CBIA BizCast: Lectra Invests in Connecticut
The clothes we wear, the cars we drive, the planes we fly in, and the furniture in our homes.
We may not often think about how these things are made.
But that’s not the case for Lenny Marano, Lectra president of Americas.
“We’re a strategic partner to those in the fashion, the furniture, and the automotive value streams,” Marano said.
“We provide software equipment, service support to factories that are using textile products.
“Being that involved in stuff people interact with every day is just really cool.”
Marano, a Waterbury native who now lives in Watertown, started at the company in 2014, when it was Gerber Technology.
Lectra, a Paris-based technology company, acquired Gerber in 2021.
“Since Lectra bought us, we know that we have a permanent home and we can make long term investments,” Marano said.
“And those long term investments are everything from investing in the product portfolio and research and development, a lot of which is done right here in Tolland Connecticut, but also bringing back manufacturing into Tolland.”
In April, Lectra officially reopened a manufacturing facility in Tolland. The move came after outsourcing manufacturing to Massachusetts in 2018.
“Lectra is an Industry 4.0 provider of technology solutions,” Marano said.
“When we were outsourcing manufacturing, we weren’t in a position to really practice what we preach.
“By taking the best practices in the Lean manufacturing, and the Industry 4.0-based plant that we had in Bordeaux and applying it here to Tolland, it allows us to control our production quality, our production efficiency, making sure that we’re getting the right configurations to customers.”
That quality control includes using technology dashboards throughout the facility to monitor metrics, track data, track efficiency, and track the product as it goes to the consumer.
Opening the Tolland facility also means a boost to the local economy.
“We have roughly 300 people that are in Tolland any given day,” Marano said. “They go to lunch at the restaurants, they shop at the stores around there, and a lot of them are very local to that area.”
To bring manufacturing back to Tolland, Lectra hired about 30 new people.
That included bringing back some people who had previously worked for the company.
Lectra also worked with recruiters associated with veterans groups, engaged with schools around the region, and tried to tap into the state’s strong R&D base.
“We had to be a little bit creative,” Marano said.
“We have to make sure that we’re out there trying to differentiate ourselves and letting people know how cool the stuff that we do actually is.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, businesses across all industries had to pivot to survive.
Gerber, and later Lectra, was no exception.
“People weren’t buying suits when COVID happened,” said Marano. “They were buying face masks, hospitals needed gowns.”
“One of the things I’m proud of in my career is that we very quickly pivoted to making sure our customers had everything they needed to convert their manufacturing, their design base, over to make personal protective equipment.
“That even included flying machines over from different parts of the country to give people the capacity that they needed.
“It just really showed what we could do when we were really focused on something.”
The pandemic even affected the 2021 merger of Lectra and Gerber.
“Nobody could travel,” Marano said. “So we did it all over Zoom and teams and we did it from our basements.”
Marano said the process taught him important lessons in leadership as he brought the teams from Lectra and Gerber together.
“When you’re integrating to competitive companies, you have to lead by example, check your ego at the door, and over communicate,” he said.
“You have to operate transparently, you have to communicate well on it, and that helps get everybody aligned.”
“The other thing I would say is don’t aim too low.
“As a leader, you have to be confident in the team that you built, and confident in what you can ultimately achieve.”
Looking to the Future
Marano said it’s also important to focus on key stakeholders, both within and outside the company.
“Making sure that you balance taking care of your customers, your employees and your shareholders,” he said.
“It’s important because when you take care of all three, they all end up helping out each other.”
As he looks to the future, Marano said R&D and new technology like AI will be key to Lectra’s success.
“Gerber was around for a long time and we got acquired by somebody that was much stronger in certain areas than we were, including in manufacturing, including in industry 4.0,” Marano said.
“Applying some of the best practices and the product portfolio that Lectra has, and the long term strategic investment strategy, you know, for our employees, for our customers, it’s going to be a long-term win.”
And Marano said that long-term win for Lectra, means a long-term win for Connecticut.
“Being a Connecticut native, having a strong family base, having a strong friendship base here, and growing up here and seeing all the success of other major technology companies, we want to make sure that we’re a good contributing partner to that,” he said.
The CBIA BizCast is made possible through the generous support of Google. Please rate, review, and subscribe to the BizCast wherever you get your podcasts—we appreciate your support! If you have a story to tell, contact Amanda Marlow.
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