Isol Marine: a story of industrial craftsmanship

What are the origins of your company?

We started out as naval insulation engineers, with my father being the one who set up the business. At the beginning, in 2014, we were four employees. I did not start out as an entrepreneur, but as a labourer and I kept on being one even when I established my business. This allowed me to understand the work of my team. A team I built with quite a few difficulties. Indeed, as in any company, in the early days the firm wasn’t thriving. The first turning point was the purchase of an industrial building: we soon had more work and, obviously, the turnover increased as well. At the ‘best time’ to make an investment, i.e. in 2020, we decided to open a woodworking area, also thanks to support from Banca Ifis to buy the machinery. Six months later we started manufacturing naval furniture and taking care of its assembly on the vessel. It was a great moment for us and allowed us to get jobs for prestigious projects from leading Italian shipyards.
You need to be a bit foolhardy to be an entrepreneur. We invested everything we had, personal funds included. But we never gave up and this was our strength. We are aware we work in a sector that knows no crisis at the moment: last year we stopped working because we were required to, not because we didn’t have any more work. At the time I was a bit concerned, because we had just set up the woodworking area. This brief break, unlike other industrial sectors, brought far more work, to the point of having work planned for the next three years and being able to ensure a job for our 70 employees.

What does investing in innovation mean for you?

Focusing on something that helps you reduce the hours of work, increase the quality of products, design a project and/or new product, whilst bearing in mind the limits of our sector. Industrial and naval insulation is not a business where you can invent something new. What can grow within the remit of development is the constant search for innovative, high-performance materials, as well as cost programming and analysis. Insulation remains our core business, while that of outdoor teak covers and interiors will instead be the activities where Isol Marine will focus its spending, because this is where there will be a difference on the long term. Isol Marine owes its success to the ability to create specialist in-house labour, though also its business diversification thanks to a futuristic view of the sector.

What is your biggest satisfaction at work?

I think that the decisive factor is being able to guarantee a job for a sizeable number of people: we have 70 employees and 90% of them are on a full-time contract. Because in the end we are able to keep the business going thanks to them. We can make everything we have available, but if you don’t have a good team behind you, you won’t go far: our priority is to guarantee a job to all the people who have been with us for years and who we don’t want to change. It is also important to deliver quality work: today this is the first impression that opens new doors in a sector where, due to its peculiar nature, there aren’t many players. Ours is a form of industrial craftsmanship, because it is actual craftsmanship, made by hand, but for an industry worth millions of euros. It’s something odd too: all the boats are made for a final customer who, even taken individually, is more powerful than the whole shipyard. It is a very delicate balance: on the one hand we have the wealthiest customers in the world, on the other hand there is a shipyard that, while being industrialised, has an artisanal factor because we don’t build in series, as each boat is a unique product.

What makes working in this industry special?

The greatest satisfaction is seeing a boat that takes shape and delivering it, though it is a satisfaction shared by all the workers taking part in the project. The beauty of boats is that you appreciate value in technical details as well: that’s where you understand the quality of the job. Speaking about my business, one of the best things from an entrepreneurial and personal point of view is the production and organisational mix of Isol Marine, a company that requires hard work and a flexible mind. Indeed, it is mostly based on the production side, in terms of its employees, but its real ‘control room’ is management, making the difference between us and our competitors. While previously we were are group of craftspeople, now with 70 people and a 5m turnover, we have turned into a company, which means having an overall view, being able to organise and program, being able to analyse costs and revenue, being pragmatic as well as weighing and thinking about every action with a strategic view for our development. Without this, to put it metaphorically, you remain still in the harbour and we have a team to go out on the open sea.