Remember the good old times of manufacturing? Where the quality of the product was more important than the time it took to complete it? Where the craftsman hammered the material as long as it takes to get the perfect shape - the polishing was done by hand to ensure it looks and feels just right to the person that has done this task for the last 20 years - just as his or her father or mother did?
No? Well – one can’t be blamed to not remember because the thought seems almost too ridicules these days. Seemingly unfit to survive in today’s “efficient consumer market” dominated by short-lasting disposable products that are used as such and then thrown away – doomed to be overlooked and to fail among the flood of products build as cheaply as possible stacked up to stand out with the biggest discount in the big box store using the flashiest sign possible.
Who cares about the “soul of the product” – how much heart, sweat and passion it took to make sure it was not considered finished unless it would for certain survive the use and abuse of generations. That it was made with timeless beauty so if used or simply looked at, it will tell you its story and lets you feel and experience its history and purpose.
Fortunately – some do. Some of us did not become dull and despite “looking at the big picture” did not loose the sight, imagination and curiosity it takes to appreciate the real value of a product. The real value of a product is not only determined by its price – which is a part of it but only that. The real value of a product resides in its soul. How was it made and did whoever made it knew what he or she was doing? Was it built with the craftsmanship, quality and beauty that will give it a place in the live of another generation? All this will have an impact about how and what I feel every time I use or look at it. This makes the real value of a product – a very personal value that might be different for different people.
Too philosophical or deep for a product? I don’t think so. I rather buy and use something that I can identify with, has meaning, makes me feel good and on top of it serves the same purpose then something that just does what it does. Am I willing to pay more for it if I can afford it? Of course I am! Even if the purchase price is higher, the value of something meaningful is much greater compared to something cheap that has no soul. Especially if you use it for years or even generations to come.
Fortunately there are still individuals and companies that have similar believes when it comes to the value of a product and how they should be created. Those don’t let the mass market dictate where the “sweet price spot” is. The one that will make as many consumers as possible stop thinking and start buying. Those don’t want people to stop thinking because they create their beautiful high quality products only for whoever values it as such.
One example for such a company is Navarini . The small family owned company that, located in the beautiful historic town of Trento just north of Lake Garda, does not believe in putting pressure on their craftsman if it comes to when a product or a process has to be finished or even require them to work within certain deadlines. You can’t rush perfection – everything takes time and it is finished when it is finished. And again, who better to determine when it is finished than the skilled craftsman breathing and living this level of perfection every single minute ever since he or she started in this profession many years ago? This is the type of environment where using some of the same tools already used by the founder Pierino Navarini is not ancient but simply smart. Because how else can you expect a product to have value if you take it’s soul away?
At the first glance one would think that a company such as Navarini would at one point be poised to become obsolete by the “efficient” mass-productions it is surrounded by. But looking at it more closely and giving it deeper thought and analysis, one might actually soon realize that they rather have an “unfair” advantage that enables them to not only survive but also dominated some very specific core areas of the market. The advantage is that they do something they have always done which is something most of the other companies will never be able to do = making thinks by hand.
Hand-Made products will always involve numerous manual processes where each of this individual steps is being executed by the most skilled craftsmen. Thankfully, skilled craftsman are just humans using their own hands to complete the process which almost guarantees that every single step will encounter minor differentiations finally creating a unique product every single time. No perfect “soulless” clones – no expected repetition.
And that is exactly what other companies simply cannot do and will fortunately never be able to compete with. They simply are not able to employ this type of skilled manual process ensuring the uniqueness and character of every single product. Trying to do what it takes to achieve or even come close to this level of craftsmenship would result in a cost structure that is neither sustainable nor justifiable given the large-scale production they need to be viable.
It’s a matter of choice for a company – you either make many of the same products as “cost-efficient” and cheap as possible and hope that they break or dissolve as fast as possible so people have to replace them - or you build your brand and product around your core values and make products as high quality, unique and long-lasting as possible so people will love to use them for generations.
Once the choice is made – it’s hard to change. And there lies the great advantage of the companies that choose the latter path.
Companies such as Navarini have also another advantage deeply embedded in the soul of their companies – the passion of it’s people. There is an elementary difference between a worker that comes to work to make money and a craftsman that comes to work to leave a legacy. A legacy found in every single product he or she creates.
Love, passion and excitement is contagious and will automatically transfer from one generation of workers to the next as soon as they work in the same environment for a certain amount of time. This, more then any school or training, will almost guarantee that the soul of the process and product will never be lost and naturally transferred to-, and continued by the next soon to be skilled worker and craftsman in the company.
It is a process that has the benefit of evolving over time without loosing its core believes and values.
Absolutely priceless for any company.
By AJ - Navarini USA April 2016