Because Italy is more than a geographic expression..

Alessi S.P.A. US

Saturday, August 7, 2010

What The World Can Learn From Italy

Superb article in Signon San Diego. I posted large parts here:

"In Turin we toured Comau, an automobile supplier that manufactures machining centers that create robots which can be used to manufacture machines. We toured Agusta-Westland which manufactures many of the helicopters in the civil and defense sectors in the U.S. We also toured a firm that is responsible for nearly every bent tube used in industry: for lawn chairs, stairway railings, plumbing and street lamps.

The company’s CEO joked that we would never see bent tubes the same again; and I marveled as much that it was the CEO who told us as at the fact that he was right.

Our tour continued with Fiat Mirafiori Motor Village, Ferrari and Ducati, which remain dedicated to the art and science of motion. Fiat, the new owner of Chrysler, has adopted the methods of open innovation founded on the principles of the open source software movement and which exemplifies how innovative ideas can be gleaned from a network-connected world.

In Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance, we toured Passaponti Metal Cleaning Technology Srl, a firm that makes machines that cleans machines.

One could not imagine a more toxic environment. Yet, nearby are Italian homes and villas; the facility is designed so people can safely walk to work. How much better would our own commutes be – not to mention our economy – if workers could live near clean manufacturing centers?

Near Lake Como, we toured Ratti S. p. A., whose products begin with the cultivation of silkworms and the harvesting of their cocoons and continue with weaving of threads, dyeing and printing on the final fabric. This family-owned firm created a laser printer that can print continuous patterns on silk without pattern breaks.
We were guided by the owner himself; as we followed him through the tour I imagined myself being led by Marco Polo’s pride.

Now let me return to that firm that makes the marble counter tops and what it has in common with precision machining of jet fighters – it is one company: Breton. The family that owns Breton sensed that the economic crisis would imply fewer marble panel sales in homes.

So the owner took the firm in a new direction. The company now machines parts for the F-35 jet fighter for the U.S. military. Such an agile metamorphosis is more likely to happen with small firm that retain their independence.

While some lump Italy in with the economic PIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain) of Europe, don’t be so quick to count this country out. Unlike the U.S., the Italians still make things. Ninety percent of the firms in Italy are family owned (and agile); they value engineers above lawyers and bankers. They see the economic value of green engineering not just for the environment as a whole, but for the local community. And they infuse their manufacturing with family pride. They don’t make lawyers to guide financial advisers who make money by making money; rather, they make machines that make robots that make machines that spin our silk clothes as we prepare dinner on our marble kitchen counters."

Hope I can do a similar tour - for this blog and personal reasons - one day.

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