Arix, where the sponges and brooms come from

03/06/2014

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

Today we are in Viadana, province of Mantua. We are in the yard of Arix, one of the five world leading companies in the production of household cleaning products that we'll discover on this tour.
More than just household cleaning products, we will also touch on lots of research, technology and innovation.
And now on Buone Cose clean steals the scene with our tour of Arix, a company that since 1969 has been committed to improving the quality of life of everyone that has to face major or minor
housecleaning.
Silvano Melegari Managing Director of Arix. Let's talk about the history and the structure of the Group. From 1969 to today how has the company changed?
It has made major changes, especially over the last 10 years. I must say, growth has been exponential, especially because we went through two steps where we internationalized, so we opened plants abroad, and in particular, we have also increased our distribution capacity and, above all, in addition to subsidiaries we also opened logistics hubs and distribution centres

Research and development seem to be the key words that have brought the company to expand throughout the world.
Indeed, we serve over 70 countries out of Viadana. We export 30% of our turnover from here and our subsidiaries abroad export even 50%.
However, the heart of the company has stayed in Viadana. Why?
Because the company's roots are here and it is here that it has made history—and also because I have always fundamentally believed that the head and the heart of the company must in any event stay in Italy. Otherwise we'd end up displacing everything and we can't do that.
All right, thank you to the Managing Director. Now we'll give the floor to Stefano Caselli and follow the tour through plant number one

We'll introduce you to Riccardo Melegari, the General Manager of Arix. Welcome to Buone Cose.
How come everybody here is named Melegari?! Melegari is a solid family. Mr. Melegari we are in the warehouses of plant number one that we're going to go visit to find out what goes on here on your premises, and we're right next to the sponges here that we find in the kitchens of our homes. To be honest they're a bit big.
So this is the semi-finished products warehouse. By semi-finished products we mean products that just need to be cut and packaged. Right before the production there is a storage area for everything inherent to production, together with packaging materials.
This is one of our core business, our subsidiary Arix produces the raw material, that is, this green stuff. It is supplied already in coupled sheets with a classic sponge, in this case, a standard polyurethane foam, plastic…in plain words.
Then we go prepare this product in production, thus making it in the different sizes that you end up seeing on the market, both our brand and the labels of the most famous distributors of the Italian retailers.. hypermarkets and supermarkets.
By the way, you mentioned Abrax and practically you divided the sponge and half: the green part on top and the yellow part that is the actual sponge. But what's this up here then?
Abrax is a company that was founded in 1995, it means Abrasives Arix, and it's one of the 10 producers of abrasive fibre around the world, that is, this here that you see in a green version is also produced in other colours. For example, for no-scratch products is also made in a variety of other colours, blue or white. The classic green is what we identify as being the part that scratches because that's what we always see on the Italian market, if you know what I mean. In this case, it has already been processed. Standard polyurethane foam—a sponge simply speaking—was coupled by heat…fire. Why with fire?
Because all you have to do is melt the polyurethane a little bit for the fibre to stick to it by fusion…it becomes one piece. If we try to break it, the polyurethane breaks, but not the bond.
These are quality sponges! This is one of the best sponges we make.

What's in the green or blue or white part?
The initial raw material is a "non-woven" fabric, that is, nylon and polyester flock that are assembled and then the machine sprays the abrasive; then it's dried, literally cured, producing a material that is about 6 to 7 times heavier than it was when it began to be processed. So they are all abrasive materials—quartz, dolomitarzi, etc.—that you need to scrape off dirt.
Not all abrasives are alike. Right, you have this and that kind of abrasive and this and that kind of support. This is already a medium to high quality fibre, it isn't one of the cheapest.
To achieve a medium to high quality we're talking about 800/900 g/sq.m., while the cheapest ones for developing countries are about half that.
Obviously the less material there is the less the product lasts.

Arix, Abrax … where do these names come from, seeing that your name is Melegari and this is your company?
The company was established at the end of the 60's through my sister-in-law's father. Arix is an absolutely imaginary name, except that at that time all the companies dealing in household cleaning articles usually ended with an X. So there was this name - Arix - absolutely imaginary, that has no meaning and no connection with the Melegari family or Ballasini, the founder.
Yet it has motivated origins because at the time our greatest competitors had a name that ended with an X. Arix wanted to imitate this.
We'd like to find out how the sponges we use during everyday life are cut and wrapped.

We are back at Arix, once again in Viadana, province of Mantua. Before with Riccardo Melegari we took a look at these enormous cloths that later in fact become sponges.
The raw material is always the same: this sponge is a little thicker so that the housewife that uses it to scrape can grip it well whether it's wet or dry. This nail-protecting groove is made with a very normal slitting saw, just like the one carpenters use… basically.
As you can see here, it is an industrial process and so the splint goes in—the whole splint of about 2 m—and it makes the groove lengthwise and cuts it to the chosen size: this time that's 9 cm. Then the sponge goes straight to wrapping.
Then what happens down there? Why are the sponges turning?
Since they are wrapped in cellophane to make sure that when they are displayed on shelves the housewife doesn't just see one side or the other—either just the abrasive part or just the sponge—we turn one automatically to show that there is an abrasive side and a sponge.
Tell me something. We said it is the same material, but this isn't exactly an authentic Italian sponge, as far as the concept. In Italy, sponges used to be like that one.
That's right. You could say that the nail protection is in place of your simple everyday abrasive fibre. The housewife would have to use your simple everyday abrasive fibre that scrapes and that's all, which was basically the advent of the sponge. That used to be all they used. Today evolution has led to the latest version that is nothing more than a derivation of the regular sponge made so the housewife doesn't have to touch the abrasive and therefore not scratch her fingers.
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