1971-1986: the Catas team starts


The first Catas technicians

It is a Saturday morning at Catas. There is an important anniversary to celebrate, a story to try to remember not only with official documents, but also chatting with some of those who worked in these rooms, who lived the "first seasons" and who are somehow a " piece of Catas ”. Like Renato Cavassi, born in 1952, in fact the first employee of Catas, who today enjoys his well-deserved retirement, even though it often happens to see him in Via Antica ...

"I studied at Ipsia Marangoni in the central square of San Giovanni al Natisone, where Catas was born, so we have some common roots, somehow. I remember an office, a kind of "cage" where there was a dynamometer, owned by the school, and a small laboratory in another room upstairs. This was Catas at that time.
I arrived there after a few years I worked for a chair manufacturer, when I learned from Mr. Toffoloni, former director of my school that I went to visit, that Angelo Speranza was working on a project and was looking for a technician. I looked for it and we talked to each other: he remembered me from school days, we talked and we started working together as soon as the approval for my hiring from the Chamber of Commerce soon arrived.
It was the 1stOctober 1971 when I officially became an employee of Catas.
It was an epochal change, just think that the first tests were done by the students of the school while Speranza took notes with a pen and calculated the average values.
I remember the first important work: I bought fourteen glues, those that were commonly used by the chair manufacturers of this area. We carried out a large number of tests to verify their performance ... I remember that I also did some chemical analysis, because even though I wasn't a chemist, there was no one else who could take care of it until someone with specific professional skills was hired.
We glued some wooden blocks and checked their tightness at precise intervals of time, up to two years: there was no way to simulate the passing of time. In the end we presented the results in a very crowded meeting and the reaction was very surprising: many people began to think that Catas' work had to be taken more seriously, otherwise there was the risk that their chairs would break and customers would complain and look for another supplier".

"For several years I worked on tests practically alone: ​​ Catas was me, a secretary and Speranza. Until 1972 - when the first chemist arrived, he stayed with us for three years: I must say that initially we change very often the chemists, I remember at least three of them in the first "season". Even that of the chemical laboratory was a "vision" in which, evidently, not many believed in the beginning ... while today in the chemical department of Catas about twenty people are working.
It seems like a moment but ten years have just passed: Speranza always worked hard to involve producers and artisans by organizing courses, meetings, opportunities for updating, presentations of new products and new machines ... somehow we did training, first in the premises of the school and then in the new location, but also travelling around the Friuli region, in Carnia or in Veneto; always for conferences, presenting tests, trying to make ourselves known to artisans, companies, their associations ... and we have continued like this for many years. "

"The cost for one test was very cheap, but sometimes we did also it for free, because it was a way to learn; very often we literally invented what to do to understand if a chair was made well or not, if a product was safe, every time trying to understand which standards we could refer to, because today's system certainly did not exist: we used ISOs, sometimes the German Din ... we could say that the great competence that Catas can boast today was thus born, from a sort of “continuos invention” because there was no one who could give us certain references. We were pioneers.

One of the merits of Speranza is certainly having held on in those years. I am convinced that others, in his place, would have given up, also because it was not easy to persuade the producers: they did not believe in us and it took years to get some little satisfaction".
"The turning point started with the new location, where we moved in 1981. We were used to work into two small rooms, in the midst of the noise of the students who worked on their wooden pieces. Working alone in a space of our own was really a dream.
Everything started to go better and our certificates granting the performance of a specific chair was considered an important document to show to the market. We even started to advertise ourselves on local newspapers. We bought the machines for mechanical tests, repainted in green and orange, and the first equipment for the chemical laboratory which, day after day, was constantly improved.
We were on the right track: we had a nice lab, the territory began to understand what we had to offer, the first customers from the Veneto and large groups, like Fantoni or Snaidero, arrived. This made us understand that there were not only chairs to test and the number of tests began to increase in terms of variety and quantity: we were growing and new collaborators arrived; I remember that in 1988 there were eight of us, three administratives, two chemists and three technicians".
Time passes and two other voices add something to Renato Cavassi's story, that of Claudio Caon, born in 1962 and currently head of the Surfaces section of Catas, and Franco Bulian, 1960, vice director of the laboratory.
Claudio Caon. 
"I arrived in Catas in 1982 - says Caon - after a short training period: those were the years we all traveled together on a small car to go to fairs or to visit some companies! The period just told by Renato was also mine: they were really years of great growth for the laboratory. We were a special company of the Udine Chamber of Commerce, but I must admit that we never realized it, in the sense that we have always worked as a "normal" laboratory: I remember that we went to the Chamber of Commerce only for Christmas, for eat a slice of cake and exchange greetings, and it was the only time we perceived the presence of the institution and for reasons that were certainly not related to the management of Catas! I believe this merit must be given to the management of the president of those years Gianni Bravo”.

