1984: Andrea Giavon arrived. From his voice, the story of Catas developmnet.Back
Andrea Giavon, the director of the fiftieth...
The meeting with Andrea Giavon, born in 1957, for this "informal story" of Catas takes place in Lissone, in the Catas Brianza headquarters. A precise signal that although the heart remains in the Friuli region, where Catas was born, and the head towards the entire world, the body is now made of two different but equal parts: the laboratory of San Giovanni al Natisone and that of the capital of the Brianza furniture. Maybe (who knows?) other parts will be added in the next half century ...
"I believe I am currently the oldest employee of Catas, one of the first to be hired, in 1984. We were very few compared to today: Angelo Speranza, Renato Cavassi, the chemist Piero Anichini, a secretary and a recently hired accountant. I replied to an announcement in a newspaper: they were looking for a chemist, the place of work was San Giovanni and for me - who lived in the north of Udine and worked in Venice - it was definitely an attractive opportunity ... I must say that in the beginning there it was some hesitation, because I had a contract with Ispra, the Higher Institute for Environmental Research, an important reality that at the time was concerned not only with nuclear research, but also with environmental chemistry, and they thought that for me it would be a kind of "waiver". I, on the other hand, didn't consider it a down-grading, also because I immediately understood that I would find myself in a very lively environment. I was really enthusiastic: I could immerse myself in a completely different context and use techniques that would take me back to my favorite world, considering I am an analytical chemist".
"I entered Catas fourteen years after the foundation and it was already a consolidated reality, with strong ties to the" Chair Triangle" business. The laboratory for mechanical tests was managed by Cavassi and the chemical laboratory by Anichini, who wanted me by his side because we had the same mentality, the same training, as much as he had graduated from Padua and I from Venice. Speranza was increasingly involved in the Uni "Test Methods" subcommittee and needed help: these were the years in which - finally - companies began to pay proper attention to furniture tests and we were a laboratory that enjoyed a good reputation. Office furniture manufacturers in particular turned to us, looking for a tool to claim their specificity, to differentiate themselves from those who produced "a little bit of everything" and deal with increasingly important and regulated orders with the right approach based on precise requirements and performance”.
"The chemical laboratory began to grow both in terms of equipment and number of customers: the first infrared spectrophotometer and a new gascomatograph were acquired, which allowed us to work more accurately on solvents and thinners.
At the same time I began attending the first meetings dedicated to coatings and adhesives in Unichim, a federated body at Uni that deals with standardization in the chemical sector. The goal was the search for a "state of the art" for the products used in the office furniture industry, a sector in full growth and in which Italy was quickly becoming the point of reference for all the great world groups, even for those with a long tradition. These were years in which Italian furniture as a whole was demonstrating to the world all its capabilities and potential, with ever more significant export performance.
Catas was a small reality, in a corner of Friuli, yet we were telling our story about what it meant to rethink the workplace, what the characteristics of the furnishings should be, such as the materials used ... this led us to create a series of relationships which helped to accelerate our growth, from every point of view.
It was 1989, if I remember correctly, the year of the birth of the Cen working group on furniture. The European standardization committee, strongly requested by Uni but also by France and Germany: for us it meant starting to take care of other things too, to sit down at the table where we decided which criteria to be defined and respect by furniture manufacturers in order to be “compliant”. Our contributions and our experience in testing methods were precious … being our daily bread, what we do every day.
We were reliable and this has always been and still is our most important reference: what we say derives from what we had tested and learnt over the years, it is part of our history, of our being. This has always been our goal: we did not have "parallel interests" to defend, but simply a deep and rich experience to offer wherever it was required.
The Italian furniture sector, moreover, was going through a period of splendor, both from a design and production point of view, a factor that certainly contributed to increase our role, accelerating our relations with the English colleagues of the Fira (Furniture Industry Reseach Association) or with the French of the Ctba, the Center for the Bois et de l'ameublement, and more generally with the European industry.
