Starting with washing machines, the Candy group has become a leading player on the Italian and international whitegoods stage. We met Eden Fumagalli, Managing Director of the Cooking Division, to talk about kitchens and enamel. “It is still a value”, declares Fumagalli, who indicates several ways of continuing to safeguard the levels of excellence achieved with enamel coatings.
There are some brand names that are so well rooted in the Italian consumer’s memory that they date right back to the introduction of television and the very first televised advertisements. One of these is Candy, whose name alone is already enough to conjure up the idea of washing machines and other whitegoods, because that name is not only a registered trademark, it is also well-registered in the memory of generations of users, for whom it automatically conveys concepts that range from “clean” to “hot”, from “cold” to “frozen”.
One of the slogans that summarises the company’s philosophy most effectively is “Candy: uno di casa” (which translates best as “Candy: one of the family”), as the brand started making its mark in Italian families immediately after the end of the Second World War. That was when three brothers – Enzo, Niso and Peppino Fumagalli – decided use the Fumagalli Mechanical Workshops, first set up in Monza by their father to produce high precision machine tools, to turn out the Model 50, the first washing machine wholly made in Italy, which was then duly launched at the Milan Fair in 1946. It was not long before the Fumagalli Workshops had undergone a transformation, as the production was reorganised and the Candy brand was born.
Eden Fumagalli was born in Monza on 13 December 1958, the third son of Niso.
After studying at the Lombardy Institute for Physical Education ISEF, he joined the family firm in 1984, attending an in-house training course in the plant at Santa Maria Hoè (dishwashers) before moving onto the Brugherio plant (washing machines) as technical services manager.
The takeover of Gasfire in 1986 brought him a new responsibility for a project related to the procurement of fired products.
In the years that followed, he worked in close contact with his father as the technical co-ordinator of all the Italian plants.
In 1997, he became research and development manager for fired products, with responsibility for the Italian and French offices.
When the group was reorganised in 1999, he became General Manager of the Refrigeration Division. In this position, he inaugurated the project for the green field construction of the plant in the Czech Republic and followed it as far as the building site stage.
In 2000 he was also made Managing Director of the Cooking Division. In 2001, he gave up the Refrigeration Division to concentrate his efforts on the task of reorganising and modernising the Cooking Division’s industrial plants.
Married with Chiara and the father of Giulia, he enjoys spending his leisure time with his family, although he is still a great sportsman.
This was the beginning of an adventure that was to become a case study in the whitegoods sector of Italy’s industrial history: the Candy Group wrote the history of the washing machine in Italy, rapidly expanding its production to embrace the entire whitegoods sector and achieve leading positions on the world’s washing machine, drier, dishwasher, refrigerator, freezer, cooker, oven, hob and floor cleaning equipment markets. Hoover, Zerowatt, Iberna, Kelvinator, Otsein and Rosières are only its main brand names. The Candy Group can be found in 125 countries worldwide, although 80% of its turnover is generated in Europe, where it has production centres in France, the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, Portugal, the Czech Republic and Russia (where it has a joint venture with Korolev RSC Energia) and commercial offices in Europe’s 23 leading markets, including Croatia, Slovenia and Russia.
When we spoke with Eden Fumagalli, Managing Director of the group’s Cooking Division (which accounts for 14% of its overall turnover), we chose to focus our attention on one section of this whitegoods treasure trove: cookers and enamel. It only took a short telephone conversation to understand that this man and his vantage point are both privileged to enjoy a sweeping range of action and therefore constitute reliable sources of analysis.
“Candy has two enamelling plants, one in Erba, in Italy, and the other in Bourges, in France. The brand names are Gasfire, a prestigious name in the sector of cooking equipment designed to be built into modular kitchen furniture, which we bought in 1986, and Rosières, another important brand in the same field that we took over in 1987. Gasfire has a conventional production range: cooker hobs, small cookers incorporating a 90 cm gas cylinder holder and built-in ovens with a powder enamelling finish. But we also have Candy brand ovens and cooking hobs, which combine the Italian flair for good looks with state-of-the-art technology and performance. Created in France by the Marquis de Berry in 1837, the Rosières brand is one of the oldest of its kind in Europe: here, we produce electrically coated enamelled whitegoods that continue the values of the finest French culinary traditions, expressing them in the form of products with highly innovative technology and performance. France has a venerable tradition of enamelling that is still much sought after today and can offer a wide range of colours for free-standing products. Our production here is standardised pyrolytic enamel and the volumes we turn out are very significant, also in terms of profit margins. Our French plant consumes
Euro 800,000 worth of enamel every year, while the Italian one accounts for Euro 500,000.”
“To answer your question about market trends in the cooker industry,” continues Fumagalli, “it is fair to say that free-standing cookers are losing ground to built-in units and that smaller, more specialised regional groups are making headway to the detriment of the larger groups, which also means the larger brands, because we wash clothing and preserve our food in much the same way all over the world, but when it comes to cooking and eating that food, our methods are different.”
There is no need for any specific question about globalisation to launch the topic with a man who has production plants and commercial offices all over Europe and has shifted the centre of gravity of his business eastwards, because that gives him a better view of developments in Germany and, as he points out, “Podbor¥any, in the Czech Republic (where Candy opened a new plant to produce refrigerators and combo goods last October), is actually closer to Milan than Naples is”.
