Today was our busiest day yet in Italy in terms of company visits! The first of our three visits was to Grupo Sinergia, a “full service provider” that is more on the distribution end of the supply chain. This company works in e-commerce and does everything to help companies sell their products online by offering a variety of services in four main areas: e-store management, logistic interface, transport, and customer service. In the e-store management area, they have web developers who work on the logistic platform that allows customers to purchase online the products they seek while also managing ads to get the maximum amount of visits to the company’s web page. On the logistics end, they manage an organized warehouse that will ship the correct product to the correct customer. As this is their primary function as a company, they use an advanced tracking system to make sure this job is done well. In terms of transport, they follow each delivery step by step using the tracking system to make sure that each delivery is out within 24 hours. Lastly, they offer customer service available through telephone, chat, social media, and email to customers or companies that may be confused by any aspect of the packaging and distributing process.
I really enjoyed going to the actual warehouse of the business because I was able to see the engineering behind all of these processes. Engineering is all about optimization, and I could observe the employees providing a thorough analysis of each order to see what sort of packaging would be both effective and economical. The flow of operations in a quick and organized matter is something that will definitely be valuable to me when I graduate, and these are the methods that Grupo Sinergia has mastered. This is evident because they have not lost a client in 10 years.
I also really enjoyed the effort for sustainability at Gruppo Sinergia even though it is not always up to their business. There are two main types of packaging (paper and plastic) that a client can choose to wrap up their materials, and Gruppo Sinergia has to obey the wishes of the clients. Although they push for paper, they have some clients that want plastic and do not value the environment.
After this company visit, we took a nice stroll through the gorgeous, sunny Italian weather to go to another visit at Sartoria Cavour, a company that specializes in making high-quality men’s wear both industrially for other companies or made-to-measure for individual clients. The factory was very crowded on the inside, but I could see people hard at work and that there were distinct operations going on in each part of the facility. What sets this apart from many companies all over the world is that they really put an emphasis on the quality of the jackets and make sure that it lives up to its standard of being “Made in Italy.” We were able to see all of the different materials that can be chosen for a suit and how they are put together to create a jacket, and this is a process that is far more elaborate than I had envisioned. Just like many other companies we have been to, the Italians take so much pride in all of their fashionable creations, so they make sure they are of the highest quality. Throughout the tour, the owner kept saying that his latest suits will hit America next year, demonstrating the pride he takes in his work. In addition, they get their materials from local suppliers to further their “Made in Italy” priority. Although a jacket produced here can cost around 400 euros, the thought and work that goes into each one clearly makes it worth its price.
My favorite part of this tour was when our guide, who happened to be the owner of this company, demonstrated his expertise in the jackets he manufactures. He decided to point out everything wrong with the jacket one of our professors, Frank, was wearing. He pointed out things I never would have noticed, like the shoulders of the jacket being too big and the lapel being too low. However, when he gave him another to try on, these observations came into focus. Clearly, he knows how to make a coat that fits each client like a glove and highlights flattering features.
After my last pizza lunch in Italy, we ventured over to Mario Faroni Knitwear Factory, a company that makes the clothes for luxury brands, like Gucci and Louis Vuitton. I was very excited to see this company because we truly haven’t seen a company that makes actual clothes (not accessories or just the fabric) from start to finish. This was very surprising to me because before I came, I thought all company visits would be like this. There are multiple steps to the process, each happening in a different room. The first is the programming, where an employee will work with a designer to decide how the design will look and translate to technical terms for the computer.
One thing I noticed was that there were far more men than women at the computers, and the woman showing us around the factory attributed this to men’s superior expertise of the computer. This made me quite grateful to go to the University of Pittsburgh where women are valued just as highly as men are in STEM fields and computer expertise.
The next step in the process was the manufacturing of the fabric using machines. They have several machines that weave together yarns of various thicknesses, colors, and textures. Each of these machines is state of the art because they are updated and replaced with the latest technology each year. Mr. Faroni keeps investing in his company and getting the latest technology because it makes his business more valuable. After this, the fabric is ready to be sewn (or linked if it is knitwear), which is done in another area of the factory.
I really enjoyed this company tour because it showed all the stages of the manufacturing process. Each company before this has either been on the distribution end or has occupied a certain sector on the manufacturing end of the supply chain, so I liked seeing the process all the way through.
After taking Plus 3 Italy, I am not sure how I am going to be able to take lecture-style courses in America again. It’s very fun to have a walking tour through Milan take the place of a two-hour physics lecture. This was such an incredible and unique experience that taught me so many skills about both business and engineering. When I first decided to go, I was not sure if it would have much relevance to my major, but I am so happy that I was proved wrong. Sustainability is going to be a major facet of my career as an environmental engineer, and I did not expect to learn so much about this subject in the fashion industry. I even learned that I can use my degree to work as a life cycle assessment analyst and determine which materials would be good environmental choices to make clothes. In addition, I was able to learn business skills that I would not have been exposed to otherwise. I had no idea that supply chains even existed before this trip, and now I am starting to acquire the skills required to think like an entrepreneur. I am also so glad I was able to experience Italy with my 23 other classmates to whom I have grown very close. This was an opportunity that I will never forget and would 100% recommend to anyone in the future!