I like to say that in those years we both learned and taught, sharing skills with the most important European and international laboratories and institutes: it was the beginning of a relationship of deep respect, an extremely important factor that a few years later led us to sign documents for mutual recognition of tests with many top-level international Institutes”.
"In the meantime, in 1988, I became the head of the chemical laboratory, a commitment I spent a few years later with Franco Bulian to head the mechanical testing department. It was another new challenge and it was very stimulating: on the other hand I always liked being able to change and I thought that a chemist could still venture into such a "different" field.
In fact, a new world has opened up to me. And there was also an important goal to face, because all the standards on furniture had already been defined and the increasingly strong demand for testing required to better organize this activity with a high automatization level to provide fast answers to our customers, while always maintaining our accuracy and technical level.
The collaboration with the Poian workshops in San Pier d’Isonzo, which had been producing our “test machines” for some time, became even more intense. The owner was a true genius: he made drawings on free-hand graph paper and was an extremely sought-after partner for important customers - exactly like today - in the field of precision mechanics. Even with Mac Friuli and Promac, another two of our precious suppliers, the relationships became more intense ... it has always been a peculiarity of our territory to be able to boast some absolute excellence, not only in mechanics. Realities to which you posed a problem and immediately found the ideal solution, for us a resource of incalculable value, because many test equipment was designed by us and we needed someone to help us build especially the most complex machines. Now we can also produce them for several of our customers who, beyond our test reports, had and need to be able to carry out tests directly in their companies”.
"A fertile territory of ideas, skills and competences: the center was “the chair” a product that in our territory was not only deeply-known, but it represented the heart of a real economic district of great importance. An industrial and "sociological" system of which Catas was a full member. Unfortunately, this scenario began to change in the 1990s: many realities had grown exponentially without realizing that this meant to come into a different situation, the global market, with different rules, challenges, dynamics and risks.
A certain part of Friulian entrepreneurship was probably less "hungry" than in previous decades and sat on its laurels. The "Triangle of the chair" thus began to lose ground and our activity moved more and more towards furniture. It was not a simple period, until Ikea - a historical customer of Catas - decided to reduce the number of laboratories with which they had relations. We remained in the ranks of their "points of reference" and we saw our commitment grow, to the point that the Swedish giant became an strategical customer. In the meantime we had begun to carry out tests also on wood based panels, working on formaldehyde emissions, and this represented a very important business card also for the Swedish group.
"We were born as a special branch of the Chamber of Commecre of Udine becaming then a limited liability company in even more recent times: but we have always thought and acted like a company, having a clear understanding of the duty to know how to express competence and make income.
This concept was at the top of my thoughts when I became director of Catas in 2007: Mr. Speranza had reached the age of 65 and retired, while remaining as CEO, because at that time the legislation allowed it.
Becoming a director has kept me busy on different fronts, as is natural: on one hand we have "structured" ourselves to respond to the specific needs of a reality like Ikea, on the other we have put in place many interesting relationships across the border. I must say that the internationalization of Catas has always been one of my priority objectives, as well as bringing the whole structure to proceed in different, less "localistic" terms. Working with foreign countries has made us reconsider standardization as a strategic activity, as well as necessary, because it allows us to be part of a "system" of important relationships, thanks to which we can express our high level of competence and, perhaps, find even some new customers!
The attention that Catas today dedicates towards the activities of the standardisation bodies is certainly not my merit: I only did my part in pointing the way and, fortunately, we immediately found an effective answer in many people who were on the same position. Today some of the Catas departments work 90 % with foreign clients and for many of us the borders no longer exist”.
"The laboratory in Lissone was another important challenge for us. In fact, we have given new vigor to a strongly desired experience in Brianza, a testing laboratory serving the district which, for various reasons, did not have the expected success and in 1994 became part of Catas. FederlegnoArredo, owner of the laboratory, thus entered into our corporate structure, becoming the second major shareholder, behind the only Chamber of Commerce of Udine, in fact "founder" of our history.
