Calmonte

Technology that’s tailor-made for business

Calmonte, an Italian textile agency, are long-term users of Apple technology. They have progressed from Macs to iPhones to iPads, creating a mobile, dynamic and scalable enterprise.

“We need IT that’s really easy to use, so we can do our jobs without having to worry about how the tools work, without knowing about IT and without having an IT specialist in the company. Apple technology allows us to focus on our core business without having to become experts in IT.”

Massimo Calmonte, General and Sales Manager, Calmonte

Massimo Calmonte is General and Sales Manager for the textile division of Calmonte Srl, a family-run business based in Bassano del Grappa, Italy, that employs just 11 staff. Founded in 1970 by Massimo’s father Ezio, Calmonte act as sales agents for Italian manufacturers in home textiles and garments in the north-east of Italy, and for foreign manufacturers in textiles from India, Pakistan and Turkey, across the whole country.

Calmonte’s customers have traditionally been Italian companies, but in recent years, the company has expanded its activities into other European markets, with the aim of developing own-label opportunities for larger retailers while acting as pan-European agents for the Indian suppliers it works with. As the Italian economy flatlines, Calmonte are looking to emerging markets, particularly India and South Africa, for growth.

“Opportunities are everywhere,” says Massimo, “but we have to be ready and able to make the most of them.” It means Calmonte have to be increasingly responsive and flexible in their approach to work.

A focus on the user

Massimo — the youngest of the family to work in the business, which also employs his older brother Riccardo and brother-in-law Francesco in the company’s clothing division — has been the driving force behind introducing Apple technology to Calmonte, having bought his first Mac, an iBook, for personal use in 1999. “When Massimo brought his iBook into the business, it was a revelation,” says Ezio. “Within two hours, I was able to learn everything I needed to send emails, get in touch with our contacts in India — everything.”

Using Apple technology also enhances Calmonte’s image in the eyes of clients. “In our business, how we present ourselves to customers is very important, from our first presentation to the tools we use,” Massimo points out. “But you must have substance behind what you’re showing, and using well-designed products like those from Apple supports the image we need to present. On top of that, because Apple allows us to concentrate on the content and what we’re trying to do, rather than the technology, we can present more effectively to customers and be more professional and skilled for them.”

Another benefit of using Apple technology, Massimo says, is that it’s very easy to implement and manage, requiring no specialist IT expertise. “It’s important for us to be able to keep up with the latest technology, because IT gives us an advantage in our marketplace in terms of how we can support customers and the suppliers we represent,” Massimo points out, “but we’re too small to employ an IT specialist ourselves.”

“Apple’s solutions are very scalable, making it extremely easy to expand our infrastructure in a step-by-step fashion, without needing to completely change everything as we move into working in other countries and with more collaborators.”

Massimo Calmonte, General and Sales Manager, Calmonte

Employing a scalable solution

In fact, the company’s growing use of Apple technology demonstrates just how scalable Apple’s solutions are. Calmonte acquired their first company machine, an iBook, in 2004. Fast-forward six years and Calmonte had iMacs for four of their office-based staff and several variants of notebooks for their five sales agents. In addition, the company has acquired a number of iPhones, using the networking capabilities native to OS X to share data between all these different platforms. Today, some office iMacs remain, but most field work is done using one of the company’s six iPads.

“One of the advantages of using Apple technology is that there’s no issue with running different generations of technology, and we can access the same information from any device,” Massimo points out. “We spend more time outside the office, and outside the office, we don’t need to produce much content. The iPad is ideal for checking updated price lists, customer contacts or making video calls. And it’s very quick to turn on or off. We do still need the power of the MacBook, but around 90 per cent of the time they’re used like desktops.”

“The iPads are beautiful in a sales context because they’re very lightweight and small, making them convenient to carry,” Massimo says. “At the same time, they’re big enough to show pictures or price lists to customers, or use to browse web and email, or access Word and Excel documents. And unlike a notebook, which requires us to find a place to sit down to use it, an iPad allows us to seize the opportunity to demonstrate to clients no matter where we are.”

