We now understand why it’s possible to build our future by looking into the past. It happened axactly four years ago when Mario Speranza – the President of Celupaper SA – decided to scrap the firm’s old manual machines for producing toilet paper with one ply, due to an increase in the market share.
The simplest thing to do would have been to buy four or five new machines, train his staff and start production. An operation that wouldn’t have been entirely painless for the company: in addition to the economic investment, time for commissioning the machines and training specialised staff (both machine operators and maintenance workers), it could have gone on for too long and not being able to supply the needs of the market. At the risk of making the investment counter-productive.
Mario Speranza then thought he’d take a different path, an unusual one. Some years earlier, he’d purchased some used machinery (in particular an Alpha, Alphetta and Bravos) and thought about getting them working again, by applying the newer technologies that the electronics industry had developed in the meantime. Definitely a brilliant idea. To make this “dream” happen, rather than capital, he needed people: technicians who were not only able to get the machines functioning again, but who could also implement a project to make these machines flexible, and easy to use, even by inexperienced operators and who are designed for producing single-ply paper.
This unusual idea of Speranza’s – whose name [in English: “hope”] confirms the Latin saying “Nomenomen”, or “a name, a destiny” and ‘Speranza’ which says a lot – this suggests Typhoon (Typhoon, 1903) by Joseph Conrad, a seafaring novel in which the protagonist, Captain MacWhirr, an old sea-fox who has spent his life with sailing ships, finds himself facing a terrible typhoon off the coast of China, in command of a steamship that for him, is entirely new. To address the needs of a typhoon, he had to make a choice, take a decision immediately. The sea, as the market, is just not going to wait. And MacWhirr, without losing a moment, makes his choice. It is an unusual choice, “creative”: disregarding the navigation manuals that encourage sailing around “rotating” typhoons, he puts his ship at the heart of the typhoon, and it survives. Just like Mario Speranza, who also followed the unconventional route. Creativity is not enough. If a steamboat beats a storm it’s because it has a great team. Everyone on board serves their purpose and gives the most of themselves in work that is arranged to the millimetre: from Mr. Rout, who runs the engine room to the sailors furiously pumping the water back into the sea.