Aletti Giovanni & Figli Srl are a very different company from five years ago. One of the main changes that have taken place is the company’s decision to move away from producing their own parts in-house. Aletti, based in Varesa, north of Milan, produce between 50 to 70 machines a year, but have now found that it is more cost effective to have the parts produced by an outside company.

‘Varesa is a technical centre focusing on several industries, including motorcycles and aeroplanes, and there are many specialist parts manufacturers in the area’, explains Marco Aletti. ‘Therefore, we have decided to no longer invest in production equipment but use the money for research instead. And this strategy is working well for us.

‘In the past five years, we’ve invested 6-9% of our annual turnover in research. Without all the advances we have made in technology and the fact that we are not based in a tanning area, the company would probably be in trouble.’

Varesa was formerly an active tannery area but now only one tannery remains, about 20km away. ‘We’ve had to learn to export all over the world’, explains Marco Aletti. ‘As we’re not based near Arzignano or Solofra, a large majority of our machines are sent all around the world and they need to be reliable. If you’re a Chinese tanner for example, located near to a machinery manufacturer and your machine breaks, then a technician will be with you quickly. If you’re located further away, then the tanner may spend double on a European machine because of its reliability.’

India has been and is one of the company’s most important markets, with 40% of the company’s turnover coming from India five years ago. Today, Ethiopia and other north African countries, and Asia and Türkiye are also significant customers.

Aletti are, therefore, placing an increasing importance on the manufacture of specialist tannery machinery. Today, the company specialise in the production of buffing, fleshing, shaving, setting-out, staking, dedusting, ironing and polishing machines.

‘We don’t manufacture the full range of tannery machines but we are a specialised company’, says Marco Aletti. ‘We feel this is a good choice because the market is looking for less quantity but higher quality and demand for our ‘normal’ machines is decreasing year by year.

‘One of the most satisfying aspects of my job is the time I spend designing new machines. We have plans for a completely new shaving machine for skins that has been developed around all the new safety regulations and we have a new dust removing machine in the planning stages.’

The company have also announced that testing on their new De Prima shaving machine is finally complete and production is due to begin in the next couple of months. ‘We’ve even had one customer place an order for the new machine without even seeing the finished product’, explains Marco Aletti.

The machine features an adjustable gripper roller, which processes all kinds of raw materials from heavy vegetable leathers to uneven raw materials such as zebu hides. The new machine also features upgraded software for the grinding mechanism that is fully enclosed and protected by a metal guard. The wheel is automatically lubricated with a disposable grease bottle that can be easily replaced when empty.

Aletti are also the only company to produce the endless band buffing machine that incorporates ready-for-use paper belts rather than the traditional wound buffing paper. ‘This machine is around 60% more expensive than a traditional buffing machine but it can also be used on different products, not just leather. When we saw how successful the machine had become, we decided to develop the concept further for other materials such as textiles where a high performance is required.

‘One of the biggest problems in leather machinery manufacture is copying. People leave companies and take designs with them with the result that many of the machines currently on the market are very similar’, continues Marco Aletti.

‘The big competition is now coming from China. There the local manufacturers have grown in number and machinery designs have been copied and we are unable to protect against this. Therefore, price is often the biggest incentive and this has spoilt the market. I don’t think that the market is likely to improve any time soon because of the amount of companies offering similar machines.

‘In the next five years, most European production of standard tannery machines will have disappeared and only the specialist manufacturers will remain. By the time the Chinese reach our standards in five years’ time, our specialist knowledge will be that much further ahead.’