Foresti & Suardi, a family affair

Foresti & Suardi turns 60 in 2021. Drawing on a long history and many positive values, the Predore-based firm has grown into a leading example of Italian manufacturing success

by Francesca Ciancio – photo by Andrea Muscatello

LUCIANO PAISSONI COMPARES HIMSELF TO GIAN PIERO GASPERINI, THE MANAGER OF HIS BELOVED FOOTBALL TEAM ATALANTA. Like the coach, the CEO of Foresti & Suardi has complete trust in his team with the experienced workers together with the youngest members. The successful Italian firm was founded in Predore, on the Bergamo side of Lake Iseo, in 1961, exactly 60 years ago. Luigi Foresti and Lino Suardi had a hunch that although the boating industry on the lake was developing quickly, it lacked a business that could mass-produce high-level components.

Foresti & Suardi
Luciano e Luca Paissoni

It was 1961 when Luigi Foresti and Lino Suardi had a hunch: the boating industry on the lake was developing quickly, but it lacked a business that could mass-produce high-level components. It all started with a range of bollards.

The two businessmen, who had started off creating brass buckles for belts, began with a range of bitts. Their moulds were handcrafted, but they had big ambitions. Foresti & Suardi quickly became known for top-quality products made from brass that was first melted at 950 °C, injected, refined, and processed before being polished and coated with various finishes. This highly sophisticated technique continues to illuminate the factory in Adro, near Brescia, where the company relocated in 2018 to expand its production, with a magical light. The brass is now cast continuously, creating bells, lights, lamps, barometers, and anything else you can imagine on a boat.

Foresti & Suardi

Lifting plates, oarlocks, fairleads, cleats, manholes, portholes, windshieldss and hatches. A boat is a complex system comprising an infinite number of tools and accessories with unusual names.

The room of moulds, some of which date back to the business’s early days, doubles as a historical archive for the company, as well as providing an exclusive source of knowledge. As Paissoni explains, brass founding – a beautiful process that creates items by turning liquid into solid – is rapidly becoming rare: «We could outsource and cut costs, but we prefer to invest in our workforce».

Highly specialised technicians and real metalworking “shipwrights” work together on the shores of Lake Iseo. Quality and experience.

The value of human capital comes up again and again; it is something Paissoni never stops highlighting. «We have a very low staff turnover; some of our workers have been here for over 30 years. At the same time, we are encouraging young people into the trade, drawing both from high schools, like the local Serafino Riva school and from the University of Brescia. Although they start with an internship, we aim to recruit them, partly because of the significant time we spend offering specialist training. The heart of the company is still 98% dedicated to boating, and young people can learn a trade they would never have thought of while they were studying. It is no coincidence that as part of our celebrations marking our first 60 years in business, we have launched some scholarships for students from high school, in collaboration with the town management of Predore. We wanted to send a signal to young people that we trust them». Paissoni knows this route well since he joined the company as a manual worker at a very young age before climbing up through the ranks to CEO. He admits that the hyper-specialization required by the computerized machines is not his forte, but he says he can still handle a manual lathe well. «The thing I love most about this job is the attention to detail. Our company was successful because we focused 50% on functionality and 50% on aesthetics. The designers we use must be au fait with the manufacturing processes too, otherwise, the designs they create are nothing more than utopian visions». This love for detail has also expanded beyond the boating world into new sectors like lighting, including in residential settings: the Tartaruga lamps at Porto Cervo Marina, for instance, gave Foresti & Suardi the chance to open the Lighting division.

The company from Predore is the first in the nautical sector to achieve 100% Made in Italy certification, meeting 95% of the requirements.

Over the years, the company has also specialized in materials such as stainless steel and aluminum, acquiring the company Alluminox, now the Alluminox division of Foresti and Suardi. Another important milestone was achieving 100% Made in Italy certification from the Institute for the Protection of Italian Manufacturers, an accolade reserved for businesses that meet precise requirements. The firm from Predore is the first from the boating industry to qualify, and its 95% compliance rate vastly exceeded the minimum threshold of 75%. «It was a long but necessary journey that stemmed from the response we received at foreign trade shows, where we realized the phrase ‘made in Italy’ made all the difference. We listen to everyone, and especially to our young people’s suggestions, to ensure the company keeps on improving».

Foresti & Suardi

The bestsellers include products in the Starlight range, and door and furniture handles are selling like hotcakes, but it is interior lighting that is the top performer.

Foresti & Suardi

Like other businesses, the pandemic briefly brought Foresti & Suardi’s production to a halt, but, as with many luxury goods, the market then rebounded stronger than ever. «The increase in sales in the nautical sector is mostly linked to safety, as people want to be able to travel in their own private environment, but I also think they have been inspired to invest in improving their quality of life and in seeking total relaxation. This also explains the boom in customization, a market segment that we are managing to serve very well».

The bestsellers include products in the Starlight range, and door and furniture handles are selling like hotcakes, but it is interior lighting that is the business’ top performer. The firm has received various awards in this field for its courtesy light designs, and it is seeking to increase its export value, which currently stands at around 50%.

Luciano Paissoni compares himself to Gian Piero Gasperini: like the Atalanta manager, the CEO of Foresti & Suardi has complete trust in his team, particularly in his willingness to listen to its youngest members.

This is therefore a very dynamic business with strong roots, and one which places great emphasis on family, both literally, Luciano’s wife, his sister in law and their children all work with him, and in a more general sense of the word, incorporating the almost seventy people who work at the company. A family affair by Lake Iseo.

(Foresti & Suardi, a family affair  – – December 2021)