Calmonte use Time Machine to provide a wireless network for the office, alongside automatic backup of all their machines. “Backing up the machines that are permanently in the office wasn’t too difficult, but it was much harder to find the time to back up our notebooks regularly,” Massimo points out. “With Time Machine, backups are handled automatically and extremely efficiently, so we no longer have to worry about it.”

They also use a Mac mini with OS X Server for a bespoke application created by a local developer using MySQL and PHP (and are currently developing a new version for the iPad). The app manages all Calmonte’s interactions with their suppliers, allowing the staff to place orders and project-manage them to delivery from anywhere through a web browser. Overseas suppliers also use the system to obtain information on the more complex orders Calmonte places with them. “It’s crucial to have somewhere where all our suppliers and overseas offices can consult the latest information. It means fewer mistakes and faster communications,” Massimo points out.

The Mac mini with OS X Server provides excellent performance, and is extremely reliable and stable, as are all the Apple machines Calmonte uses. “The Mac mini with OS X Server has run continuously without the need for a reboot in the months since we installed it, while we’ve never had an issue with viruses in the eight years we’ve been using Apple technology,” he says.

“With Mac, we simply never have to worry about whether the hardware and software will work together, or about crashes, and that lets us concentrate on the content and the final results rather than the technology. We’ve also found battery life to be excellent compared with PCs.”

Massimo Calmonte, General and Sales Manager, Calmonte

Lower Total Cost of Ownership

While the big benefits for Calmonte are ease of use and ease of management, Massimo says Apple technology makes sense from a financial perspective too. “The overall total cost of ownership is lower, because the hardware has a much longer life and you don’t lose time dealing with technology issues like you do with Windows,” he points out. “My MacBook Air from 2008, though perhaps an archaeological relic in technology terms, is still going strong. I haven’t needed to spend €1 on it since I bought it.”

“If this is important for personal use, it is fundamental for business. My work time is more costly than a Sunday afternoon software update. In the five years we’ve had Apple in the office, I’d guess we’ve only lost a few hours of time. Each morning you turn it on; each evening you switch it off. You forget about IT issues.

“And you can keep up to date with the latest software releases — whether operating systems or applications — without being forced to upgrade your hardware.”

Calmonte have acquired a mix of iPhones over the years for their mobile communications. “The iPhones give us email in our pocket, which enables us to save a lot of time, because we can check email and deal with it whenever we have a few spare minutes, even though we’re out of the office so much,” Massimo says. “On top of that, the iPhones have very capable cameras that allow us to take and easily share shots of products of sufficient quality to provide to customers, without needing to take a separate camera.”

Calmonte run Microsoft Office for Mac on one machine to guarantee compatibility when exchanging documents with suppliers, but handle most other activities using applications that come as standard within OS X. For example, Calmonte use iPhoto to store, index and share product photos, Mail for email, and Messages for video chats to keep in touch with the manager of their office in Mumbai. In terms of apps, Massimo says Evernote, Good Reader, File Browser and Things, by Cultured Code, are now integral to the business.

The team have no doubt that Apple technology has played a key role in Calmonte’s growth in recent years, giving them the tools they need to work more effectively without burdening them with the need to employ or hire IT experts.

“Apple gives small companies like us the same advantages and facilities as big companies, without having to become experts in IT.”

Massimo Calmonte, General and Sales Manager, Calmonte

“We can get the tools we need, while focusing on our core business, because Apple provides us with an IT infrastructure that’s really easy to use and manage. And Apple’s attention to the smallest of details has been an inspiration to us: Apple has helped us understand the importance of focusing on those small details and carrying that approach into our own work.”

Company Snapshot

Toolkit

Hardware:

  • Mac
  • iPad
  • iPhone

Software:

  • OS X Server
  • Microsoft Office for Mac
  • iPhoto
  • Mail
  • Messages
  • Time Machine