We have restructured the spaces, invested in new equipment, hired competent people to integrate Catas Brianza into our strategies, moving some activities to Lissone, optimizing others, starting to work - in the early 2000s - in the medical device sector, a choice allowed Lissone to be given further visibility".
"I am in fact the director of the fiftieth, in the sense that this anniversary occurs during my mandate, but I must say that I have been thinking for some time about the next fifty more than the past ones.
This does not mean that it is a moment in which it is inevitable to think about the past, to sum up what we’ve done ... the first challenge that I believe Catas has won is that of young people: we have always done everything possible because at the level of thought, cultural attitude and approach there was and there is an indispensable "depth". I know many realities around the world and too often I have the feeling that some of them are going on almost by inertia: for Catas it is not and should never be like this. We must always seek and support what I would call a "cultural study", develop knowledge, languages and relationships with the utmost commitment. And the young people who enter Catas must grow with this absolute priority, in my opinion the element that has always distinguished us and allowed us to become what we are today, to celebrate fifty years of activity.
The international "big customers" recognize us for this, they look for us for this: we have no other weapons to deal against the great "global players" of testing and certification. Such organizations have thousands of employees and stellar turnovers: we must always play on the field of stronger competence and being able to express it, to communicate it in every act, in all situations”.
"I cannot fail to mention the "size factor". Being "small" brings us together with many other realities, like ours, increasingly "involved" in comparison with multinational laboratories. I think of the many hyperspecialized realities that they do not want, they cannot think of their future as a wave in the ocean of great realities. We must be pragmatic and fast, understand as soon as possible that all of us, together, must share something, work in some way together".
“We are called to many challenges: the third revision of the European standards that concern us bring to the forefront, as for many other sectors, the issue of sustainability. It will be a terrain on which to measure ourselves, learning to translate consumption into a policy of attention to resources, for a positive environmental balance. It is no longer enough to think about how much it costs to design, produce and sell a piece of furniture, but you will have to work on how much a piece of furniture costs throughout its life cycle, up to its destruction, giving as essential prerequisites that it is durable, safe and "inclusive" , in the sense that everyone can use them".
"There is another challenge that I particularly care about and that in fact we have already won, namely to inaugurate the second fifty years with the new finished product laboratory. As someone said, "life is not always kind" and for us it meant a fire that at the end of 2016 destroyed our "old" laboratory for mechanical tests on furniture. Well, this dramatic event has allowed us to reconsider our standards and understand that we could do even better: our new mobile laboratory, which we open in October 2019, will be "4.0", which for us is not just a definition on the mouth of all, but the concrete realization of a different vision, of a wired space with which to work in a completely new way and which - I am sure - will be our new standard.
It is only the first step, because we too must always be up to date, competitive, in step with the times, and the new technical-IT levels of the laboratory that we will inaugurate will have to be adopted everywhere in our structure, so as to allow us to organize our work for to respond even better to what is today's question".
"... if I had to find a final thought, putting these fifty years in a box to put them on top of a shelf would put on it a label with the words "My life". I think so many of the "old guard" think so ... our best success would be that even all the young people who arrived in Catas in these years thought the same way, that they want to close their box in the next fifty years. For me, Catas was an important life experience, strong, engaging, sometimes all-encompassing ... I would like so many others to live their path in our laboratory with intensity.
Maybe it's too personal a thought, I realize it. So let's say that on the label we write "The furniture" and over the next fifty years someone will write "The environment where people live". We have lived on furniture, above all, fundamental companions of the quality of life, but it is the biosphere, where people live what matters most and this is the direction we are taking: Catas takes care of the life environment of the people, of everyone the places where there is anthropological activity ... in recent times we have also begun to deal with playground equipment. Here we are: we are opening up towards a wider horizon and this is our duty .... ".