MUSEOWEB dell'economia varesina

Omas spa

Historical Profile

The establishment of the business: The 1950s

OMAS snc (Officine meccaniche affettatrici Santo Stefano), based in Oggiona con Santo Stefano, was founded in 1950 by partners Carlo Rabolli, Francesco Possagno and Luciano Maineri. Carlo Rabolli came from a family who owned a number of butcher shops and was a founding partner in the company Rabolli e Magnoni s.r.l.(now Rama S.p.A.) in Oggiona con Santo Stefano, which specializes in the field of butchering meat products. After leaving this company, Carlo began a business in the sector of land reclamation and, in 1950, another in the field of meat processing machinery. Oggiona and its surrounding communities had a tradition of manufacturing scales. Carlo saw the opportunity to exploit this characteristic by directing it towards the production of slicers and other machinery for the meat processing industry. From a commercial point of view, in fact, the possibility of combining scales with slicing machines for butchers and grocery stores was appealing.

This resulted in the development of the OMAS S9 model flywheel slicer between 1949 and 1950, the first to be manufactured in the area. As early as 1953, however, the other two partners withdrew from the company, which in 1956 became a sole proprietorship.

The company headquarters covered a large area owned by Carlo Rabolli, and, as was often the case, was situated next to his home where he lived with his wife, Ines, and children, Walter and Clelia.

Over the years, the factory, which was built in 1950, was expanded in order to keep pace with the company's development.

The 1960s

In 1962, after completing his studies in mechanical engineering, Walter joined the company, although had already been familiar with its dealings for quite some time; he mainly had experience in the technical office where, as a student, he had begun designing parts. Walter initially focused on the production department in order to gain the practical skills that he was unable to obtain through his studies, but also provided innovative contributions to product development.

His apprenticeship later expanded to include all of the business's commercial sectors: as the company had already achieved an international presence, Walter was even entrusted with the task of maintaining relations with customers in France and Germany. Nor did he focus only on Europe: by 1962, OMAS already had a distributor in Hong Kong, which is still active to this day.

Relationships with distributors were particularly important: contacts were generally made during trade fairs, where long-lasting relationships were often established and handed down from father to son. During the 1960s, the number of employees reached a total of 70, many of whom remained at the company for quite some time.

During this period, business increased to such a degree that, in 1964, Walter opened an aluminium foundry in order to be able to control the casting and quality characteristics of the machines' components. The Foundry – which was originally called "Brw" and later changed its name to "Fonderia leghe leggere srl" – grew alongside OMAS to the point that it also began producing aluminium alloys for various other sectors (including the marine, medical, furniture, lighting and machine tool sectors).

It was during the mid-sixties that the company also began seeking further development in the commercial sector, with a direct point of sale on Via Farini in Milan. The experiment later proved unsuccessful due to difficulties associated with the remote management of the business.

The store was closed after three years.


From the 1970s to the 1990s

Throughout the sixties and seventies, the industry was increasingly populated by new companies who were attracted by the relatively basic mechanical skills required. OMAS was able to maintain its leading position with respect to the other manufacturers by making continuous improvements to its models, only some of which are patented. In fact, the company opted for a path of continuous, rapid and consistent technical innovation rather than the security offered by the patent system. In recent years, for example, OMAS has proposed its first slicing machine with automatic movement.

In 1970, Walter joined his father's enterprise and OMAS became a general partnership.

In 1979, with over 90 employees, OMAS became a joint stock company: Carlo Rabolli was chairman of the board of directors and Walter was CEO. That same year, the company Dampa was purchased, an enterprise in Golasecca that had once manufactured electrical equipment and was converted to produce slicers and accessories for a less demanding market. This allowed OMAS to cover a wider segment of the market, without compromising the quality of its brand name. During the 1980s, taking advantage of the favourable exchange rate between the dollar and Italian lira, the company opened a subsidiary in the United States, OMAS Usa Inc. The United States became one of the company's most important markets for about six years, until unfavourable exchange rate conditions forced the endeavour to come to an end.

During the nineties, the new European standards called for the sector's designs to place greater focus on the safety of the machinery's operators. The entrepreneurial associations were involved in the standard's implementation phase and Walter Rabolli assumed the role as president of the Meat Grinder and Slicing Machine Manufacturer's Association within ANIMA (the Italian Federation of National Associations in the Mechanical Engineering Industry). Carlo Rabolli passed away in 1995 and Walter succeeded him as company president.


From 2000 to 2007

With the new millennium, the company began to encounter difficulties maintaining the development trends of the previous decades. The factors that contributed to the crisis included currency fluctuations, a general reduction in consumption, domestic and international political uncertainty and the emergence of new manufacturers within an industry which was fundamentally mature from a technological standpoint.

Product innovation remained an important factor in counteracting competition from abroad, which was increasingly closing in on the quality levels of the Italian products, but had the advantage of lower production costs. The latest microprocessor-controlled flywheel slicer is an example of how the company combines tradition and innovation within a single product.

Sales promotions, however, are being employed much more frequently than in the past and have allowed the company to circumvent its recent difficulties. Today, the company is characterized by a marked diversification of trade, from America to the Far East, which has allowed it to prosper in developing countries and to make up for the reductions in sales that have been occurring elsewhere. The company's strength remains its workforce, now including hundreds of employees, the growth of which has only slightly declined in recent years. Employee relations are critical to the success of OMAS, and the company focuses primarily on internal training in order to ensure that its human resources are capable of assimilating the company's style.

Since the year 2000, OMAS has expanded its presence in the food and catering industry to include a shareholding in Rheninghaus in Turin (for the production of cook tops, toasters and slicers), a company with whom it collaborates for various production purposes.

The business, however, remains focused upon its territory of origin, with which it has developed a particularly strong bond.

Walter's daughter, Claudia, joined the enterprise in 2004, despite having focused on a field of study outside the realm of the family business, unlike her father.