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The Italian industry has been growing for several years now. Massimo Carboniero, President of Ucimu, has given us an insight into the most important target markets of Italy, the global challenges Italy has to face, and how the Italian government managed to support the industry to assure a solid growth over the last few years.
The Italian machine tool industry reports good numbers for the last few years. Ucimu, the Italian machine tool, robots, automation systems and ancillary products (NC, tools, components, accessories) manufacturers' association, is looking back on a successful 2016.
According to the association, all main economic indicators increased, except for exports. The positive trend has been going on since 2014 and Ucimu is sure that the industry will continue to grow this year.
Massimo Carboniero was elected president of Ucimu in 2016. He is general manager and co-owner of Omera, a company based in Chiuppano, Vincenza, a manufacturer of metal-forming machine tools.
The 2016 outcome of the Italian machine tool, robot and automation manufacturing industry is positive: It registered increases for all main economic indicators, except for exports. Why?
In 2016, production increased by 6.4%, amounting to 5,552 million euro. The outcome was due to the positive trend of the manufacturers' deliveries in the domestic market, which increased by 25.7%, to 2,300 million. A very positive performance was registered with regard to consumption, which showed a double-digit increase for the third consecutive year, reaching 3,859 million euro, i.e., 15.3% more versus 2015.
The reduction of exports, which decreased by 4% compared with the previous year, was brought about by two different concomitant factors. On the one hand, it was caused by the general slowdown of international trade and, on the other hand, by the - almost unavoidable - choice of the manufacturers to be strongly present in the domestic market and thus to direct a good part of their resources to meet the very lively demand expressed by Italian users.
That said, the forecasts processed by the Studies Dept. & Business Culture of UCIMU confirm a positive trend for 2017, even highlighting a recovery of exports.
In particular, production will go up by 6.7% to 5,925 million euro.
Consumption will reach 4,250 million euro, i.e., 10.1% more versus 2016, driving both the manufacturers' deliveries in the domestic market – expected to grow by 12% to 2,575 million euro – and imports. Exports will be back to a positive level. With a 3% upturn, they will reach the value of 3,350 million euro.
Orders increased in the first six months. What were the reasons for this growth?
The recovery of investments in production technology in Italy is more and more strengthening, as evidenced also by the latest data we presented in the month of July, showing a 24.8% upturn in orders registered by the Italian manufacturers in the domestic market in the first semester compared with the same period of the previous year.
Besides the clear benefits for the enterprises of the sector, which are again able to sell important volumes even in Italy, the upswing in machine tool and robot consumption in our country is excellent news, because it indicates that the Italian manufacturing industry is getting back on track.
The positive trend started in 2014 is certainly due to the necessity of renovating production plants by introducing state-of-the-art machines and technologies in the factories, which are performing better than in the past.
Today, many manufacturing sectors in Italy need to produce more and better, as they have to meet not only foreign demand, always attracted by our Made in Italy reputation, but also domestic demand that is finally lively again.
There is household consumption, the automotive industry is registering brilliant performances and all this clearly drives the sector represented by Ucimu.
However, this framework of renewed positivity was favoured and is being favoured by the measures implemented by the government with the National Plan Industry 4.0.
Super- and Hyper-Depreciation are bearing fruit and, also this reason as well, the government authorities are rightly evaluating the applicability extension of the two key measures in the Plan to the whole year of 2018. The request that we put forward already some months ago should be accepted expressly owing to the positive results achieved so far and with the awareness that the competitiveness improvement of the Italian manufacturing industry is a gradual process, even if quite rapid.
What are the fastest growing foreign markets and which sectors are responsible for that growth?
In 2016, the major destination markets of Italian products turned out to be Germany, the United States, China, France, Poland, Spain, Mexico and Turkey.
The best performances were those obtained by Italian manufacturers in France, Spain and Mexico, where sales recorded double-digit increases.
Nevertheless, there are also other interesting emerging countries, such as Iran and countries of the ASEAN area, involved in an industrialisation and development process, which has highlighted strong acceleration in the last few years.
With reference to the user sectors worldwide, I would say that automotive, aerospace and energy are performing very well.
How important is the German market for Italian Industry?
Germany is a very important partner. In 2016, it turned out to be the first destination market for Italian products of the sector. Without taking into account the small fluctuations due to the economic situation, Germany is always in the top-three of destination areas with regard to Italian machine tools.
It is a great satisfaction for us, the manufacturers, considering that the German market is among the most demanding ones and, at the same time, it can rely on top-level domestic products.
After all, we are able to be competitive in the German market because we are capable of developing tailor-made solutions that can perfectly meet the customer's requirements.
On the contrary, German manufacturers are oriented to mass-production and large quantities. Therefore, we can win the competitive challenge in many segments thanks to our mix of innovation, customisation and flexibility. In addition, with the boost given by our government to an increasingly widespread use of 4.0 technologies, there is a potential that has not been expressed till now, which will already start to appear in the next months. In this connection, EMO Hanover is an excellent opportunity to verify products made in Italy, also in light of these developments.
Do you fear negative effects for the Italian machine tool industry caused by Brexit or the obscure situation in the USA?
Geopolitical instability really complicates matters for those who operate in a sector like ours by causing a slowdown in sales as soon as the market perceives uncertainty, but I must say that, at the moment, neither Brexit nor Trump's policy have created particular problems. We hope this will not happen now, as there is demand and it is lively.
What does the Italian government have to do to ensure the future success of the Italian machine tool industry?
Italian government authorities have been operating in a strong and solid way for several years to support the recovery of economy and industry in Italy. With the National Plan Industry 4.0, which includes provisions such as Super-Depreciation, Hyper-Depreciation and the New Sabatini Law, the manufacturing industry got back to the centre of the political economic agenda of the country. We can already see the results. Owing to this, as we said before, the authorities are considering extending the applicability of the above provisions for the whole of 2018. I think that these are the right steps to take to support the competitiveness not only of the Italian machine tool industry, but also of the whole industry of the country.