The Saint Jean story, from the french aluminum casting to the international supplier…
Founded in 1962, the company was originally named Venet Garavoglia and had a staff of six people. The core business was producing aluminum cast parts for small cutting tools and parts for the textile and PTT industries.
In 1974 an economic crisis threatened the company’s business. That year Thomas Di Serio joined the company and quickly took charge of technical and commercial development. The business was diversified to include more high-tech cast parts, machining and the production of sub-assemblies.
1962 - The founding of the company
The company known as Frères Garavoglia was founded in 1962, specializing in casting small aluminum parts. The start-up capital totaled 130,000 francs and the staff was made up of six people.
1974 - Thomas Di Serio now at the helm
Thomas Di Serio started his tenure at the company during the crisis of the 1970s. He turned the business around before taking charge and changing the name to “Fonderie de Saint Jean”.
1982 - The birth of COBAPRESS™
Thomas Di Serio invented the COBAPRESS™ production process (from the French for “Pouring > Tilting > Pressing”) in 1982. At the time, the goal was to improve the mechanical properties of bicycle handlebars.
1993 - A decisive turn towards the automotive sector
A license for the COBAPRESS™ technology was granted to a French automaker, and after some promising tests of the suspension parts, the technology was approved.
1995 - Conquering America
Saint Jean Industries made an impression on the American automakers when the company attended the SAE trade show in Detroit for the first time. Some preliminary projects were launched as a result. Exports increased and later a license was granted to Superior Industries, the leading American manufacturer of rims for vehicles. This led to the creation of the Heber Springs location.
2002 - Emile Di Serio succeeded his father at SJI
The company was growing strong and the headquarters in St Jean d’Ardières was enjoying a steady influx of new technologies, including the first fully robotic production line. Emile Di Serio picked up where his father left off, striving to enhance the international character of the Group.
The creation of COBAPRESS™
In the 1980s, the new “Fonderies de Saint Jean” name was debuted. Most of the company’s activities related to the manufacture of bicycle handlebars. In 1982 one of the company’s biggest customers gave Thomas Di Serio an ultimatum: quickly develop an alternative to casting to improve the mechanical characteristics of products…or else. In response, Di Serio invented the COBAPRESS™ manufacturing process, which involves a casting preform followed by a forging operation. (The name comes from the French for “Pouring > Tilting > Pressing”.) While Thomas Di Serio firmly believed in the benefits of this process, the customer was not convinced.
The rise of the 90th
During the 1990s, the company continued to grow by focusing on industrial markets. It also adopted the name “Saint Jean Industries”. In 1993, the COBAPRESS™ technology was noticed by a French automaker and preliminary studies were launched for engine and suspension parts. This was the first recognition of the technology’s possibilities.
The international development
From the 2000s onward, the company continued to grow internationally, especially in Europe and North America. At the same time, COBAPRESS™ was adopted by the world’s most prestigious automakers. Emile Di Serio, the founder’s son, took over at Saint Jean Industries and under his leadership the company reached the critical size needed to support customers worldwide. The Group established locations in the USA, Croatia and Germany, while a South Korean partner helped the company gain a foothold in Asia.
In addition to becoming more international, Saint Jean Industries continued to innovate, delivering new solutions to meet customer needs. The business also became more diverse, incorporating more and more expertise through the acquisition of several companies.
Today, the Group owns 12 production sites and employs nearly 2,500 people. It is positioned to deliver comprehensive solutions for the automotive, aeronautic and industrial sectors.
2003 - The first international locations
Saint Jean Industries opened a location at Slavonski Brod in Croatia to increase capacity in Europe. This new production site was able to implement the Group’s extensive expertise in aluminum casting and machining. AGR GmBH, a German company located in Leipzig, was acquired four years later as part of the same growth strategy.
2004 - A foothold in Asia
A license for the COBAPRESS™ patent was granted to Myunghwa Industries, a South Korean group specializing in the manufacture of chassis and engine components. The result of this agreement was a production site for COBAPRESS™ suspension parts.
Later, sales offices were opened in China and Japan in 2005 and 2007.
2006 - Expanding into the American market
Superior Industries, an American company, began refocusing its business on its primary activity of producing aluminum rims. It decided to sell its production site for COBAPRESS™ chassis parts. The SJI Group seized the opportunity and acquired the site, which became Saint Jean Industries Inc.
2009 - Braking systems, a new addition
The Di Serio family acquired Beringer, a French company specializing in producing high-performance braking systems for cars and motorcycles. A license agreement was signed so that Beringer technologies could be leveraged to supply brakes as original equipment.
2010 - Aluminum rims
Saint Jean Industries acquired Fundo, a Norwegian company specializing in aluminum rim production. Fundo became Saint Jean Wheels. This acquisition made it possible to develop the COBAWHEELS™ technology that yields much lighter aluminum rims.
2010 - Cast iron and steel
That same year, 51% of shares in Fournier were purchased with help from the FMEA for level-two companies, enhancing the Group’s engine division with new expertise in machining turbine casings and creating prototypes. Fournier was then renamed Saint Jean Industries Lorraine.
2011 - Moving into aeronautics
The company acquired a subsidiary of the Swiss RUAG Group known for its expertise in machining complex structural parts made of titanium and inconel for the aeronautics market. The new entity became Saint Jean Aero, the gold standard center of excellence for its market segment.
2012 - SJI produces cylinder heads
The company saved FDPA (Fonderie Du Poitou Aluminium), ensuring that most site employees would keep their jobs. FDPA produces aluminum cylinder heads. For SJI, the decision to acquire this business fit into the overall strategy of diversifying product lines and integrating new expertise through external growth.
2012 - Comprehensive integration of steel and cast iron
All Mayennaise Auto-Cast Industry shares were purchased from the company’s employee shareholders by Saint Jean Industries and the FMEA (automotive supplier modernization fund) for level-two companies. Auto-Cast Industry, which specializes in designing and manufacturing complex cast iron and steel parts, became Saint Jean Industries Laval.
2014 - Innovation and new historical contract
Saint Jean Industries reveals nearly a dozen product/process innovations allowing, among other things, vehicle lightweighting.
That same year, Saint Jean Industries won one of its biggest contracts with the FCA group (Fiat Chrysler Automobile). This contract covers the supply of parts manufactured in traditional aluminium casting and COBAPRESS.