Lino Manfrotto was a photo journalist, based in Bassano del Grappa, Italy. He worked for Il Gazzettino and Il Giornale di Vicenza and also did industrial and advertising photography. By the late 1960s, he realized that his photo equipment was cumbersome, heavy and slow. There were many studio lights on the market, but Lino saw that they neglected the basic necessities. So, with the help of a colleague, Lino made his first product: a lightweight and a rugged lighting stand that extended high enough to be practical. Working out of the garage of his house, he built a few units for his photographer friends. Later, he decided to distribute them internationally. His first big order came from a Swiss distributor. The need to expand soon became clear.
In 1972, Lino Manfrotto met Gilberto Battocchio, who was working at a Bassano mechanical company. It was a pivotal moment. Gilberto, with his technical skills, was able to turn Lino’s ideas and designs into reality. The two made a great team. Within a few years, they built the company into a leading global business. In 1974, the first Manfrotto tripod was launched. Innovative, light and versatile, Manfrotto tripods and stands became very successful. Shortly after, Superboom, Autopole and Superclamp became important parts of every photo studio’s vocabulary. By 1986, Manfrotto had 6 facilities in Bassano del Grappa. They added factories in Feltre, 43 km to the north. Here, in the industrial zone of Villapaiera, they built 5 more manufacturing plants in the next 2 years. By now, Manfrotto was distributed in 140 countries.
About 400 skilled employees work in the 7 factories at Manfrotto’s Feltre Industrial Park. Enrico Grando, Manufacturing Director of the Imaging Group, presented the layout.
I asked how an artisanal company like Manfrotto, with only 400 employees building high quality products, could compete in the world arena. Paolo Pozzi, Marketing and Communication Director, explained that Feltre can indeed prevail in the face of Asian competition. This area of northern Italy has been a high-tech manufacturing center for years. The team at Manfrotto is highly skilled. Many have been with the company for a long time. The factories are highly automated. Quality control is stringent. And the process is lean. Lean manufacturing is a method of improving the “flow” or smoothness of the work, eliminating waste, and having the parts for assembly readily at hand. Some production lines work in 3 shifts, 24 hours a day, 5 or 6 days a week.