The Courage To Be Confident

I visited the company headquarters of bar loader manufacturer Pietro Cucchi in Bussero (a small town on the outskirts of Milan).  I met with the founder, owner and namesake, Pietro Cucchi.  Here is an interesting interview with Mr. Cucchi about his optimistic philosophy on manufacturing and where he sees the industry heading.

Meeting interesting people is among the top rewards of my job. During the recent EMO fair in Milan, I took an afternoon and slipped away from the show to visit the company headquarters of bar loader manufacturer Pietro Cucchi in Bussero (a small town on the outskirts of Milan). There I met with the founder, owner and namesake, Pietro Cucchi. It was a train ride worth taking, for I found Mr. Cucchi to be one of the more interesting people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting.

Mr. Cucchi’s home is on the grounds of the factory. Each Christmas season, Mr. Cucchi erects the world’s largest Christmas tree in his front yard (www.guinnesstree.com). It’s called the Joyful Tree, and it stands 215 feet tall with 100,000 lights. “I do this as a gift,” says Mr. Cucchi. “It’s a way to give something back.” In his office hang thank-you letters from Pope John Paul II and President George W. Bush that attest to the reach of this gift.

I talked to Mr. Cucchi about his optimistic philosophy on manufacturing and where he sees the industry heading.

CK: How do you see the state of precision parts manufacturing?

PC: It doesn’t matter that times are tough. Companies must continue to look to the future. It’s not a viable choice to stop moving forward. Businesses need to define their future and move toward it.

CK: How does a company define its future?

PC: The time of easy money in manufacturing is finished. Accept that and move on. We are experiencing truly global competition and participation. Only companies that are aggressive in investing in the business are going to effectively participate in manufacturing. Those companies that are afraid of risk will not be here.

CK: Tell me more about global competition and participation.

PC: In my 40 years in business, this is the first time I’ve seen people scared of the future. There’s a lot of talk in Europe and the USA about the threats from Eastern Europe and Asia. I don’t believe there is a need for fear. Rather, we—the Europeans and the Americans—need to help these economies to grow. We are the leaders; we need to lead and teach. Let Asia grow. It’s time. The emerging markets around the globe represent our future customers. It’s in our interest to help grow their economies, not stifle them.

CK: How do we compete with the lower manufacturing costs of these economies?

PC: As I said before, the easy money is gone for first-world economies like the USA and Europe. It’s not coming back. While Asia and other emerging economies grow, we must grow as well to maintain our lead. True entrepreneurs understand this and accept it. Investment in the business is how Western companies can compete. We must turn money into investment—let it go! There is no longer time to work with old tools. We need to put faith in new technology that gives us productivity advantages. This is an ugly time, but it will be worse if companies stand still. In most cases, we have the wealth: technological, entrepreneurial, creative and financial. These advantages make Europe and the USA leaders. What we must not do is allow our lead to shrink because of fear of deploying these resources.

CK: So, you’re really talking about confidence?

PC: Yes, that’s the key. Confidence is contagious. My employees are confident because I’m confident. I have not allowed my company to coast through these bad times. I continue to invest in product development, and I will expand the plant next year. These are concrete signals that I believe in the future of the business.

CK: Thank you for letting us visit.