Company: MGG North America
Location: Charlotte, North Carolina
Title: CEO and President of MGG North America Inc.
What year did you start in the industry and how did you get started?
I started in 2021. I got in contact with MGG in May 2021. I previously worked in USA and Mexico with a large plant maker company that supplied equipment in the steel industry worldwide. MGG’s idea was to increase the presence in North America. Officially, I joined MGG in September 2021.
So you’re pretty new to the brush industry?
Yes and I consider it a very interesting industry with a lot of cultural and historical knowledge. It is nice to listen to the old stories. Like from one of our major customers, they have a plant in Maryland, I asked them why they chose the location. That area is very famous for blue crabs, so several decades ago, people in the area were used to going to the beach and working with their hands to pick up the blue crabs. So they developed the manual ability to work with small things and they converted from working with crabs to working with paint brushes.
What’s your favorite part so far of working in the brush industry?
It’s a pretty dynamic industry that’s looking to improve in terms of automation and robotics. From a technology perspective, it’s not stuck to what it was in the past. From my previous experience, steel is going towards green. And I see that the paintbrush industry is going towards automation and robotics while maintaining the same quality for the products.
Furthermore, American paintbrushes are challenging to be produced, in quality and shape more than the European quality requirements. As MGG Group. It is something we are committed to achieve, but it’s not as easy as achieving those qualities for Europe or other countries in the world. All of our customers will be testing their paintbrushes in Italy and Charlotte with their new machines and, together as partners, we will be fine tuning the equipment to cope with those strict standards.
So, to conclude, the American paintbrush industry being so conservative in the past, is nowadays shifting to improved technology through automation and robotics, to face the demanding market needs.
You mentioned the steel industry’s move to green steel. Do you see the move to produce sustainable products gaining momentum in the brush industry?
The green attitude is going to change for the brush industry. It’s not an emissions producing-industry. So I’m talking about paintbrushes, but specifically materials, so the handles, especially the bristles with plastic and the other components. This is probably what we are going to see for an emphasis in the future. I can anticipate that MGG, thru our research department, is studying some breaking thru technologies which goes towards sustainability and environmental green.
What are the key challenges you have faced over the past few years?
Personally speaking, our customers like to talk with the technical people and people who know the industry and the paintbrushes or rollers pretty well. So I’m new in the industry and I keep studying and learning about the industry and all of the technical information that as MGG we can provide to our customers. So, when I first started, my challenge was to be technically accurate in speaking with the customers. Obviously, when customers would speak with my senior partners in Italy, who are very knowledgeable in the paintbrush industry, the customer was very happy with that information. So, my goal was to make them comfortable so that when they would speak to me about technical issues, they would have somebody capable to explain or answer questions about the machines.
From the company perspective, MGG has been working in North America for approximately 20 years with mainly one major customer (probably the biggest one). So the first challenge that we had was to try to spread around our technology and worldwide legacy in the United States. The number of manufacturing facilities in North America decreased drastically in the last few decades so it has been easier to locate all of the current producers in the United States, visit them and create business opportunities. I can tell you that MGG is doing pretty well in creating strong partnerships.
The supply chain issues, especially related to China, are pushing most of the U.S. companies to shift their relationship to western countries, even better if they can have U.S. suppliers. MGG wants surely to be a major player in this scenario.
Do you see any permanent changes ahead for MGG and the brush industry in general?
American customers in general love to have American equipment. So how we can help them is by having MGG potentially producing or final assembling and testing the machines here in the United States. This is the added
value we want to give to our customer in the next two or three years. So rather than taking the flight to Italy to see the machine running — even though this is very nice because they enjoy Italian amenities — they can stay here in North America and avoid travel and extra costs.
Are there any new products or initiatives for MGG that you would like to share?
MGG started producing paintbrushes in 1989 and then in the last seven to 10 years they started to produce paint rollers as well. So we see that the paint roller segment is still booming. Right now we supply finishing lines for rollers, so we are not focused on the upstream, which means the creation of the roller itself. That is something we have been working on and we will be ready potentially next year for that kind of business. We also see a lot of excitement for mini rollers which is another industry where MGG is very keen and focused to do a good job in the next 12 to 16 months.
