Let’s continue our tour around the Ferplast offices and discover our company and the people who are continually looking for ways to help pet owners, whatever the size of the pet. Today we are at the heart of the firm, where ideas are born and take shape. We are in the R&D department, with its manager, Aldo Capozzo.
How long have you been working at Ferplast, Aldo?
I started in 2002, after some good experience in a completely different sector. Together with Nicola Vaccari, who is now general manager at Ferplast, I was taken on with a small team to set up a new department focusing on aquariums. We brought out our first aquarium line in 2004. It was hard work: researching, planning and producing. A huge effort – but it is very rewarding to see the trust that our clients have given us over the past ten years. It’s been a real success.
How are new ideas created at Ferplast?
There are a few different ways. A lot of them come from inside the company, we like to listen to what everyone thinks, so that the ideas may start with a production line worker, employees or from the owners. Both our CEO, Mr Carlo Vaccari, and his son Nicola, actually the General Manager, are always coming up with things; they’re behind a lot of the ideas. We have registered a lot of patents, because we are a company that has never stopped moving forward, every day is a new challenge, and we are constantly looking out for new products for our clients, or to improve the existing ones. We patent the products that have particularly advanced technology or design features to stop them being counterfeited. Ferplast is certainly a leader in its field, an international reference point, and it is not unusual to see the competition copying our products.
A lot of products are created because the sector is evolving and so there are new needs. For example, in 2013 we launched the Bau Bau Moda range because we had sensed that our customers felt the need for coats and raincoats for their dogs, which were not only warm and practical, but also stylish. Our results are a reward for catering to this need.
Other products come to us by doing a lot of ‘cool hunting’ and looking at other sectors. We go to a lot of trade shows, including ones with nothing to do with pets, so we can study new materials and design trends. That is how, for example, how our ERGOFLEX leads and collars and WITH-ME bags were created – the idea sprang from the fashion world.
Other ideas might come directly from inventors or designers.
Do you have any partnerships with young designers?
We have close links to the universities, and on several occasions we have sponsored several competitions at design schools. That is another place which produces good ideas, and sources of inspiration, including some fairly outlandish suggestions. But we are most definitely open to discovering new, creative talent.
How long does it take between a product being thought up, and seeing it on the shop shelves?
It depends on project complexity; it might take from one year to just a few weeks. We work on the new ideas between September and December; at the end of the year we present them to the sales force; between January and March we manufacture them; from May onwards the new products are presented at the main trade shows; and they are in the shops from September onwards.
How do you know if a product is going to work?
By doing a lot of studying and research, we have some absolutely infallible testers: our own pets! Many of us at Ferplast are pet owners. For quite a few years I tested the whole cat product range on my own furry bundle. But I am certainly not the only one. Put it this way, our pets are lucky and certainly can’t complain: they are always the first ones to try out our brand new new baskets, cushions, jumpers and leads.