MUSEOWEB dell'economia varesina

Italiana Macchi


From the beam scale to the semiautomatic scale

Francesco Macchi was born in 1858 to a family of "landowning farmers" in Oggiona con Santo Stefano, a small Varesotto municipality, divided between the fractions of Oggiona and Santo Stefano, which at the time counted less than 800 inhabitants.

Following family tradition, starting in 1871 Francesco worked for fifteen years at the company "Buzzetti pesi e misure" in Gallarate, school of other scale seller-makers/entrepreneurs in the area, and thus acquired noteworthy experience in an industry for which the local area was becoming a centre of industrial excellence.

In connection to this, one notes a document in the chamber archive in Milan, according to which Francesco had a business that manufactured and sold weights and measures in Milan at Porta Ticinese n. 89.

In 1886, Francesco Macchi with a friend, two young apprentices and capital stock of "four gold marengos" established in Santo Stefano the company "Francesco Macchi pesi e misure", a workshop that produced beam scales for small and large ranges, located in a large space in the centre of town. Thanks to one of Francesco's brothers, who emigrated to Argentina, before long the business began exporting to a few Latin American countries.

The growth of activity led in 1896 to moving the shop to larger premises on Via Garibaldi, next to the family residence. Gifted with exceptional technical and creative abilities, Francesco Macchi designed and manufactured, starting in the early twentieth century, the pendulum scale. Silvio Macchi, the first of Francesco's five children and born in1890, attended technical schools in Seregno and at a young age began working with his father, followed by his brother Ercole, born in 1892; next were born Rosa (1897), Enrico (1901) and Luigi (1905).

Around 1910, the business, by then recognised on a national scale, had around twenty employees and exported its products to Latin America, Switzerland and Egypt. In 1915 the range of Macchi products expanded to include a precision scale for measuring small quantities. In the early 1920s, a major innovation affected the market of weighing tools: the invention and circulation of the two-plate semiautomatic scale, destined to supplant the traditional beam scale. Macchi's engineering office designed, making use of the expertise of Enrico Blasi, a metrology theorist, its own semiautomatic scale model.

The collaboration between Macchi and Blasi led to the institution of SABAI (Società anonima bilance automatiche italiane), the brand through which the new scale entered into production, in 1927 in the Santo Stefano shop. It was called "l'Italiana", to distinguish it from the Dutch scale "Berkel", which was widely used in Italy, but perhaps also to be in line with the nationalist ideology of the time: the company slogan was "Preferite l'Italiana".

Francesco Macchi died two years later, in 1929. His children succeeded him, establishing an unregistered company while keeping the same business name, "Francesco Macchi pesi e misure". Enrico worked with Silvio in administration, Ercole and Luigi were the technical managers and Rosa, a housewife, did not take on operational roles in the business.


Industrial growth

SABAI dissolved, the Italiana Macchi branded semiautomatic scales, first the two-plate model and then, starting in 1934, a single-plate, which eliminated the use of sample weights, met with major market success. The company had an efficient network of retailers and dealers, invested in advertising and participated in the Milan trade fair from its very first year, 1920. In 1939, Macchi technicians designed the one-turn platform scale, a tool until then imported from outside Italy and produced for the first time by an Italian company.

After the stasis of World War II, activity picked back up with the manufacture, in 1946, of the first and "classic" flywheel slicers, followed by ones using gravity, as well as by other equipment for the food industry (from the meat mincer to the bone saw). Luciano Macchi, Silvio's son and born in 1924, took his diploma in industry, entered the family business and soon became its head.

In 1950, the company, which had reached 100 employees, became a general partnership. Not far from Macchi, Omas, a historic business in the field of slicers, was founded in 1950, while various smaller business in the industry became established all over the area over time. These were years of great creative fervour which saw the Macchi engineering office especially focused on designing new products. In 1951 came the scale for goldsmiths' shops and labs, followed in 1953 – with the arrival at the company of the young Tuscan technician Aldemaro Magni – of the multiple turn rotary scale, an original design.

To top off a story of successes over more than seventy years, in 1958 the "Francesco Macchi pesi e misure" general partnership became a corporation and took the name "Italiana Macchi", which echoed the Italma brand that had been adopted by the company some time earlier. Luciano Macchi was nominated chief executive of the new company, with his uncle Ercole as chairman, and the share capital passed from 1 to 25 million liras. The facility on Via Garibaldi, expanded over the years, had a large internal painting room.