"The growth of the eighties convinced us that the time had come to organize ourselves better, to establish very specific functions. At that time only Angelo Speranza was involved in directional and coordination tasks.
A sort of "functional pyramid" was then created, although to be honest we were still a limited number of people.
So there were now specific reference points: Giovanni Granzotto was the chairman of the board of directors, Angelo Speranza the director, Andrea Giavon the deputy director and head of the mechanical laboratory, Franco Prete of the Fire Department and Franco Bulian of the Chemical Laboratory.
At the end of the eighties we adopted our personal IT systems: we passed from hand-writing our notes about the results of tests, that a secretary then typed and sent to each individual customer, to communicate through a series of PC that we had on our desks. Initially there were some "Commodore" in the offices, but it was between 1988 and 1989 that we created a real computer network.
There was a single printer, in the corridor, and two telephones, one in the office and one in the direction office of Speranza. We installed a third device for the laboratories, but we always hoped it didn't ring, because every time we had to run from one side of the building to the other to look for the person with whom our client desidered to talk.
So we invented our "pager", a simple bell that was ringed once if the call was for me, two for Cavassi, three for Giavon and so on. Sometimes it happened that the person did not hear the bell and consequently the telephone remained on the desk even for several minutes, so that the customer remained on hold and heard everything we did or said ...".

"I remember those situations very well," Franco Bulian says. "My most intense memory, however, goes back to the first months in Catas. I arrived in 1987 and the first thing they made me do, and not just once, was to call me in the laboratory to move loads with which tests were made on furniture; we also learned a lot from these little things.
I also remember the Christmas cake at the Chamber of Commerce and the speeches of President Bravo. I remember our satisfaction at the beginning of the nineties - when we were still few, perhaps a dozen - we had also become autonomous from a financial point of view.
1991 was a year to underline, because of the accreditation from the Sinal, today Accredia, the national accreditation body: it was the moment in which Catas became a “recognized” laboratory, the number 27 in Italy, a small proud goal if we consider that we belong to the world of wood-furniture ... ".
Franco Bulian today also holds the role of marketing manager of Catas, a function to which the board called him four years ago, and it is evident that this issue is particularly close to his heart: “In those years we organized a growing number of courses and seminars, tools that allowed us to maintain a personal contact with customers on a different level, even involving those who did not know us. It was, after all, our first tool for marketing, trying to make ourselves known to a large number of operators.
We have always believed that "our marketing" must be to make people know what we are and what we do, so in addition to the seminars we decided to write: this is how the "Catas Price List" was born which, in fact, was not only dedicated to tests, but also a way to let everyone know how many services we could offer and give them an evidence".

"It was a really wonderful season: there were new opportunities every day, artisans became industrialists, subcontractors decided to face the market with their own brand, the "Chair Triangle" was at its best", Renato Cavassi says. " Catas was getting bigger and bigger and new colleagues were hired. Suddenly I realized that my decision to accept the challenge that Speranza had proposed to me twenty years before was good: there was an industrial district that needed us, our skills, the knowledge that we could transmit to them, as well as the evidence that we could do in our lab. 
A virtuous circle that we could face: we were ready, the market was ready and we started to grow together”.
For us it was a great benefit to start working according to what was required by the Italian General Board, which was headed by the Italian Home Office, a body responsible for all public administration purchases. Those were the years of the boom in office furniture and the most important customer was the public administration, so we found ourselves with trucks and trucks of chairs, desks, wardrobes that we had to control responding to the specifications contained in the documents of this public body.
There were also some "difficulties", if we want to define them this way, that is the birth of other laboratories, like us concentrated in specific segments: I think to the Cert of Treviso or the Cosmob of Pesaro ... which in reality we have helped to grow in a perspective of collaboration that is still maintained”.
"1994 was another great year - Franco Bulian says - which marked an epochal turning point for us, because we became a limited company: less than twenty-five years after the foundation we changed our skin and we were no longer a special company of the Udine Chamber of Commerce, but a "Normal" company which was headed by those partners who are still in the social structure.
An operation made, among other things, together with the acquisition of the CR&S laboratory of FederlegnoArredo in Lissone, today Catas Brianza. There was a lot of curiosity but also a bit of concern around this story, because we were not as economically strong as we are today and the merger with a reality that had been established for a short time was certainly not reassuring: it was decided nevertheless to proceed and FederlegnoArredo entered our capital social, bringing with it the reality of Lissone that required strong investments to be "aligned" with our standards".

