Interview with Monica Pedrali

Interview with Monica Pedrali
July 27, 2018 Verity Osborne

Tell us a little about the Pedrali heritage, and how the company has evolved since 1963?

Establishing in 1963 at Pallazzolo sull’Oglio where metal chairs for outdoors were produced. Mario my father soon started to produce furniture for hospitality and interior architects. Our headquarters were set up in Bergamo, and then a second branch was set up at Udine specialising in producing wooden furniture.

The collection was extended to also include lighting ten years ago. Nowadays chairs, tables, lighting, complements in different materials. Metal, plastic, wood and upholstered.

Unlike many other manufacturers, Pedrali manufactures all of your components in house. How do you find this is beneficial compared with using external component manufacturers?

What makes a difference is the mix of different materials and production processes. Our products are 100% made in Italy. In Italy we have the know how for techniques for plastic, steel, wood manufacturing. It is the best place to produce furniture.

Pedrali are producing everything in house, to have full control of supply chain from raw material to finished products. We start from a tree of oak or ash wood we produce complete wooden chairs coated with organic finishing. Having everything in house enables us to produce furniture to a higher quality level.

To be more flexible to, offering a broader range of finishing we have developed techniques for customisation, so the customer and the interior designer can select a great combination of colour, and finishing and we can produce for them custom made products. This is actually very important for us as we produce everything in house that makes it possible.

Actually we are an industry because we produce thousands of chairs, tables and compliments every day. But every line of every order can be a small quantity of a special colour. Clients can order both standard and custom products in the one order. We can do a small qty in a special colour for example. It is not easy to achieve it is really complicated as you need a fantastic organisation in order to offer such a wide range of custom made options in a lead time which is less than two weeks. It is very important to plan the correct way for production and the logistics.

Pedrali appears to be constantly investing in new technologies, how do these ultimately benefit your customers?

The customisation is possible because we use the most avant-garde technologies.

We are very lucky because the manufacturers of the machines bending the steel tube and cutting the steel tube are Italian, the manufacturers of the machines for producing the wooden chairs are Italian, the manufacturers for producing the injection plastic chairs are not far from us. It allows us to use the most avant-garde machines and be aware about the new technologies and to be the first to use these new technologies.

Every time we invest in a new machine we can obtain a better performance in production.  For example reducing the electrical consumption, improving the quality standards of our products, reducing the waste, so the new technologies allow us to obtain better products in a shorter time. So we give a better experience to our customers, and new technologies have allowed us to redirect some our staff from hard jobs to more qualified jobs for our employees.

Some of our staff have been taken from jobs like welding for example which now may be done by an automated machine, to other jobs like quality control, production, and customer service. We continue to grow so we have 280 employees and are constantly growing our staff. So even with new technology you can maintain or increase the number of people.

You recently invested in a new automated warehouse, how has that impacted your business?

Regarding the innovation, for us it isn’t only about the new machines it is also about organising the office. The new automatic warehouse, one year and 10 months ago it is a good example of how the technology can support to offer the best quality and best service and best organisation.

The automation is working 24 hours a day with no people inside, this allows us to support our production departments. Some of them work 24 hours a day on shifts, with the automatic warehouse we can store the products they are producing as they are completed. The warehouse is also connected to our main software to organising the loading of the trucks.

The automatic warehouse contains 17,000 pallets. When we collated how many pallets we should put in this new warehouse, we wanted enough quantity to store finished products. Also we are stocking not only finished product but also the components, so we can organise the production more efficiently and our customers can benefit from more flexibility and a quicker lead time, good service and customer experience at a level they expect.

I mean customers nowadays ordering online can see when the products that have materialised immediately. When the production process is longer the time is crucial. We have to manage between the expectation of the customer and the time for production which we have to respect which is crucial for quality. With the automatic warehouse we can reduce this gap.

The other side of the automatic warehouse is that it’s a very nice building, designed by Italian architect Cino Zucchi. It was described last year as one of the four more interesting industrial architecture. It gained a lot of attention, it obtained award for the environmental approach of the building. The building is in the middle of the countryside and very large, so the visibility so to make it nicer they disguised the building with coloured blades to camouflage with the surrounding grass.

Beauty, tradition & innovation applies not just to the products but extends right through to the factory, important to the culture of Italian culture of design. My father Mario Pedrali last year obtained the award for the Olivettian Entrepreneur 2017. Every year they select one entrepreneur who is continuing to express and design, and the beauty of the factory was one of the reasons he was awarded this honour.

You have close ties with a number of industrial designers, can you tell us about your perspective on the development of new products?

We are close to Milano, and their polytechnical university so we are very near a high concentration of high quality designers. So we stay in contact with these connections and also some foreign designers, and my brother Giuseppe Pedrali is responsible for new collection development every week he meets with designers to see if they can work together. We are not only open to designers with a lot of experience but also to young designers.

We have different ways to develop new products, on one side we are speaking to designers who we already know, we have some ideas in common, and we ask them to develop products with new functionality, like the wireless lighting Giravolta we developed two years ago, or a folding chair or table adjustment in height to suit our collection.

Or the new products may utilise new technology or a new material that we have never used before. Like the Frieda chair we presented 10 years ago and it was using a new innovative material in the market.

Or the other case Archi table which is one of our best selling tables, the top is made with new HPL material with enamel technologies with Abet Laminati, and this new material offers a very high quality of finish.

The collaboration with the designers exists to develop something new which didn’t exist in the market before that are giving the benefits to the customer.

How do you feel Pedrali are different from other Italian furniture manufacturers?

For us the industrial design cannot be disconnected from industry. We are an industry and every choice we make is for our customers and also to enable us to work in a better way. The future of Italy is still as one of the bigger manufacturing countries in furniture. We are very proud of this and our father is convinced that the economy benefits from production. We want to be using the best know how and skills we have in Italy, we still have a lot to offer the local economy.

Tells us a little about how you partner with local industry leaders to bring innovation to your design & craft a great manufacturing model

In our area we have the industry that produces machines for production of furniture. We can work together & be the first in using new technologies.

All our plastic and material products are obtained locally. We have local companies producing high quality wood, with controlled forests which are fsc certified. Without cooperation from them it is impossible to obtain such a high level of quality in our production.

Our company is located in one of the most important industrial regions in Europe. The north part of Italy is such a large industrial area, manufacturing is very important. We are surrounded by all the know how in the local area which provides a lot of benefits and support.

Italy is not only the country for the design of furniture but is also a very important manufacturing country. A lot of the companies in Italy are second generation manufacturers and it is very important to continue to evolve in design and technology and innovation.

Comparing with many products produced out of China the cost is comparative with lesser quality and products from China. The value & longevity. We produce furniture for the long term, we don’t produce furniture to be changed every two years, we produce it to last from one generation to another. Pedrali products that have been in the market for many years 20-25 years ago are still available and they have been designed to be timeless style as well as quality.

We are always focussed on quality it is always top of mind throughout the business.

Quantity is also important as it allows us to invest in new machines and new technologies. Small or medium sized companies can’t invest in the longer term view so this is different to obtain numbers you can really plan the future investment.

 

Beauty, tradition, innovation

To think to the tradition of the furniture production typical of Italy.

Innovation is what we do everyday, it is part of our everyday life, which is typical of Italy. Italy’s famous for design, not only for looks but for design for everyday life, democratic design. The beauty of the products for large numbers of customers.