It was 1953 when Vasco Spinelli, founding Spival at Larciano, in the outskirts of Pistoia (Italy), started producing brushes and accessories for polishers and vacuum cleaners. Today, Vasco’s sons and grandchildren have celebrated the 60 years of activity of an enterprise become reference partner in the sector.
Alessandro Binetti Traverso
The village of Larciano, at few kilometres from Pistoia, in Tuscany, in Italy, is renowned as the “Italian district of brooms and brushes”. Already in the nineteenth century, in fact, in this village they produced brooms, taking advantage of the abundance in the zone of grasses and ditch reeds that constituted the main material of brooms. After brooms, they started then producing brushes, too, as Celestino Spinelli, father of Vasco and founder of Spival, did at the end of the Nineteenth century.
From his father Celestino, Vasco Spinelli learnt the job of craft producer of brushes but he did not simply continue his activity. Returned to the native village after the war and the prison, when in Italy started the development of the household appliance industry, he created his own enterprise with which it intended to transform the father’s activity into an industrial reality. He then understood two important aspects of the change that was taking place under his eyes and he produced what was then called “Italian economic miracle”.
The first aspect was represented by the optimal search of the supplier of raw material, on a world scale. And since the availability of low cost bristles was necessary for the production of brushes, Vasco went and looked for them in China, anticipating the globalization of supply markets more than half century before. The second intuition concerned instead the organization of productive processes and the importance of automation to reduce the industrial cost of products assembled manually until that time. To this end, he devised a system for the introduction of the tufts of bristles into the wood support of brushes, promptly replaced by a plastic support. The rest is the story of the extraordinary development of an enterprise that has gone on progressing for sixty years until now, with the contribution of three generations of the Spinelli family.
The roots of a family culture
Spival is a typical enterprise of the Italian family-based capitalism and ranks among those that have more contributed in determining the success of an economic system formed by millions of small and medium enterprises. A system of which, besides numerous positive characteristics such as creativity, productive efficiency and organizational flexibility, also weak points have been however listed, of which one of the most important derives from the difficulties of the generational transition.
A transition that in Italy involves every year at least 60,000 enterprises, with results that in one case out of five end with an economic disaster and the failure of the company. Also for this reason the case of Spival is exemplary, being a company that has by now reached the second generational transition, succeeding in coupling without shocks and in virtuous way the grandfather’s and the father’s experience with the innovations suggested by grandchildren. Dead, in fact, last year Vasco Spinelli, at the age of 99 years, Spival is now managed by the two sons of the founder, Piero and Sandro, with whom the two respective sons, Paolo and Stefano, collaborate.
Therefore, in the celebration day organized by Spival to fete its sixty years of life, in which took part friends, collaborators and customers, talking with Vasco’s heirs, emerge the memories of a so long business life, in which the impression left by the founder is still alive. Because Spival’s success is explained just by those values in which Vasco Spinelli believed and that he transmitted to sons and grandsons by his example.
As his son Sandro reminds, “stay in the groove, a step ahead of others” was one of Vasco’s favourite expressions and in that saying of popular wisdom, which refers to the peasant traditions of the zone, there was at the same time the recommendation of respecting traditions and rules together with the incitation to stand out. Therefore, following that saying, Spival has remained in the “groove” that Vasco Spinelli had started tracing sixty years ago, in full compliance with his traditions, as well as with the social and market rules of the context in which the enterprise operated.
At the same time, in the course of all these years, Spival has constantly tried “to be a step ahead” of competitors, constantly innovating products and productive processes, while at the same time it offered customers one of the highest service levels in its productive field. For this reason, the business organization has been oriented towards a vertically integrated structure, while keeping all the competences concerning its productive cycle in its inside.
Among these competences, the ability of managing autonomously the whole design and manufacturing of moulds, together with the complete mastery of moulding processes, has been determinant for Spival’s success. The availability of high design skills and of a modern mechanical workshop provided with NC machine tools, has in fact allowed Spinelli family’s company to satisfy, with high professionalism, in short times and in cost-effective manner, customers’ needs concerning the implementation of prototypes and the productive launch of new product solutions and their successive modifications.
The difficulty of being Italian
The constant commitment to overcome difficulties, resorting to the most advanced solutions of technology, is underlined also by Piero, the other son of Vasco Spinelli, who reminds that today “to do industry” in Italy is more difficult than in other Countries, owing to the bureaucratic complications and the numerous “spokes in the wheel” imposed to companies by the structures of a system that, instead of favouring business activities, seems to hinder them.
Besides, adds Piero Spinelli, for a company like Spival that exports over 40% of its production, there is also a relation difficulty that appears in the initial approach with foreign customers, when you have to overcome the bias of the national origin. “Being Italian” involves in fact for a company an additional difficulty towards the most important foreign customers, negatively influenced by a stereotype of the Country and by a fame that do not absolutely correspond to the reality of a company like Spival.
It is necessary additional commitment to overcome this prejudice and the consequent relational difficulty, as it happened in many cases in Spival’s experience. Among these cases, Piero Spinelli reminds the example of the German multinational Karcher, the biggest world producer of machines for industrial cleaning, of which Spival has succeeded in becoming supplier. To be able to do that, Spival had to solve the initial relationship difficulties thanks to its initiative of anticipating the execution of a mould and the implementation of a prototype corresponding to Karcher’s requirements, even before the definition of the relative supply contract.
Such willingness has allowed gaining customers’ trust. Confidence that has then consolidated in time through the full compliance with contract conditions, in a long-lasting relationship characterized by full satisfaction for both parties. With similar initiatives, Spival has always paid attention to its customers with the purpose of supplying, together with products, a high service level that results in the short delivery terms, generally included within two weeks from the order, as well as in the rapidity of the offer formulation and in the implementation times of prototypes for state of the art products.
Also talking about Spival and its sixty years of history with Paolo and Fabio Spinelli, Vasco’s two grandchildren who today support the respective fathers Piero and Sandro in the management of the family business, the memory of the grandfather Vasco often returns, witnessing how strong and long-lasting has been the founder’s contribution in creating the business identity. “Our grandfather was hard also with sons and grandchildren”, both say, but his was a real school of life that has educated us, mainly following his example. He was, in fact, a great worker and he was the first who respected the rules for which he exacted the respect from the others.
This hard core of rules of conduct, oriented to reliability and responsibility, has been preserved until now and constitutes a competitive advantage in an economic phase, objectively difficult, but in which Spival successfully operates, both on the domestic and on the foreign market. As states Paolo Spinelli, who at Spival takes care of the commercial aspects, Spival is leader in the sector of the accessories for vacuum products, both domestic and professional.
In this market, Spival is especially preferred by the producers of high quality appliances, like those sold “door to door”, which to be successful stake on higher quality and performances than what offered by distributors of products manufactured in China, at low cost but with a scarce quality level. There are then some new market fields, which Spival considers attentively, due to the higher added value that characterizes these products.
In particular, are absolutely promising the prospects in the sector “vacuum cleaning plus steam”, today strongly developing both in the market of household products and in the field of industrial cleaning, which allows granting higher added value for the accessories produced by Spival. These accessories, in fact, are characterized by higher structural complexity and more severe requisites, with steam temperatures included between 120°C and 160°C, as well as with pressures up to twelve Bars. For this reason, it is necessary to use particular plastic technical materials, together with the use of metal parts in the most stressed points of the steam pipe.