MUSEOWEB dell'economia varesina

Aletti Giovanni & figli

The entrepreneurial training and the establishment of the business

Born in 1890, Giovanni Aletti began working as a mechanic at Macchi di Varese in the years just following the First World War. He later worked as a maintenance mechanic at Cornelia Conciaria, a company which, like others in its sector, was located along the river Olona, then one of Italy's main tannery districts.

His son, Franco, was born in 1920 and was trained as a design engineer, attending evening classes at technical schools in Varese while working at the engineering company Leopold Pontiggia.

At the end of World War II, Giovanni decided to involve his son in a tannery machine construction business. At that time, the industry had excellent prospects for growth: the German tannery industry could not handle the competition on behalf of its Italian counterparts, who were able to take advantage of lower labour costs. At his home, during the first few months of 1946, and with the help of his other sons Ezio and Pietro, Giovanni designed the first honing machine, which was later produced in ??six units.

The initial capital was provided by Armando Pizzocaro of Milan, an importer of German tannery machinery, who was highly confident in the new model's possibilities.

The assembly was carried out in Giovanni's garage and the pieces were manufactured by the various engineering companies and foundries that were once so diffused throughout the area. These machines, which were similar in design to the German ones but larger and more modern, would go on to be sold in the Veneto region by Giovanni's son, Franco.

During this time, Franco left his job at Pontiggia, finding it difficult to work for another company while trying to get his own business on its feet: in 1947, he established the company "Giovanni Aletti e figli".

The business during the Fifties and Sixties

Thanks to Franco's previous activities, the company already had a design archive by the 1950s.

He also involved new technicians from Leopold Pontiggia within the company, people with whom he had undergone technical training and knew personally.

Other family members took charge of the company's internal functional organization during his period: While his brothers, Ezio and Pietro (known as Carlo), took care of production, Franco followed a more entrepreneurial path, gradually moving from design to sales and accounting.

In 1959, the company moved from Giovanni's house on via Vanetti to a small warehouse on via Tiepolo. All of the machines' parts were made internally, with the exception of the castings, which were manufactured by local foundries.

The company's production expanded to include shaving machines and other leather finishing machinery. The sales market was mainly comprised of the tannery districts in Veneto, Tuscany and the Varese area, as well as those in Turbigo and Castano Primo (MI) and Avellino.

At the end of the 1950s, after having participated in the "Semaine du cuire" in Paris, Europe's most important leather trade fair up until its last edition in 1997, the company began establishing commercial relationships in France and French North Africa. By the sixties, they were even exporting machinery to Eastern European countries.

Its presence on the international market eventually forced the company to defend the originality of its projects by filing patents.

The seventies and eighties

The tannery industry of Val d'Olona underwent a crisis at the beginning of the 1970s. At the same time, the diffusion of the engineering industry for tanneries in the other districts led the company to focus upon exports as a new path for expansion.

The seventies and eighties marked a period of maximum development for the company, which was able to maintain its sales in Europe, thanks to the quality of its production, and began exporting to Turkey, a market that ended up replacing that of North Africa.

The reference market, however, was that of India: the country in which the company had sold the largest number of its machines. During this period, the company grew to include over 50 employees. It was at this time that the third generation of the Aletti family began working for the company, although Giovanni's grandchildren had already been previously employed in the workshop during summer vacations in order to gain experience.

From the 1990s to the present

In 1989, with the arrival of the family's third generation, Aletti e figli became a limited liability company. Ezio's son, Carlo, dedicated himself to production, while Franco's sons, Marco and Ezio, followed different pathways. After finishing high school, Ezio joined his father in the sales department; Mark, on the other hand, went on to get a degree in engineering and constantly collaborated with the company's technical department during the course of his studies. Over the years, he eventually moved on to deal with the company's financial aspects.

The company's international contacts grew to include Russia and the United States, as well as countries in Asia and South America. During the nineties, the part of the family consisting of Pietro Aletti and his sons was liquidated through the sale of a portion of the company's property. The decision had a negative effect on the company's productivity, as it was unable to exploit the opportunities for growth offered by the new foreign markets. Franco Aletti passed away in 1998 and was succeeded by his son, Marco, as company president.

The growth of the market and the wider availability of mechanical components eventually led the company to rely on third parties for the majority of its production requirements, leaving only the design and final assembly aspects to be performed internally.This led to a downsizing of the production department, as well as a reduction in the number of employees to the 20 who currently work for the company today.

Production began to focus more on the "customization" of the machines, based on the customer's specific needs. The product range expanded to include the 14 models currently offered (the honing machine, the shaving machine, the "setting-out" machine for cattle hides and all of the machinery necessary for processing sheep and goat skins). 90% of the company's production goes to the foreign market. By investing in research (8% of the total sales), the company has also been able to assert itself within the textiles and rubber industries, offering dedicated grinders.

Today, the differentiation of its products allows the company to achieve sales figures similar to those of the nineties, which were the largest in the company's history, despite fierce competition from China.

Like in the past, the company's intense design activities are accompanied by patent protection; but today's global market, combined with the presence of large manufacturing areas like that of China, makes it nearly impossible to fully protect the rights of the inventor.