The history of Arix brooms and much more!

03/06/2014

Interview broadcasted, before Arix Group sale of Abrax shares in November 2015, during the TV show "Buone Cose"

Buone Cose. We’re at the Arix plastics factory in Viadana, province of Mantua, and we’re about to introduce to you Umberto Ghizzi, the man who practically invented brooms.
I wouldn’t say that exactly, but you could certainly say that I’ve played a part in making brooms the way they are today.
Tell us something about how it all began? In an area where poplar trees were plentiful, so there was wood production and sorghum in particular.
You have to go back fifty years or even more; it was a farming town where sorghum was grown and used as a raw material to produce sorghum brooms. Then, of course, we moved away from sorghum brooms and they tried to make bristles from plastics; they achieved that and so we replaced sorghum and move over to synthetics bristles. Now, as far as the bases are concerned, we moved away from the wood we used many years ago and began moulding plastics. Wooden broom bases used to be made by hand, drilled by hand and so on.
Today, it’s not just about functionality, it’s about everything: design and shape are important, colour, functionality, how long they last and they have to be inexpensive. Consumers are always interested in that: quality and price."

You’ve told us something about the story of the brooms that are still produced here in Viadana today.
But you didn’t only work on those handmade, homemade wooden brooms, did you.
We began installing the first moulding machines in the early 1970s, 1980s.
At the time, we were just coming out of a period of austerity – Italy had been through a time of austerity in the 1970s – and imported wood was getting hard to come by because import duties on wood were high. So that’s when the search began for an alternative to wood.
So an Italian company invented an artificial wood, made of polypropylene foam which even has the same specific weight as wood and grain as well. If we wanted to have it painted, a carpenter would find it hard to tell whether it was wood or plastic.
That’s how we began. Then we saw that we could go on replacing wood and we started using multi-impression moulds so we could use non-foam polypropylene and put the dyes directly in the machine. Before, if we were using yellow, we’d be using it for months and months. And if we wanted to change colour, we had to paint it. Whereas now, with these moulds and virtual machines, we can dye and do what we like with the product; a thousand red pieces in the same mould. So that was an innovation in the production of broom bases.

Thank you, Umberto Ghizzi, for telling us a little about the history of brooms here in Viadana and some of the developments they have undergone. Thanks also to Angelo Melegari that you saw talking to Mr Ghizzi as we were visiting the plant.
Now, we’re going to end our episode of Buone Cose here at Arix in the distribution warehouse, or rather the logistics unit as it’s called – and we’ll get Riccardo Melegari to tell us why – where all the products come before embarking on their journeys around the world.

Arix brooms, brushes, mops, dustpans, in other words innovative solutions that make our daily household cleaning routines easier. Is that right Mr Melegari?
Yes, absolutely. In recent years, in particular, thanks to the needs of Italian consumers, we have done a lot of research and development in this area, helping consumers by offering dual function brooms and making brooms with sloping handles to prevent back pain. We’ve made a whole series of innovations to the way tools are used. This is to help consumers, so not just in aesthetic and functional terms, but by improving the actual way products can be used in the home

Abrax is also part of the Arix group, isn’t it?
Abrax was the first company we set up in 1996, the start of our virtualisation process. As I said earlier, we began a virtualisation and an internationalisation process.
This virtualisation process was achieved with Abrax, which produces raw materials and – we won’t deny it – is a particularly innovative company, which not only supplies Arix, but our competitors around the world, as well.

We haven’t filmed inside to protect your industrial privacy. Abrax uses binders and abrasives. How much pollution does this cause?
Yes, I have to admit, the company has a category three rating; it’s a medium-sized production company and that’s another of the important sophisticated features we have inside: our system for reducing fumes and groundwater emissions.
In fact, we’ve been through a process to gain ISO 14000 certification, which guarantees the ecology system, which means actually eliminating any pollution that might get into the atmosphere or groundwater.

Let’s end with a quick look at some figures. What are the group’s numbers?
Over the last ten years, since we took over Tonkita, we have exceeded our intergroup, consolidated figures, as they’re called, by over 100 million Euros in turnover.
We have 9 factories, 5 in Italy and 4 abroad, the feathers in our cap being our new foreign plants in Poland, Great Britain and China. The Chinese experience, which we began 4 years ago, is giving us great results, especially on the domestic market.

We’re back at Arix headquarters, at the logistics terminal. Riccardo Melegari, so this is the terminal, where all our products come before heading off around Italy and the world. But where to, exactly?
Well, here we’re just talking about finished products, so goods are sent:
all over the world, to our 77 export distributors, our branches in China, Poland and the UK, all over Italy, the EU and outside the EU.
This is a warehouse. 15,500 square metres under cover and about the same number of pallet spaces. We have radiofrequency and so, you might say that this is one of the most technologically advanced warehouses. What does radiofrequency mean?
Well, in a nutshell, it’s a virtual warehouse, which means that pallet spaces aren’t real and only exist in a software program.
This helps us optimise stock rotation, when, say, a supplier or a production cycle is held up, and so on. The machine tells you where to put it, what spaces are free and above all – since we have 15,500 square metres of covered space – how to get to them! If you have to spend all day wandering around for a two thousand Euro order, it’s hardly worth it. So it’s all streamlined directly by the machine.

We’ve talked in particular about what you make here and what comes into our homes, but you also make products for industry, for professional cleaning companies.
Yes, we have a special Professional line aimed at heavy-duty users and it employs the same raw materials, the same products, but which are more advanced in terms of size, basically, and product features.
We also have a purely industrial range, meaning that we supply semi-finished products. A typical example would be a broom which, instead of carrying Arix brand or a distributor’s brand, is supplied finished but with no labelling, so you can add your own label and sell it as an own-brand product.
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