"It was not easy," adds Claudio Caon. “We had to deal with a reality with which to find a common vision, speak a common language, share our extreme and long specialization in the wood-furniture sector from 400 kilometers away.
We all took courage in our hands and lived this adventure, making every intervention necessary so that things could go in the best possible way. The arrival of the solutions for videoconferences, after a few years, allowed us to move better: I remember the boards of directors, during which I took care of these technologies, with four directors in San Giovanni and the others in Lissone ...
For a long time the Brianza site did not reach an economic independence and this has undoubtedly influenced the "Friulian team", but in the end things began to turn in the right direction and today Catas Brianza is an important chapter in our history".
"I would like to take a step back, if you allow me, until 1991, when the story of Catas Quality Award began, which I believe is worth remembering", Franco Bulian adds. "This is a certificate granting that a product as a whole is "adequate", correct. An important step for us, because we have moved from the single test, from measuring and attesting that a given performance or characteristic complies with the relevant standards to certify that a product as a whole meets a quality and validity criterion about its performance.
If we have reached this new level, it is because companies have recognized our authority, asking us for a further step in the direction of certifying an entire production.
In short: if Catas says it's okay, then this is a good product and the market must know it and recognize it as a value, something that maybe a similar product does not have. It was another fundamental step, because once again we understood that we had a responsibility, a role, a skill that by now had an absolute value all over the world: I remember at that time when someone told me that in Germany - a country where quality means a lot, - they asked for our analysis on formaldehyde emissions because they knew they were reliable documents ... ".

"Basically it was this internationally recognized competence that allowed us to enter the group of laboratories recognized by Ikea," Claudio Caon says. "We entered on tiptoe, first dealing with surface tests and gradually expanding our range of action, always demonstrating our competence and our availability.

I think I can say that for them we have been and we are also “partners”, because we compare ourselves not only with the results of the tests, but we discuss possible solutions to problems or what could be further improved: we have always been able to adapt with responsibility to their needs”.
"We are at the side of many big and small companies and somehow we are a sort of traveling companion,"  Franco Bulian adds. The constant challenge is for us a value that we also bring to other territories: we are internationally recognized as a center of excellence with a very high "specialist knowledge", so we often organize or support training courses at any level, from companies at the most prestigious universities in the world, as well as developing research projects with leading European institutes.
I hope I don't seem presumptuous, but we have entered the "gotha" of applied research, in what I would call a higher-level cultural and scientific lobby; also on the side of training, seminars, conferences, activities and responsibilities that over the last few years have become stronger and stronger”.
But beyond the single episodes, the facts, the events, the meetings, what remains of the past years? What are the scents that you still feel in the air?
Renato Cavassi has no doubts: "Catas has become a great reality, we cannot hide it. If I think of the two small rooms in the central square in San Giovanni al Natisone, where all started, I don't know whether to laugh or be moved. Catas today is a big laboratory, known worldwide; it has a large headquarters, it occupies so many people: certainly I regret the passion, the camaraderie of "our" years. The "old staff" know what I mean ... but would we have grown so much if everything had remained as it was then? It's a question I don't know or maybe I don't want to answer ...
One thing is certain: when new equipment arrives, they call me, despite having retired for more than eight years now, and I run to see it, happy as a boy. Inside these walls, so beautiful today, there are not only machines and equipment, but also a big piece of my life, friends, people with whom I shared a lot ...".
"I absolutely agree," Claudio Caon adds. “I remember the pleasure when a customer called us just to say  "thank you!": it was a satisfaction that perhaps seems negligible today, but made us absolutely proud of ourselves, of our skills, of being part of Catas.
I admit: when we were "divided", when the different laboratories were created instead of the single big room where we all worked side by side, I suffered. I remember as if it were today the director Speranza who asked me: "Claudio, tell me what equipment you use to share with others ..." and I didn't understand the meaning of the question. When he explained to me that we had to create different laboratories for the different fields in which we were engaged and that, therefore, certain equipment had to be bought in several units and placed in each laboratory, I stayed there very, very sadly”.
"We lived the" heroic times "of Catas and Renato more than us", Franco Bulian concludes. "We have known the pleasure of collaborating together, a tension that was at the beginning but there is still, although perhaps in a different way, because Catas today is a different thing.
The collaboration was continuous. There was no day that Claudio, Renato and many others didn't call me to show some results and to exchange our opinions.
I believe that our customers also perceived this "union", this strong camaraderie that made it possible to make everyone's skills common, empirically creating a universe of "knowing how" that took us very far and that today it is our duty to perpetuate in all those who work in and for Catas. The methods must certainly change but we must however try to maintain the same spirit made of passion, curiosity, emotions ...".