Volume 44, Issue 10 - October 2009

feature

Gold 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 us.

USG: What hasn’t changed in the last 50 years?
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 factories.

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 involved.

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 product.

USG: What is the one thing that stands out most in your mind of the industry changes you’ve seen over the years?
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.

USG
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