Solema’s Seniors: a life dedicated to the company and the rise of Under-25s.


Solema’s Seniors: a life dedicated to the company and the rise of Unde

Back with the Seniors. A group of Solema employees that have not only seen the company grow but also helped newcomers emerge, encouraging their process of training and integration, day after day.

Today we meet: Mario Pesenti, Head of Electrical Research, Development and Production and Chantal Rota, Sales Back Office and Travel/Events Manager.

Chantal Rota, efficient organizing between Sales Office and Travel Management.

Chantal Rota has worked at Solema since 2006. In the early years, her work was split between back-office work for the sales department and coordinating the latter with the administrative department. As the years passed, she also took on the role of Travel and Events Manager, a role that isn't always talked about, but which is of pivotal importance.

Whenever there’s a critical transfer or important event to organise at Solema, you can be sure it will end up in the precious hands of Chantal

And do not mention DRUPA! She even dreams about it…

Chantal, tell us about your studies, when you first started with Solema and your early responsibilities.

“After receiving my high-school diploma in accountancy, specialising in business and tourism, I was looking for a part-time job that would allow me to continue studying. I knew that Solema was looking for someone to look after their back office to support the sales department. I applied and I was hired on a part-time basis. It was 2006 and my job was to manage new clients and their orders. Then, over time I started preparing order confirmations and drafting production orders, and then, when I was employed full-time, in 2010, I started coordinating relations between the sales and administrative departments. But my very first, real responsibility dates back to 2008, when I was put in charge of managing and organising Solema’s participation in DRUPA, the most important international trade fair for the printing and bookbinding industry.”

Your experience with DRUPA is what led you to become Solema’s “Travel and Events Manager”. Can you tell us about that? Is it a job that you enjoy?

“It was very much a natural transition. My managers were very satisfied with how I had organised my first DRUPA, so they made me responsible for managing domestic and international travel for all Solema employees, especially the sales team and off-site workers. This means organising not only the technical call-outs themselves but also the logistics: hire cars, flights, hotels, insurance etc... Then I started organising the Corporate Sales Meetings and other internal and external events, including Solema’s 40th anniversary two years ago, for which I identified the possible locations, organised the catering services and managed the arrival of guests. Do I like it? It’s definitely a job that I enjoy and am passionate about. Whenever I organise travel for my colleagues, I do so as if I were the one travelling. And I can also capitalise on my tourism and language studies. Oh, I forgot, in all this, I still look after the back office and coordinate the sales and administrative departments.”

Tell us an interesting fact about your job as a Travel Manager. For example, how do you choose the hotels and flights?

“When I’m looking for hotels, before I book, I always check the reviews on Trip Advisor and Booking. The final choice largely depends on the hotel’s proximity to the airport or exhibition centre in the case of trade fairs, and whether or not it has a restaurant. These might seem like trivial things, but in the end, they are what determine the comfort or otherwise of a trip, especially business trips. To search for flights, I use Skyscanner, a flight search engine which, I think, is the best one for matching up times, stopovers, connections etc... My aim is essentially to make sure my colleagues experience as little discomfort and stress as possible when travelling, and above all, to make sure they return to their families safe and sound! Because family is important!”

And how do you cope with the increasing number of strikes?

“Ah… that’s a sore point! Strikes sometimes force me to spend a few extra hours in the office re-arranging things and solving the problem... although, truth be told, my colleagues are used to this kind of thing now. They normally help out by going directly to the airline desk themselves to ask about changing flights. In case of strikes – which are now a regular occurrence – being able to efficiently and quickly search for alternatives is really important, because as the saying goes, last in last served.”

Then the Covid 19 pandemic came along and further complicated travel arrangements. Is that right?

“The pandemic went on for a long time and was exasperating because we were all trying to understand something we knew little or nothing about, and we didn’t know how to send people out safely and in compliance with the rules. Managing travel during Covid was very difficult. From the summer of 2020 until the summer of 2022, I remember that only people who met certain requirements set by the government were allowed to travel for work. During that period, I spent half my time on the Farnesina Viaggiare Sicuri website (the Italian Foreign Ministry) to decipher all the restrictions which, to make things harder, would suddenly change from one day to the next. So, in addition to the routine organisation, I also had to schedule swab tests and factor in quarantine periods. Those returning on a Friday night had to be tested on the Saturday morning to be sure they could leave again on the Monday… so I had to properly calculate the time frames and coordinate everything into the already complicated scheduling of flight times and accommodation. A disaster!”

In your almost twenty years at Solema, is there a special moment that stands out in your memory?

“I will never forget the day they asked me to organise my first DRUPA in 2008. I couldn't get my head around the fact that we had to register a whole year and a half before the actual event. Then, over the years, I understood why. That year, we had booked a 300 m2 stand and I remember when I found out the cost of the exhibition space, I literally jumped out of my seat. I had no idea about the cost of participating in a trade fair… It was an incredible experience for me and one I also lost sleep over… But seeing as I knew it was an opportunity to show my worth, I gave it everything I had to make sure Solema was presented in its finest form at this important international showcase. Since then, every 4 years, I know it is my job to look after this very delicate task.”

And 2024 is the year of DRUPA, right?

“It is. We're actually in the process right now of defining the last few details for DRUPA 2024 – my fourth one – which will be held at the end of May and is set to be a very special edition, the first since the forced stop in 2020 due to the pandemic, and so the first since 2016. About that: when Covid came along in February 2020, I had already organised practically everything down to the last detail, but then a few months before, they told us the event had inevitably been cancelled...”