“Not very many activities are truly global and not many groups are truly globalised,” points out Eden Fumagalli. “On the contrary, there are still plenty of regional divergences and there is still far too much protectionism, although it is often camouflaged as something else: if local standards enforce the use of one type of plug rather than another, the effect will already be an obstacle to penetration into that market. In practice, the market is still divided into three macro regions: America, Asia and Europe. There are quite significant differences between these regions, but also between the various countries in Europe. This means that cooking equipment products are also localised. Even so, there are some products that you can expect to find more or less everywhere, such as free-standing kitchens with a 60cm square top.”
Smalto: Our conversation moves onto the terrain of enamel, as we would like to hear an opinion from the man who manages such an important group in the whitegoods industry, where Italy can still boast a significant position of leadership.
“Enamel is still perceived as a quality finish – and I believe that it is: the level of performance it offers is different from other coatings. But I am not sure just how far the market perceives these differences. Already now there is only evidence of this perception with some top of the range brands, which have a lot of enamelled products. Traditional enamel is having quite a hard time in the built-in unit sector, but remains in greater demand in free-standing products. Enamel and stainless steel share the cooking hobs section fairly evenly now, although it used to be 70% enamel and 30% stainless steel. There’s a demand for professional products and finishes. France is still very faithful to enamel, which has a very long-established tradition there. An extensive range of finishes include enamelling sides and drawers, too. At Gasfire, we apply ground coats and the only surfaces that are white are the hobs. As Candy supplies the broad mainstream market, we had to abolish enamelling side panels for cost reasons.”
“I personally believe that enamel will stand the test of time better in those situations where its use is related to performance, where it cannot be replaced by other coatings, and one of these is the cooking area,” adds Eden Fumagalli, speaking with the frankness that entrepreneurs learn from working in a competitive business. “It is bound to have a harder time in purely aesthetic areas, because of the need to contain costs and because enamelling is a complex, ‘touchy’ process: it calls for expert staff, parameters that have to be modified every day on the basis of atmospheric humidity, for example, and also expensive process investments.”
Q: What message can we send to plant and enamel producers to soften the blow?
“Tell them that they have worked well for the last twenty to thirty years, developing simpler, more environmentally friendly systems for applying powders. They should continue in the same vein, even though there are not so many plants around and the necessary research is very capital intensive. They must find a balance that enables them to develop cheaper systems that consume less.”
Q: With a certain amount of apprehension, we ask what Fumagalli thinks of the CISP’s activities.
“You are doing fine,” is his spontaneous response. “We are satisfied members. By providing suitable information and the right opportunities and tools for keeping up to date, the Association helps us understand the problems facing the industry as a whole and deal with them. There is a need for research to target new products, to find solutions that help simplify cleaning, colour change and maintenance operations. Pyrolytic enamels are an excellent example of how enamel performance can be improved: they have solved the problem of cleaning and maintaining ovens that used to make things difficult for frequent users. But we need to go beyond pyrolysis, as the consumption levels it involves are still too high. Enamel and whitegoods manufacturers are already working together to develop products that are easier to use, cheaper and more environmentally friendly: this is a good area for further research and attention aimed at identifying new products and types of performance.”
The day is not so very far off when we shall be using a new generation of futuristic domestic appliances, full of electronics and network links that enable them to dialogue with the computers embedded in neighbouring appliances and log onto the Internet, as well as remembering recipes and helping their users to get them right by making the best use of the appliances themselves. Candy has wasted no time in moving up to the vanguard of research into safety and energy saving, easy usage and domotics, the new frontier for domestic appliances that means that prepares the way for remote controlling. There are new spaces, new forms and different functions on the horizon for the kitchen, with appliances that are more sophisticated, more professional and at the same time easier and more fun to use.
Does this mean that there may also be new spaces and new opportunities out there for enamel? The answer to that one, in the years to come and in practice, is in the hands of groups with the heritage and plans of Candy/Gasfire, of entrepreneurs like Eden Fumagalli, of the CISP and of the commitment and team spirit of its members.
The Candy Domestic Electric Appliances Group
A completely privately owned company, Candy Elettrodomestici is a European multibrand group that generated a consolidated turnover of 903 million Euros in 2001, producing 5.5 million pieces in twelve plants (five in Italy and the other seven in France, Spain, the United Kingdom, Portugal and the Czech Republic) and marketing them through 23 foreign subsidiary companies, two of which are devoted to the after sales and spare parts service. The group’s production covers the entire range of whitegoods: washing machines, washing and drying machines, driers, dishwashers, refrigerators and freezers, traditional cooking equipment (ovens, cookers and hobs) and microwave ovens. Its takeover of the Hoover European Appliances Group in 1995 also gave Candy a significant share of the floorcare industry.
October 2002 brought the inauguration of a new production plant in Podbor¥any, in northern Bohemia (Czech Republic), that specialises in manufacturing refrigerators and combo units for the European market. Last December, the Candy group’s subsidiary Hoover Ltd. signed a joint venture agreement in Moscow with Zao Zem, a subsidiary of Russia’s largest aerospace industry complex S.P. Korolev RSC Energia, to establish a production facility for high quality floorcare equipment in Russia. In 2003, the new company, Energia Domestic Appliances, will start producing the first model of a towing vacuum cleaner and marketing it with the Energia brand. Production is expected to expand into the refrigerator and washing machine sectors at a later stage.
The Candy Group employs a total of 5,700 people. 2,183 of these are in Italy, 1,007 in the United Kingdom, 605 in France, 550 in Spain, 77 in Portugal and the other 288 in other countries.
The group trades on the whitegoods market through the brand names Candy, Hoover, Iberna, Kelvinator and Rosières, which together cover all the fields of free-standing and built-in units and all market segments within those categories. The Zerowatt and Otsein brand names have been combined with Hoover in Italy and Spain respectively since spring 2001.