From 1968 to today in 20 key moments
30 July 1968: the foresight of Giancarlo Vimercati, at the time thirty-one years old and employed by Archer Italia, convinces the French company, Pilot France to create an Italian subsidiary called Pilot Italia, of which he becomes the Sales Director.
In 1984, the ownership was taken over by the Vimercati family, who still run the company today. It went from being a subsidiary of a French multi-national company to a totally independent Italian company. Since then, the company has never stopped growing.
New machines, new products and new travel companions. Constant renewal. Inexorable and unstoppable. A cohesive working group that has made the brand strong. The ability to conquer new markets, the constant desire for innovation and for creating cutting-edge workspaces have allowed us to achieve important goals.
A timeline summarising 20 key events
The history of Pilot Italia begins on 30 July 1968 inside a building in Bellingera, Peschiera Borromeo a few kilometres from Milan. There are about 20 employees. Production is guaranteed by two Gallus Q33 printing presses for the production of labels on reels and by Argon screen printing machines for the production of single or sheet labels.
Just one year after its birth, Pilot Italia needs more space for its production. A new factory is opened in Via Milano, Lomagna, in the heart of Brianza which has always been one of the driving forces behind Italian SMEs. Giancarlo Vimercati is the company’s Sales Director, and 25 people work with him.
Despite the complex social and economic scenario and the oil and banking crisis of 1973-76, Pilot Italia increases its turnover. The country reacts and the real economy grows. Large-scale distribution takes its first steps, and the cosmetics industry plays an important role in the habits of Italians. To meet the demands of the domestic market, innovative printing machines are delivered from the French headquarters to support the demands of these new and important markets.
Production needs more cutting-edge machines: a word that sums up the philosophy of Pilot Italia, which has always focused on research in the industrial, creative and production fields. The company purchases Rotoflex, the first numerical control table imported into Italy. The printing quality increases and production speeds up. In addition to automatically checking and reducing waste, the system allows the operator to control the quality with the help of stroboscopic lamps: two brand-new developments in the sector.
The Formula 3 racing car is exhibited inside the Pilot Italia stand at the international Ipack Ima fair in Milan. The idea is a great success and attracts the interest of important multinational groups. Collaborations are established that still exist today. With new customers and the consolidation of those already present, on 30 October 1982, the company moves to new larger premises in Via Don Minzoni, Usmate Velate. In order not to slow down production, the move was made in just two days.
The Pilot logo continues to be present on the sides of the Formula 3 car. A decision is made to support another promising Milanese driver, Ivan Capelli. The two cars, driven by Spinelli and Capelli, set the record for number of victories in an Italian Championship, 9 out of 13 races. At the end of the season, Ivan Capelli becomes Italian Formula 3 Racing Champion for the Coloni Motorsport team.
To cope with the high-volume printing of products destined for large-scale distribution, a new and revolutionary machine is ordered: the Gallus Rb 250. It allows to increase production significantly. Meanwhile, another product destined to change the habits of Italians arrives on the market and is labelled by Pilot Italia: disposable handkerchiefs. Pilot Italia is one of the founding companies of GIPEA, the Italian Group of Adhesive Label Manufacturers.
Lack of space becomes a constant in these years given the growth in volumes and turnover. The explosive technical manager of the time, Omero Briscolini, tries to optimise the available spaces with originality and creativity, inventing unusual solutions and ideas. In the meantime, the number of employees has risen to 90 and the company has two factories where the work is divided. During this time, the production quality certification project according to the American FDI standards is launched.
Going against the trend of the market and competitors oriented towards flexographic processes, Pilot Italia chooses to invest in an offset press that combines different printing techniques, i.e. the Nilpeter. Once again at the forefront of technology, it offers customers the first platform press with combined offset, flexo and screen printing, as well as hot foiling. Meanwhile, Pilot obtains certification of its quality system (no. 497-ISO 9001), one of the first 500 companies in Italy to do so. A new versatile machine like the Nilpeter and the ISO-certified system attract the interest of major multinational cosmetic and personal hygiene companies. The company continues to grow. Andrea Vimercati, Giancarlo’s son, officially joins Pilot in July. The second generation of a family entrepreneurial history continues with him in the most natural and correct way.
To meet and exceed the demands of the cosmetic and personal hygiene market, as well as the huge demands of the food market, above all spirits, a major investment is made and the second Nilpeter press arrives. The pharma division was created in the same year, dedicated exclusively to the printing of pharmaceutical products, since Pilot Italia has been a trustee of IPZS (Istituto Poligrafico Zecca dello Stato) since 1988.
The company continues to grow. The “Big Machine”, a 43-metre-long Drent VSOP 520 with 8 electronically-controlled printing towers, marks another leap forward. The Usmate factory is too small. So, a second facility of 2,000 sqm is opened in Brugarolo di Merate. The arrival of the Drent press is celebrated with an inauguration event for all customers.
Attention to detail leads the company to a quality index of the printed product close to 100%. Meanwhile, 40 years have passed since 1968. On the communication front, the slogan is a winning play on words: Pilot Italia, FORTY like never before. In perfect contrast to the trend, despite the complexity of the market following the Lehman Brothers scandal that shook the world economy, the Vimercati family decides to purchase a plot of 20,000 square meters in Cornate d’Adda. The goal is to bring all the activities together in one area to simplify and streamline the production processes.
The company organisation system is adopted in 2009. It is based on the Japanese Kaizen method, where Kai means change, Zen represents goodness or virtue. The Kaizen process is still active today and is constantly evolving. It is also the year of the presidency of Pilot Italia in Finat, the association of European companies that aims to represent and protect the legal and tax interests of its members, and to create a worldwide network. In the meantime, another Drent VSOP press is installed in the new facility, in fact, a second “Big Machine” which guarantees continued production during the move.
It is the beginning of a new era for the entire industry with the arrival of digital printing. A digital-hybrid machine arrives at the company, and in Italy for the first time: the Gallus Label Fire with 13 colours and a resolution of 1200 DPI. Digital is making a debut in its most advanced technological form and expression
A photovoltaic system for the production of electricity is installed on the roof of the company’s premises. It consists of 1,694 panels capable of supplying 20% of the annual electricity requirements for the production department and offices. This means that the equivalent of 40 thousand tonnes of oil, or the amount needed to produce the same amount of electricity, is not released into the atmosphere.