Fortunato Vianello, the king of shatterproof glass: “We also beat hurricanes”

RONCADE (TV) – Fortunato Vianello as a child he wanted to be a baseball champion. The dream was born when with friends, in the post-war Roncade, he had found, well hidden for years and almost walled up in a corner of the Rocca, the equipment for a baseball team. In the hectic and happy days of May 1945, when the war was over, the soldiers of General Clark’s Fifth Army passed the time even by playing baseball in the gardens in front of the castle, watched by the thirty white statues of the Schiavoni. “For us, seeing that first ball and those first gloves was like seeing gold,” says Fortunato. At the dawn of the 1950s the children of Roncade they were on the lawn, in their white uniforms, beating with improvised clubs and homemade hats; the ball sometimes ended up in the Musestre and got lost floating up to the Sile.
Fortunato Vianello, who is now 76 years old, played baseball in Ponte di Piave, then in the Red Devil and again in Baseball Treviso, in what was then the Serie C. He was among the pioneers of a sport that hardly existed in these parts. He continued out of passion until the Eighties, then he stopped: The job didn’t give me more time. Lucky his off-screen he scored successfully in 1976 when he founded the glass processing company Forel which today has 250 employees only in Italy and exports 95% of production to seventy countries. Turnover this year exceeded 55 million euros. The Roncade factory produces glass processing machinery, boasts patents that make processing easier and safer. Its main use is in thermal and acoustic insulation, in shatterproofing and, for certain areas of the USA, in protection from the fury of hurricanes. The skill consists in putting together more glasses and obtaining a higher insulation.

How did baseball get to glass?
“Ours was a family that had to work to make a living. Mother housewife, father mechanical worker, my brother Elio and I soon began to learn the trade in the workshop. I had found a job in a company in Roncade that produced for the Ministry of Defense and in particular for the Navy, so I became a sailor and I embarked in Augusta. During my military service several times I thought about what I would do next: it all started with a light bulb that went on, the glass always pleases me. Behind this discourse of glass there is also the fact that for a period I worked at the Osram, a famous light bulb factory, and the light bulb really turned on. I was fascinated: how does glass become a light bulb, a glass tube, heats it, encloses it. I’m going to see how this world works and I got involved ».

And what was the winning intuition?
«The first thing you noticed was that the glass processing was horizontal and required huge spaces. Why not reduce the spaces? So I placed the system vertically and patented the way: the first result was that less space was immediately needed, that it was possible to move in smaller production areas. Afterwards we took care to develop machines that stood out for the quality of the product, the efficiency, the respect of working times. The factory is called Forel after my and my brother’s initials: Fortunato and Elio. We started with few cards and a lot of courage. The first factory was a large room of 150 square meters in via San Rocco in Roncade, then we moved to Olmo di Treviso, in 800 square meters and it seemed like a gigantic space. We bought an industrial warehouse in the agricultural area here in Roncade and we were almost two thousand square meters. Over time we bought more land and in 2007 we inaugurated the Roncade office with the support of a covered area also in Meolo. Today we have a factory of 15 thousand square meters and soon we will reach 22 thousand ».

His wife Nadia Davanzo remembers the first bill
«The first bill of exchange of 1976 was for 100 thousand lire, it was used to buy the first lathe. I worked elsewhere as an accountant and followed his accounts when I got home. ‘

The difficulties were not immediately lacking
“Our invention immediately disturbed major Austrian and German competitors. We had great difficulties in defending ourselves from counterfeiting, Italy is one of the least equipped countries for industrial defense. Our work annoyed the competition that waged war on us in a thousand ways, from trade fairs to threats to seize the machines exhibited in international exhibitions. We had to defend ourselves in the various courts, certain cases went on for 14 years, but we won them all. Our patents, we have about sixty, are all duly registered. The first patent is dated September 24, 1980, filed with the Provincial Industry and Commerce Office of Treviso, and concerns a laminating and pressing machine for cavity plates. We Italians are second to none when it comes to inventiveness and courage and this is the secret of our success, as well as a close-knit and talented team that stood by us in difficult moments. The first year at the Milan Glass Fair we went with a minibus where all the workers traveled. Faced with yet another provocation by the competition, the workers took off their coat and went to the machines to make them work. The glass is born in large plates in Marghera in the ovens, it is a ribbon of glass that is cut to six meters in length, today even at 12 meters. We need suitable machines to work on these measures and guarantee thicknesses and shatterproofing ».

How is the glass market today?
“A little patchy. The US imports glass and machines from Europe, China produces glass in quantity, it is competitive on machines but the quality is still ours. Today we no longer speak of single glass, but of specific glass that does not let in heat, pollution, that is shatterproof, that has the necessary thicknesses. You must always have the right idea, the right car. You need to have good technicians to get cars to walk in other countries and teach how it works. There is difficulty in finding staff, we need people who know about computers but who also have imagination in building. At this moment there is no raw material, there are no workers, the markets are suffering for known reasons. While waiting for the school, we will train the staff, we need people who can assemble the machines in the various countries, who speak languages ​​».

Have you already thought about the generational change?
“All done in time, it’s as if I had thought about the will. I have two children, Riccardo who works in the company and took over the reins, and Rossella who has chosen other activities. An external consultancy agency followed us along the path, Riccardo had all the credentials to take over, including a degree in industrial design ».

Do you finally have some time left for the holidays?
«Vacation means something you like, it had depended on me and my wife airports, trains, ships and the rest could have closed. My passion is doing the things I have built. I also have a small farm, I make wine, oil, garden products. My holidays are in this company in Roncade, I bottle a white Manzoni and a sparkling Raboso, I give everything to friends and customers ».

And what is left of the old basketball player?
“The first ball and the last hat.”



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