Ercole Macchi died in 1960 and his brother Silvio was named the new president of the business. In 1961, as further confirmation of the company's growth, a foundry started being used for the production of normal and spheroid cast iron, owned by Italiana Macchi and located in Oggiona on an area of 7500 square metres. For the management of this facility, Italfusioni spa was established, which was incorporated into the parent company in 1965. The manufacture of automatic dosing units and modern systems for industrial weighing began to be manufactured. The territorial context took on the characteristics of a manufacturing district specialised in scale production.


Mechanics meets electronics

In 1966, Aldo Ceriani (born in 1929 and husband of Albertina Macchi, Ercole's daughter) joined the administrative committee. Aldo flanked Luciano in the "epochal" shift from the production of mechanical scales to that of electronic scales. The fruit of the pioneering research of company designers and technicians, as well as collaboration with other major businesses, like Aspn di Marco Salvini and Omega bilance, 1970 saw the introduction of the prototype for the electronic retail scale, presented at the Milan trade fair.

The new product, which inaugurated the series of Mach scales, made it possible to simultaneously measure weight and cost in terms of unit price: a true revolution in weighing systems. In 1975, after successive improvements, an especially innovative scale was introduced, one that could function together with printers and labelling machines.

The encounter between mechanics and electronics led to the opening and development of a new product line, that of cash registers, especially useful for commercial businesses.

The two factories employed more than 120 workers, exports to European and Latin American countries increased and the territorial context had the characteristics of a manufacturing district specialised in the manufacture of scales.

In 1976, Silvio Macchi died; his brother Luigi was named president of the company, while Luciano became the new chief executive.

In 1981, Italiana Macchi spa moved its corporate domicile and offices to an administration building at Via Matteotti 1, at the corner of Via Garibaldi, along which rose, one after the other, the factory's various industrial warehouses.

The development of the internal data processing centre, in operation since 1975, made a considerable contribution to the organisational modernisation of the company.

Starting from the early 1980s, Macchi electronic scales, which gradually replaced the mechanical ones, met with increasing favour among merchants, giving rise to the creation of increasingly aesthetically and functionally sophisticated, well-crafted models. With the advent of electronics and the use of new raw materials, the activity of the foundry was progressively reduced, until its definitive closure in 1991, causing a significant reduction in staff. Its warehouse was then used for slicer production. The introduction of numeric control machines led to the modernisation of production processes and the expansion of common professional skills. Attention diminished for industrial weighing systems, with increasing concentration on the retail food industry.


The external manager and the return of the family

With the end of the 1980s, Luciano Macchi and Aldo Ceriani, by then advanced in years and in a period marked by major changes in terms of competition, characterised by a plurality of national and international players, entrusted company management to Enrico Chierichetti, who was not a member of either family but already the company's administrative manager.

This decision was based on the fact that the members of the fourth generation of descent were either too young for roles of high responsibility or had chosen professions outside the family business.

Such was the case with Stefano Macchi, born in 1962 and son of Luciano, who graduated in economics and commerce and then worked in management for various major companies in a variety of product industries.

Whereas his cousin, Roberto Ceriani, born in 1968 and son of Aldo, also graduated in economics, began to take his first steps in the family business in the mid-1990s. He worked with management in various departments, to then became primarily focused on foreign sales.

In 1998, the company obtained ISO 9001 certification for its quality system, implemented in accordance with the approach of total quality centred on customer satisfaction.

In 2002, with the transition from the lira to the euro, the production of scales, which had to be updated to reflect the new currency, registered a sharp increase, to then return to normal levels. In 2005, Enrico Chierichetti stepped down as chief executive and the leadership of the business returned to the family, passing to Stefano Macchi, who had acquired substantial managerial experience abroad, and Roberto Ceriani, internally trained; today they are, respectively, present and chief executive of the company. Their united action led to the renewed development of the business. In 2008, a company metrology lab was founded, to be used for periodically checking the functionality of weighing tools, that also organises training courses for customers.

In recent years, the engineering office, always one of the company's added values, has developed original software and multimedia devices for better management and communication in the shop. Within a strategy aimed toward taking better advantage of the opportunities offered by the development of organised large-scale retail trade, in 2011 Italiana Macchi incorporated Zenith, another historic Italian brand in the scales industry. In a period of crisis that makes it difficult to think in the long term and that sees the reduction of consumption extended to the food industry, the acquisition of similar companies might be a good way for Italiana to preserve its competitive position on the market. With its current 54 employees, high internal know-how rooted in a historic mechanical tradition and widespread commercial and technical assistance organisation in Italy and abroad, Italiana Macchi spa today manufactures tools for weighing, payments, and labelling, as well as equipment for the food industry, the quality and reliability of which are recognised and appreciated all over the world. In 2011, the company was enrolled in the Register of historic enterprises, which was created by Unioncamere as a way to honour the various centuries-old companies present throughout the Italian territory.