Since the ’70s, Cartes has been an expression of technological vitality, in a sceptical and conservative sector. Today, the manufacturer is focusing on automation and digital finishing.
Like many Italian manufacturing companies, Cartes has a history linked hand in glove to the industrial district where it was born and to the contribution it brought to the supply chain for the creation of a specialized product — as well as, of course, to the personal history of a brilliant entrepreneur and his family. Cartes’ story, however, is one with a rather special flavour. So, to discover it and tell you about it, we travelled to the province of Mantua, where Lombardy borders Emilia-Romagna and the Mincio River dives into the Po. The Italian manufacturer moved its headquarters here in 1990, and, from there, its business took off — to the point that the company later opened a subsidiary in France. But Cartes has always chosen to remain anchored in its home territory, as well as to the values and people that have made it mature and respected in Italy, Europe and the most advanced global markets.
Mario Lodi, founder of the company and, still today, the charismatic guide of his close-knit team, greeted us. With him were the sparkling Enrica Lodi (his daughter, who is passionate about technology and serves as the company’s Sales & Marketing Manager), Stefano Lodi (his grandson, and coordinator of research and development), Ivan Spina (business developer for the Italian market), Virgilio Micale (head of the U.S. market) and Luca Goldoni (head of the European and Asian markets).
A small collection of old spinning looms, printing presses and type cases welcomed us to the building that houses the Cartes demo centre. It’s something unexpected that, however, helped us to better understand the company. “Ours has been a family of printers since 1936. Cartes was founded as a printing company, in the knitwear district of Carpi, a few kilometres from here,” says Mario Lodi. “When, in the 1970s, the labelling of garments became compulsory, our printing volumes exploded. Thanks to our expertise, we started producing impact printers, which indelibly imprinted texts on labels, using a matrix and an inked ribbon.” Knitwear labelling has quickly become a thriving business, which has led Cartes to exhibit its innovative machinery at trade fairs and sell it successfully to knitwear manufacturers, first in Italy and France, then in the rest of Europe and around the world. The quality leap in the company’s industrial history took place, as mentioned, in 1990, when Cartes moved to its current headquarters in Moglia. Here the spaces are finally adapted to the company’s growth objectives. In the wake of the self-adhesive label’s rapid growth, Mario Lodi invested in machinery, production capacity and research and development. Small impact printers were soon joined by new narrow-web presses for printing and converting, mechanics gave way to electronics and the company began a campaign to recruit engineers and technicians capable of supporting innovation. These efforts were so successful that, already in 1999, Cartes presented its laser-based digital die-cutting technology for self-adhesive labels. “We were the first to introduce laser technology to the label industry. It was a technology successfully used in surgery, but never used to make cuts and half-cuts with millesimal precision,” says Enrica Lodi. “Thanks to a close collaboration with the laser source manufacturer, we have made the process more accurate and faster.”