technological innovation, but innovation in business models, supply chains, in market transformation, in getting closer to the customer and how you take their core insights to create new technologies. Innovation is a 360º exercise and here in the Sant Cugat centre, we put more emphasis on technological innovation. We have over 500 R&D engineers working in this plant generating more than 150 patents per year and we are basically the most important laboratory HP has outside the US, as well as being one of the most important worldwide.
Engineers around the world?
In HP Sant Cugat, our employees share more than 60 nationalities. As part of our innovation process, we look for professionals from a wide range of cultures, with a good gender balance, from different universities, with very different ways of thinking. Obviously, we have a body of local Catalan engineers, but we attract a lot of talent from Europe, America, Asia, etc.. This diversity is essential if we want to continue innovating and succeeding as a company. Diversity is what helps create that spark that you sometimes need to find the winning idea.
What does the future hold in store for us?
The future has a lot of things stored for us. There are a lot of macro trends we are looking at, such as digital manufacturing, but also regarding Large Format Printing there is still a lot of pages to capture from analogue printing to digital, markets such as decoration or textiles, are transforming rapidly. Anything around big data, the whole concept of everything being connected and the social cloud, offer also many opportunities. So, you need to be very connected to with what is going on and to all the opportunities around the world. Having a good radar is very important to grasp the opportunities, because only when you are the first can you acquire the technological and innovation background you need to then transform it into a business opportunities. What defines the future of this campus for the coming years is to continue with the three things that define us: ambition to want to do more and to never be satisfied with what we have, technological innovation, which comes from the ambition to make more things, and talent to make all of this happen.