The history of Zanardi Fonderie began in Legnago (Verona) in 1931 and the Minerbe production plant, where all the company’s activities now take place, was built in 1963 for the production of spheroidal cast iron.
Currently, the foundry has more than 200 employees and is run by the fourth generation of the Zanardi family, which, since the 1980s, has distinguished itself for its innovation and research in Austempered Ductile Iron (ADI).
Going back in Time: the birth of the Foundry with Giuseppe Zanardi
The pioneer of Zanardi Fonderie was the foundry master Giuseppe Zanardi who, from the first post-war period to 1931, trained a large number of technicians at the Cooperative Meccaniche Legnaghesi. Between 1931 and 1936 – with his eldest son Danilo, and later with his youngest children, Giovanni, Bruno and Giacomo – Giuseppe Zanardi opened a foundry of his own, first in a rented workshop and shortly after in a workshop that he purchased, employing 20 workers.
During the Second World War the foundry’s activities were suspended, but the post-war period brought new opportunities and, in 1951, the Zanardi family opened a new foundry of about seven thousand square metres in Legnago.
The 1960s and the construction of the production plant in Minerbe
The current Minerbe production plant, designed for the production of ductile cast iron, was founded in 1963, at the height of the economic boom and with the growing interest in this very competitive material.The economic commitment necessary for the courageous investment led to a lengthy economic crisis, which was not resolved until the end of 1994. In the continuous search for a favourable financial balance, the investments focused on the melting systems, on an innovative sand processing system and on the moulding lines.
The economic difficulties, aggravated by the crises of the early 1980s and 1990s, were overcome with passion and sacrifice, indeed strengthening social cohesion within the factory and cultivating mutual trust between workers, trade unions and entrepreneurs
From crisis to innovation with austempered ductile iron (ADI)
In 1972, Franco Zanardi – the eldest son of Danilo Zanardi – joined the company bringing his knowledge as a newly graduated mechanical engineer and ten years later his third son, Federico Zanardi, also a mechanical engineer, joined the company. In the three year period of 1981-1984 the two brothers began to take over the complete management of the company, taking up the operational assignments left by Danilo Zanardi, founder and leader of the business activities, and the brothers Bruno and Giovanni, careful managers of the production activities (Giacomo, unfortunately, perished prematurely in a road accident in 1953), who remained for a long time in management roles, exercising the valuable role of advisors.
In 1983 Franco and Federico became directors of the company, exercising, until recently, synergistic and complementary roles: Franco in the supervision of activities related to the market, to the control of production costs, to the design of products and processes; Federico in the supervision of production and investment activities, with special attention dedicated to issues regarding safety and the environment.The 1980s were very important for testing the technology of austempered ductile iron (ADI). For years, Zanardi Fonderie was the licensee of the Germanite patent by Dr. Horst Mühlberger and, with this technology, has managed to position itself on the market as a manufacturer of austempered ductile iron, which is machinable after heat treatment.
Zanardi Fonderie produced its first ADI cast iron in 1985 and, since 1987, had started to invest regularly in research projects, financed with Italian national funds dedicated to this innovative material.
The construction of an “integrated” plant
Between 1995 and 2008, the company was led by the board of directors with Franco as president, Federico as vice president and employer and Brunetta Zanardi, Bruno’s daughter, as an advisor. In recent years, the company has invested about 55 Million euros in the Minerbe plant to make it suitable to independently producing custom-made austempered cast iron casting, and to creating a complete know-how on all the necessary processes.
Until the end of the 1990s, the investment campaign had been concentrated on the installation of the Savelli Forminpress 900X710X (350+250) forming line; on the in-line manual finishing department, on the internal core-shop and the new deburring department. Since 2000, the investments have affected the austempering heat treatment department and the mechanical processing workshop has been renewed with the introduction of new fettling machines. In 2007 the core-shop was expanded and renovated and a new melting furnace was purchased.
From the 2008 crisis to the generational change in 2015
The global economic crisis, which began in September 2008, hit all sectors of mechanics hard, and it did not spare the Zanardi Fonderie, which experienced, in particular, a dramatic 2009 due to the collapse of orders. In 2009 the leadership of the company was entrusted to Federico Zanardi, who took over as chairman of the board of directors with Brunetta as an advisor, while Franco took over as honorary president. The role of vice president of the board was taken by Fabio Zanardi, Franco’s eldest son, a management engineer, who has been operating in the company since 2002 in the quality and commercial fields.
In the difficult economic context between 2009 and 2015, the company still managed to make investments for improving the safety and health of workers and protecting the environment. In particular, new filters and an automated system for the transport of the liquid cast iron were installed. 2015 was the year of the generational change and the new board of directors: Fabio Zanardi was elected as president, Federico ad vice president and employer, Brunetta advisor and Franco honorary president. In the same period, Tancredi (son of Federico, involved in the purchasing and supply chain area) and Riccardo (Franco’s third son, involved in the plants, maintenance and plant management area) joined the company.
ADI Days, internal renewal and the Zanardi Austempering brand: the company today
In October 2016 Zanardi Fonderie organized “ADI DAYS”, the first company workshop dedicated to Austempered Ductile Iron, which involved more than 80 people from 46 companies and 16 different nationalities. It was a successful event, which allowed us to share and examine in depth the technical and commercial aspects of ADI with an international audience.
In 2017, an important path of internal renewal led to investments in new machines for robotic fettling and mechanical processing, and in the new SAP S/4 HANA management system, launched on 1 January 2019. At the GIFA 2019 trade fair in Dusseldorf (June 2019), Zanardi Fonderie presented to the market the new Zanardi Austempering brand, created to offer contract Austempering service to all European foundries.
From 2015 to 2019, numerous collaborations have been initiated with mechanical processing subcontractors in order to provide a vast range of fully processed ADI.