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Q&A with Monica Pedrali

The Pedrali name is synonymous with fine Italian design and manufacturing. Distributed by Business Interiors in Australia, the collection has been charming design lovers since its launch over 50 years ago. CEO Monica Pedrali explains why…

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

Monica Pedrali: Established 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 wooden furniture.

The collection was extended to also include lighting ten years ago. Nowadays we make chairs, tables and lighting – all complemented in different materials such as metal, plastic, wood and upholstery.

Unlike many other manufacturers, Pedrali produces all of its 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 per cent made in Italy. In Italy, we have the know-how for techniques using plastic, steel and wood manufacturing. 

Pedrali produces everything in-house, which means we have full control of the supply chain from raw material to finished products. We start from a tree of oak or ash wood and then we produce complete wooden chairs coated with an organic finishing. Having everything in-house enables us to produce furniture at a higher quality.

In order to be more flexible we also offer a broader range of finishing that we have developed for customisation, so the customer and the interior designer can select combinations of colour and finishing. 

Every line of every order can be done in a small quantity if needed. Clients can order both standard and custom products in the one order. It is not easy to achieve as it’s really complicated. You need to have a fantastic organisation in order to offer such a wide range of custom-made options with a lead time that is less than two weeks. 

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 that bend and cut the steel tube are Italian. The manufacturers of the machines for producing the wooden chairs are also Italian. And the manufacturers of the injection plastic chairs are not far from us. It allows us to use the most avant-garde machines and be aware of the new technologies.

Every time we invest in a new machine we can get better production performance. 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. New technologies have allowed us to redirect some of our staff to more qualified jobs. We’ve moved people from jobs like welding, which now may be done by an automated machine, and put them on other jobs like quality control, production, and customer service.

We have 280 employees and are constantly growing our staff, but 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?

For us it isn’t only about the new machines, it’s also about organising the office. The new automatic warehouse is a good example of how technology can provide support, offering the best quality, 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, which organises the loading of the trucks.

The automatic warehouse contains 17,000 pallets. When we collated how many pallets we should put into the new warehouse, we wanted to make sure it was large enough to store finished products. Also we stock not only finished product but also 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.

Customers ordering online nowadays can immediately see when the products are ready. When the production process is longer the time is crucial. We have to manage the expectation of the customer and the time for production, which is crucial for quality. The automatic warehouse can help reduce this gap.

The other aspect 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 most interesting industrial architecture projects. It gained a lot of attention, it won an award for its environmental approach. The building is in the middle of the countryside and very large, so it’s highly visibile. The architect’s disguised the building with coloured blades to camouflage it with the surrounding grass.

Beauty, tradition and innovation applies not just to our products but extends right through to the factory. Last year, my father Mario Pedrali won the award for the Olivettian Entrepreneur 2017. Every year they select one entrepreneur who is continuing to express quality design, and the beauty of the factory was one of the reasons he was awarded this honour.

“Fili d’erba”, the Pedrali automated warehouse

“Fili d’erba”, the Pedrali automated warehouse

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 the polytechnical university so we are right near high-quality designers. We maintain these connections along with some foreign designers. 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 approaches for developing new products, on one side we are speaking to designers who we already know, where we might have some ideas in common, and we ask them to develop products with new functionality. An example of this is with the wireless lighting Giravolta, which we developed two years ago.

Or the new products may utilise new technology or a new material that we have never used before – like the Frida chair, which we presented 10 years ago and used a new, innovative material in the market. Or the Arki-Table, which is one of our best selling tables, features a top made with a new HPL material with Abet Laminati. Our collaboration with designers is about developing something new that didn’t exist in the market before.

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

For us, industrial design cannot be disconnected from industry. We are an industry and every choice we make is for our customers and also enables us to work in a better way. The future of Italy is still as one of the biggest countries of furniture manufacturing. 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.

Pedrali's wood division

Pedrali’s wood division

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

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 get 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 furniture design but is 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 but brings value and 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 20-25 years are still available and they have been designed to have a timeless style, as well as being quality-made.

We are always focused 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.

Beauty, tradition, innovation – tradition is typical of furniture production from Italy, innovation is what we do every day, it is part of our everyday life. Italy’s famous for design, not only for looks but for a democratic design mentality. 

Pedrali is available in Australia through Business Interiors.

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