From 2008 to 2024: over the past 16 years, what changes have occurred in organising an event as important as DRUPA?

“In 2008, we still paid for everything by credit card. Not to mention how we still used the fax and phone line... now, everything is done via a portal on a platform specially created by DRUPA to organise all aspects of the event. Each operator has their own dedicated space and organises everything directly from their PC, from uploading the stand designs to purchasing flowers and hiring transformers or power generators. This has led to important savings in terms of time and money.”

Mario, the electrical panels expert: with him, our machine safety is in good hands!

Mario Pesenti, is Head of Electrical Research, Development and Production.

He has been at Solema since 2001 and is key to ensuring the electrical performance of Solema machines. He is also in charge of the safety of each machine produced and, since becoming RLS (H&S Representative) of Solema in 2014, is responsible for worker safety too.

And the fond memory of working side by side with his son

Mario, tell us a bit about yourself and how you ended up at Solema.

“I’m a registered electrical engineering technician. After my studies, I worked for several different companies in the area, then I met one of the founders of Solema, who suggested I come and work here, because at the time there was no one covering my role. It was 2001 and Solema was starting to produce larger and higher-performing machines, so they needed someone with electrical engineering experience and expertise. Then eventually, I became the department manager, which is my role to this day.”

What exactly is involved in your job and that of your department?

“My department designs the electromechanical part of the machines produced by Solema for each of its three divisions: Graphicart, Paperboard and Robotics. I personally look after the design and development of the electrical panels and system wiring diagrams to ensure perfect operation in mechanical terms, but also safety terms, because behind every machine lies a high-tech system of procedures and barriers preventing the worker from being exposed to accidents or injury. So, my job has to do not only with machine design and wiring, but also the risk assessment and safety of the machine itself. This is why, since 2014, I’ve also covered the role of RLS (H&S Representative) at Solema. RLS in Italian stands for Worker Health & Safety Representative and is the internal figure for health and safety issues affecting workers. This means I am responsible for checking and promoting compliance with workplace safety regulations, acting as an advocate for any requests by my colleagues to their employer. Essentially, any complaints pass by me. I’m a “safety unionist” of sorts recognised under the law. I represent the workers before the owners of the company and have the authority to report any risks, like a dangerous suspended load that nobody’s noticed, for example...”

Speaking of workplace safety, how do you keep up to date with the numerous EEC regulations?

“I regularly attend training courses on safety issues. Some by own accord from home, and others are organised for me directly by Solema. EEC regulations pop up like mushrooms and the countless different laws change from one day to the next, and often. This is also because each country has its own set of regulations and since we sell our products worldwide, I need to be up to date on them all. So, the US for example, has totally different procedures compared with Europe, and even the systems used to calculate safety are different. A European electrical panel won't necessarily comply with US standards. And if you consider that what’s really at stake is people’s safety, it’s worth keeping up to date.”

Is your department currently working on any project in particular?

“At the moment, we’re focusing on designing a series of humanoid robot arms for our division Robotics. Several have already been produced and sold, others are in the design stage. Robotics is a subject that fascinates me, and to really understand it well, I ask for help from my colleagues in the Software Department, working together to achieve a common goal linked to the high performance and safety of robots. Some of the courses I mentioned earlier are dedicated precisely to this new and rapidly expanding world.”

What is your department doing to improve Solema’s competitiveness in terms of eco-sustainability?

“We are committed to getting our machines to use as little energy as possible, making sure they have the best possible energy rating, all the while striving to continually improve their efficiency and speed by ensuring the highest possible performance of the motors. In recent years, further to new laws, we have discontinued production of the most energy-consuming machines, and this in itself is an important step towards sustainability. Also, with regard to noise levels, new laws have led to a set of rules preventing machines from exceeding a certain number of decibels. To this end, my department is responsible for ensuring the utmost insulation and soundproofing of machines to create as little discomfort as possible for operators.”

What is your fondest memory from your long-standing experience at Solema?

“The most emotional experience for me at Solema was when my managers agreed to let my son, Angelo, complete a short-term internship here at the company. Not everybody gets to work with their own son, shoulder to shoulder, like two normal colleagues. It didn’t seem real to me at first, I thought it was a joke, but there he was, in the very place where I had worked for so long. It was a beautiful, once-in-a-lifetime experience. And I thank Solema for giving us this opportunity, both myself and Angelo.”

So how did the internship go?

Very well I would say. Angelo studied the same thing I did, and the time he spent here with us helped him to grow and understand what it means to work at a professional company. Then, he found his own way and now he works somewhere else, but I will always remember those 60 days!”

Solema recently turned 40. You have worked with the company for over 20 years, can you reveal the secret to its success?

“Since my very first day at Solema, I was welcomed by a close-knit family and a work environment in which I instantly felt comfortable. And this is very important to me. At Solema, we all feel part of a group, and in 20 years, no one has ever been rude or disrespectful towards me. And that goes for everyone: from senior management down to the newest employee. You naturally hear someone yelling every now and then, but that’s normal. And then there are those who give it their all, and those who give a bit less, and that’s normal too. But I repeat: here, we work with peace of mind, and happy workers translate into better performance. And this is probably Solema’s secret. I like coming to work here, I do so gladly.”

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