For paintbrushes, I can tell you that American customers should be excited because finally, they can produce angular paintbrushes inline. This is the core of the market and they can produce them automatically with high repeatability and quality. Right now, they produce the flat brushes, but when it is time to produce the angular paintbrushes, they produce them manually. Now they can finally have automatically in line a head-making machine plus a vulcanizing epoxy machine and an output of about 1,300 pc/h.
Recruiting skilled workers overall and also young workers has been stated as a concern in the industry. How do you think that is best addressed?
I know that it is pretty tough to find people in the United States. That’s one of the reasons why we moved to Charlotte. It is one of the best American cities to find good people and skilled operators. It’s an important city in the United States with a lot of industries. The school districts are very good, with averages for all ages above the standard in the U.S. And then nearby, like 100 miles from here is the university triangle, with Duke University and the University of Charlotte and other top universities. So we have already had the opportunity to see several young people and
we can tell you that their capabilities are well above the national average.
Also, MGG is very keen to offer young operators the ability to train in Italy for a couple of years, gain some international experience and then come back to the United States.
Do you have any key business/leadership tips out there for young people in the industry looking to ascend to a leadership role?
If you want to be a superstar in sports or work, you need to keep training. It is very rare to have genetically self-made superstars like Michael Jordan or Maradona. It’s very rare to be born as them. They were phenomenal one-of-a-kind players even without training. So if you want to be a leader, if you want to be successful, you need to keep constantly evolving, studying, working and spending time on training. It’s the only way because the world situation is very challenging right now. This is the advice that I am also going to give to Alessandro, my son, “you need to constantly evolve” which means find a way to train yourself and challenge yourself. The world is challenging you, so it’s better that you have anticipated this and challenge yourself first.
What do you like to do outside of work?
I like playing sports because I need to stay healthy and fit. Otherwise, yeah, you put on the weight living here in the United States. So, I love to play padel, which is a new sport that we have in Europe, which is like tennis with the glass all around. It’s like a mix between tennis and squash and you play two versus two. Unfortunately here in North America, it is not so common because they prefer pickleball. Also here in North Carolina, the climate and also the landscape is perfect for outside activities like running and biking. And, I am a soccer player, as an Italian. So I used to play at a decent level when I was younger. But then I followed the university path and so I didn’t have time to do both things.
What’s your favorite sport or team to follow?
I watch a lot of soccer and I’m very mad with that. I mean, I love it and my team is AC Milan. I try not to miss any football match when they play. This is my favorite, but I really love also American football. My favorite team is the Pittsburgh Steelers because I spent my first five years up in Pittsburgh and I love to follow them every Sunday.
What are some of your pop culture favorites?
I like the old glory days movies. Like any movies with all the songs of Ennio Morricone like Once Upon a Time in America. Probably Once Upon a Time in America is my favorite movie ever and also the Godfather series. Being Italian, knowing the history and Italian heritage in United States, all of those are the great movies that I enjoy.
Do you have any business travel tips?
Pick one rental car brand, pick one hotel brand and pick one airline brand and stay with that. So then you will have a lot of points and you will be upgraded. Everybody is traveling, so in all the places you go, everything is congested with long lines and the hotel is full, then the flights are packed and the prices for all the airlines are going up. The only way to have good treatment with low cost is to have a sort of membership with all of the major rental cars, hotels and airlines.
What is one thing about you that people might find surprising?
I am an aerospace engineer. However, from when I was 17 to around the age of 26, I worked as the chief activities coordinator in hotels and resorts. I used to plan and organize all the activities and entertainment. So I used to manage this team of 7/8 people in the hotels where I lived nearby Venice. So it sounds like a bit of a contradiction, I am an engineer but I am also very open to interact with people and this probably gives me the ability to be good at sales as well as managing people. Because in my opinion, the most important resource in a company is the people. This experience gave me the ability to understand and work with people to manage a team and interact with people of different ages from two years old all the way up to grandparents.
What have you learned in life or in the industry?
Not to rush when making judgments. When I was young, I had the bad habit of labeling people immediately … like this person is good at what they do or this one is not good. But, you need to have time to get to know people, because you can learn from all people and they can learn from you. It’s important to give a person some time to show their capabilities. Never judge a book from the cover!