for Italy’s Senior Spokesperson
Dr. Dino Fenzi Celebrates 50 Years in the Industry
by Charles Cumpston
Since the arrival of the Italian equipment suppliers on
the international scene in the 1970s, Dr. Dino Fenzi has served as a visible
face and spokesperson for this group through his service as president
of GIMAV, their trade association, and of Vitrum, the every-other-year
show the group sponsors in Milan.
USGlass recently took the opportunity
to speak with him to find out what his thoughts are about the current
global situation and to reflect on his 50 years in the industry.
USG: Congratulations on reaching this
milestone. Could you give us some background on your youth?
DF: I was born in Milan, where I got
a degree at Bocconi University.
USG: How did you first enter the glass
business and what has been your career path over the last 50 years?
DF: This is a family business, established
in 1941 by my father. I joined the company in 1959. I had a typical family
business career, from one of the founder’s sons to president.
USG: Could you give us a brief history
of the company?
DF: The company is now 68 years old
and has complete or partial control in nine factories around the world
from Italy to China, from Belgium to Canada, etc.
USG: How have things changed in the
last 50 years?
DF: Things have changed a lot in certain
areas, less in others. Think about the Western world, China and Russia.
These are three totally different stories, not comparable at all in terms
of what has happened in the last half century. For our industry, certainly
there are many more finished products around (think about laminated, insulating
glass and, more recently, solar-related products), so there are many more
opportunities for the fabricators. But certainly, overall, competition
has become tougher, margins leaner and life more difficult for all of
USG: What hasn’t changed in the last
DF: The mentality of many entrepreneurs
running small- and medium-sized companies who are still completely focused
on their business, identifying themselves with the fortunes of their companies,
totally committed to improving their process and the efficiency of their
USG: How have the fundamentals of
doing business in the architectural glass and metal industry changed?
DF: There is more involvement in the
projects by industry companies, but there is still a too-high tendency
to remain sub-suppliers to their customers rather than being directly
USG: What is your view of the industry
today? What changes do you see ahead?
DF: I see more marketing being done
by companies, and more independence in the glass industry, as well as
a will to explore unknown territories for new applications. (May I add,
is this wishful thinking?)
USG: With so many foreign companies
making acquisitions, do you agree that the industry and commerce have
become more global?
DF: The industry and commerce, in
general, have become more global, but glass fabrication and distribution
has always been and will remain a regional business. Logistics play too
important a role in these areas. This is a limitation, but also a protection
for most of our customers.
USG: From a global perspective, what
do you see driving the industry?
DF: As in many other market segments,
there is more business and activities in Asia, less in the older economies
around the globe. The recent (mis)fortunes of the building and construction
industry is not helping us at all.
USG: What has stayed “local”?
DF: As I said previously, glass fabrication
and distribution will remain a regional business because customers of
glass producers, fabricators and distributors require local suppliers.
USG: Are there differences for the
different segments of the industry—primary manufacturers, fabricators,
machinery suppliers, component suppliers?
DF: I can talk only about our own
business and experience (machinery and component suppliers), but for sure
all the chain is exactly in the same conditions in terms of the market.
USG: Looking back over the last 50
years, and ahead for that matter, what do you see that the glass industry
does right and what does it do wrong?
DF: The glass industry has been right
in promoting the usage of glass in the building industry, in developing
new performance products, and in improving everybody’s quality of life.
It has been wrong in dumping the prices (at every level) of such a wonderful
USG: What is the one thing that
stands out most in your mind of the industry changes you’ve seen over
DF: The transformation of the general
perception of glass from a utility/decorative product into a performing
component in many applications, and the related results have been excellent.
USG: Do you have any advice that you’d
like to pass along?
DF: No, please. I am still in the
middle of the daily fight. I think it is only prudent to ask advice from
somebody who could detect the future, maybe an astrologist.
Charles Cumpston is a contributing editor for USGlass.
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