MUSEOWEB dell'economia varesina

Mole Abrasivi Ermoli

The establishment of the enterprise

In 1882, Gaetano Ermoli began a business manufacturing grinding wheels in Malnate. The enterprise was situated on Via Cairoli in the same building as his habitation. He initially used the sandstone from rented quarries in Malnate and Cantello, which was used for building purposes, as well as for the construction of mill grinders. He later switched to the production of emery wheels, using a natural stone material from the mines on the Greek island of Naxos. At the beginning of the twentieth century, Ermoli's company, which had taken on the name of "Industria italiana dello smeriglio" (the Italian Emery Industry), won an important award: the gold medal at the Turin Exhibition of 1911. Abrasive wheels were of fundamental importance in two main sectors: the industries of construction and mechanical engineering, which would undergo enormous development throughout the territory over the years.

This led the company to diversify its products, as well as to heighten their value through the use of brand names and advertising campaigns. It was during this period that the use of the vitrified grinding wheel began to take hold (an inorganic compound made up of clay, kaolin and feldspar). In 1923, Gaetano handed over his enterprise, "Industria italiana dello smeriglio di Ermoli Gaetano", to his sons Luigi, Benigno and Giuseppe, whereby it became a de facto company and was registered at the Chamber of Commerce in 1925.

The business from 1926 up until World War II

During the 1920s, the company underwent a period of crisis due to strong competition. Guiuseppe went to Germany to visit a number of industry-leading companies that had begun using Bakelite, a synthetic resin, in the manufacture of grinding wheels. He brought back a number of bakelite samples, which would allow the company to begin producing the new type of resinoid grinding wheels. This gave rise to the development of the "Diamante" (diamond) grinding wheels, which were particularly useful for cutting stone and marble.

In 1928, the company name was changed to "Società italiana mole abrasivi Ermoli", or SIMAE. Within the company, Luigi had specialized in sales aspects, Benigno was dedicated to technical matters and Giuseppe handled the company's administration. During the 1930s, the development of the area allowed the company to expand and the fiftieth anniversary of its establishment was celebrated in 1932. It was during this period that the company, along with the Richard Ginori company, held a monopoly over the Italian production of grinding wheels. The enterprise changed its legal status to become a limited liability company during the Second World War.


From the post-war period to the 1970s

After the difficulties presented by the war, in the 1950s the company took on a new impetus. During these years, a total of 150 people from the surrounding area were employed at the company and it went on to open a warehouse and sales agency in Milan. The production facility occupied two establishments at numbers 4 and 14 on Via Cairoli. It was at this time that three large circular brick kilns with vaulted ceilings were built, one of which is still in use today. During the 1960s, Luigi's son, Luigi junior, joined the company and pressed for a modernization of the machinery and an improvement in the organization of the business. While continuing to be run by the family, the arrival of the third generation led to the transformation of the business into a joint stock company. It was during these years that the company also began manufacturing bench grinders, which were used in machine shops for sharpening tools and were sold in every hardware store. This area of production decreased during the 1980s due to the invention of disposable grinding discs which, once consumed, could be thrown away rather than resharpened.

On the other hand, this period witnessed an increase in the production of grinding wheels for cylindrical, tangential, internal and centreless grinding. During the 1970s, a new warehouse was built at no. 14 Via Cairoli, to which the entire production area was moved; the building at no. 4 Via Cairoli was largely used as office space by the company's administration, while a portion was also rented to third parties.

From the 1980s to the present

The production of "Diamante" discs was discontinued during the 1980s. In 1985, Luigi's son, Giorgio Ermoli, began working at the company. Following an initial experience in the manufacturing department, whereby he was able to learn the grinding wheel processing techniques, he later began flanking his father in the company management at the beginning of the 1990s. Luigi Ermoli passed away in 1997, leaving the management of the business to his son. This was a period in which the company received many awards for its longevity. In 1989, the company became a limited liability company, while maintaining the same name.

The company is currently focused on the production of grinding wheels for all grinding purposes, and therefore for all types of workshops as well. Despite numerous technological developments in the field of processing automation, these types of grinding wheels still require a large degree of manual skill. Its specialization in this field has led the company to produce lower numbers of pieces, due the stronger relationships with its customers stemming from the sales of custom grinding wheels, the technical assistance provided and the overall quality of the service.

This has made the company an important reference point on the market, despite the downsizing that is has undergone in recent years, whereby the number of employees has dropped to 13. At the same time, the company also liquidated a number of the buildings that it had occupied in the past, which now house new business enterprises. Giorgio Ermoli associates the originality of his management style with attention to customers, suppliers and human resources, as well as with the internalization of the social, ethical and environmental responsibilities that the company has now undertaken.