In June 2006 I enjoyed the opportunity to tour the Aurora pen factory located in Torino, Italy.
Left: Aurora factory in Torino, Italy
Aurora is one of the leading Italian manufactures of pens. Founded in Torino in 1919, just after the end of the World War I, the name Aurora, the dawn, was chosen to represent the beginning of new things.
Since that time the company has lived to that expectation, never forgetting its roots and the passion of the its history and country.
From my own involvement in management, I know how companies strive to instill a vision and create a culture that supports its goals. Attaining a company culture is elusive. From my tour of the factory and the opportunity to speak to employees and members of their leadership team, Aurora is well on the way to achieving that target.
Above/left: Cesare Verona, Managing Director
Cesare Verona, Managing Director, clearly has his sights on continual sales growth, expanding into markets outside Italy and increasing the blend of limited edition and high end pens as part of their line of writing instruments. In 1993 Cesare joined the family business bringing his experience from working for companies in France, England and the United States. I mention his back ground as his enthusiasm for his company is very evident.
Other members of the leadership team such as Arianna Carta, Area Manager, talked about her eagerness to broaden the distribution of their line of pens, leather accessories and paper products. She is committed to increasing market share by building relationships with distributors to make the Aurora products available in more markets.
Aurora is meeting its plans as looking back, sales were primarily in Italy with now almost 50% of the sales of Aurora products are in markets outside of Italy.
Sofia Castoldi, Marketing Representative, was most gracious in walking with me throughout the factory and explaining the details of the various design, testing and production. I think she succinctly summed up what it means to work at Aurora. Having the joined the company after working in other industries, she explained the difference about Aurora. Here, it is about making objects of art and beauty, based on good design and instilled with the passion of Italy.
In 1919, Aurora was originally located in the central area of Torino. In 1954 Aurora moved to a factory located outside of the central area of Torino and then in 1970 expanded the size of its site to meet the growing production needs.
Our tour commenced in the design department. This is where it starts, a good two years before production of a new line of pens results. Designers monitor products of major pen companies, research and inspired by the history of Italy to arrive at concepts for new lines of pens. Aurora uses both in house and external designers.
Pens are designed with taste and using technical innovation. For example, the Leonardo da Vinci limited edition pen has a clip that is designed to mirror the mechanics of a bird's wings.
Concept sketches and then comprehensive drawings are completed outlining the detailed specifications of each part of a pen. All this takes place well before the work of programming the equipment to run the necessary production steps required to make a pen takes place.
Aurora makes all the parts for their pens, and in viewing the various production stages, the number of individual parts that make up each pen is becomes apparent. Each part is manufactured, shaped and finished using machines and considerable hand work.
Left: View of part of the manufacturing equipment
Aurora manufactures its own nibs, both steel and gold. Their inks are produced by an independent company. The ink products undergo extensive testing at the factory to ensure they meet Aurora’s high standards.
Right: Pen parts are buffed and checked for appropriate fit and finishing.
The high standards are evident by the continual quality inspections carried out by employees. With years of service and attained skills the detailed work required on individual pen parts are all completed and checked.
For example, I met employees who were testing individual pen parts such as the clips to determine the number of times a clip can be expanded and closed before wear becomes a factor.
Left: A considerable amount of handwork goes into the making of the pens.
In another area, pens were being tested to determine the pressure to which the pen can withstand before ink would be expelled from a pen in air travel.
Machines rolled out what seemed to be endless paper to test the quality of continuous writing with of the inks to ensure a smooth and consistent line.
The factory has all the current equipment involved in the various production steps. Equipment can be programmed to accommodate the individual characteristics of various pen parts.
In the show room I was able to view the many lines of Aurora pens. Some of which I saw in the various stages of production.
There is indeed a pen to match the full range of users. From relatively inexpensive pens used by students, high-end lines such as the Eighty-Eight or the Optima and and increasing line of limited edition pens.
Left/Above: Aurora show room highlights the extensive line of pen products.
The Eighty-Eight, was designed in 1947 and truly represents the classic fountain pen. It is still in production today with more than a million pieces having been produced.
The HASTIL pen, holds a special place in the hearts of those at Aurora as its was the first writing instrument to be displayed at the New York Museum of Modern Art.
Aurora has a line of writing products as as note books, note pads, boxed stationary and address books. A joint venture between Aurora and the most prestigious paper-mills results in a line of paper products.
In addition to pens and paper products, Aurora has an extensive line of leather goods. Some of the items that caught my eye include the pen pouch -- one model holds up to six pens, other models would hold three, two or a single pen.
I must admit I had a hard time taking my eye of the large sottomano, the desk pad, that was on the large wooden desk in the office where we held our meeting.
Right: Eleonora, Sofia Castoldi and Glenn Marcus in the Aurora showroom.
At the end of the tour I had the opportunity test out the Optima pen with the various nib styles available. Now. here is a pen for me – a large pen with a flexible large gold nib.
Sofia brought out the pens in a large special presentation box. The box hold fifteen pens. Each with one of the 15 nib styles available.
I was impressed to see this very box in some of the pens stores I visited later on my travels in Italy.
Aurora manufactures pen nibs in sizes from extra fine to broad, oblique right nibs and oblique nibs cut and designed for left-hand writers.
I was impressed with the quality of the Optima nib, and I was able to write quite comfortable with all the various nib styles. For a writer that typically uses broad nibs, this says a lot about the smoothness of the full line of nib styles.
It was an interesting time seeing the stages of design and production. The employees worked with care and attention and you could feel the pride they hold in the products they produce.
As I placed the last of the Optima pens down on the desk pad, ad reflected back on my visit, I can say that I did feel the passion of Italy. Bravo Aurora!
Aurora is pleased to provide tours to groups of 20-30 persons. Please contact: Sophia Castoldi.