03/17/2010, Düsseldorf / Germany

 

Loctite threadlockers in action

 

Bathroom fittings with highest quality standards

A slight, but unmistakable scent of vanilla pervades the hallway, and the attention of the visitor is captured by the nostalgic beauty of some antique Italian motorcycles decorating the room. What seems like the entrance to an exclusive spa or a fancy hang-out for motorcycle enthusiasts actually leads to a showroom for water taps and showerheads. But if you associate water taps and shower heads with the appropriate aisle in the hardware store, you need to think again.

Reflecting on the morality of objects Both Gessi’s and Henkel’s company philosophies emphasise the importance of beauty. Since its foundation in 1876, Henkel’s mission statement has remained “to produce products to make life easier, better and more beautiful”. Beauty, not just the beauty of products, also plays an extremely important role in the Gessi philosophy, which sometimes reads like an artistic manifesto and dazzles with sentences like these: “The core value of the business system is beauty. Beauty does not refer exclusively to the aesthetic value of the product since it’s a dimension that pervades every aspect of the business.”

The average DIY store customer will probably be astonished to learn that a manufacturer of water taps believes that “the true added value of a brand is its poetry content and its respect for the world”. Therefore, the manufacturer has embarked on a mission to create artistic consumer goods, goods that are meant to “induce a reflection on the morality of objects”.

Manufacturing beauty
Gessi, however, doesn’t only talk the talk; at the plant in Serravalle Sesia, it walks the walk: “We don’t want to compete with low price manufacturers in China. We deliver the highest quality, both in design and functionality and it’s working very well for us,” explains Andrea Renna, the Quality Assurance Director. This is no exaggeration: the company’s turnover grew by a stunning 23 % in 2007.

Gessi’s coloured light taps are a good example of this dedication to beauty and functionality. The Rettangolo Color tap lines feature the trademark minimalist elegance, relying on geometrical shapes: in this case an open rectangle. When water passes through, a temperature-sensitive LED lights up in different colours – blue, purple, or red – according to the water temperature.

Loctite has been a partner to Gessi from the very beginning, and Loctite threadlockers play an important role in the manufacturing process of a large number of Gessi products. “We use Loctite products for every screw that needs to be secured and watertight,” explains Andrea Renna. Be it the extraordinary square showerheads or the huge water taps for industrial kitchens, Loctite always plays a vital part in ensuring the durability of the fittings.

Elegant production
The plant in Serravalle Sesia, which is just across the road from the showroom, is another reflection of the company’s emphasis on beauty and design. The production facility resembles a giant lab styled in the company colours – orange and black. Every worker wears a shirt or a sweater with the company logo. The preferred means of transportation within the plant are bicycles. These are, of course, black and orange and bear the company name as well as the name of the user or the department.

Even though Gessi sells its products to business and private customers all over the world, the entire production process takes place in the Serravalle Sesia plant. Producing in a high-wage region like northern Italy is not seen as liability, but as an integral part of a company philosophy which emphasises quality and a high standard of human relationships.

Modern times haven’t stopped at Gessi’s doorstep, however. The factory, which is clean and orderly to the point of sterility, belying all stereotypical perception of Italian chaos and laissez faire, employs robots and other advanced production technology wherever possible. The yellow robots in their metal cages with their graceless, yet effective, movements feature prominently, especially at the beginning of the assembly line.

“We automate where we can,” says Renna. “But due to the sophistication of our products, a lot of work has to be done by hand and this will continue to be the case”. While showing us through the plant, Renna points to red Loctite bottles that can be seen on top of many of the work benches inside the facility. Gessi handles, soap dispensers or mirrors all rely on the performance of Loctite 638.

Creative solutions
However, the collaboration between Henkel and Gessi transcends the usual supplier- customer relationship. As companies whose success depends heavily on a continuous process of innovation and the ability to respond quickly to global market demands, Gessi and Henkel have entered a relationship that can be best described as a form of partnership. Quality Assurance Director Renna recalls the case of a soap dispenser that Gessi sold to Russia. “Because of the temperature differences, the regular glue we used gave out and broke the glass. We were able to solve the issue by making use of the flexibility built into certain Loctite products,” says Renna.

“If there is a challenge where can assist, we can take care of it immediately,” says Massimigliano Moneta, Loctite’s Technical Sales Consultant responsible for Gessi. Loctite maintains a laboratory in Milan and the response comes within a matter of days. “Up to now, we have always been able to find a solution, normally by pointing out an alternative use for one of the products from our range,” says Moneta. Even if that shouldn’t be the case at some point in the future, there is always the European Technology Centre in Dublin ready to take on the task of finding a creative adhesive for a creative customer.

Henkel AG & Co. KGaA