Mercato nazionale ed europeo delle macchine per la lavorazione del legno, Industria 4.0, digitalizzazione delle imprese, settore fieristico sono tutti temi importanti per una ripresa dell’economia nei prossimi anni. A tal proposito abbiamo chiestoItalian and European market of wood-processing machines, Industry 4.0, digitalisation of enterprises, trade fair industryare all key themes for the recovery of the economy in coming years. We have asked Dario Corbetta, Director of Acimal, for his opinion regarding the matter.
In these last years, how has the wood processing machinery market changed?
The wood processing machinery market has changed deeply in recent years in many aspects that are difficult to sum up. I would say that the most significant phenomena have been those of polarisation and of specialisation.
The enterprises that have been more successful in overcoming the economic crises are the bigger and more structured ones that are capable of tackling all of the markets of the world with different forms of internationalisation and local presence.
On the other hand, small niche enterprises offering tailor-made solutions have been capable of maintaining or increasing their level of competitiveness.
Unfortunately, the companies offering a standardised product or that have not developed an elastic business model have encountered considerable difficulties in recent years.
Italian market and international market: which are the macrotrends?
On the domestic front, the market is experiencing a difficult moment with a serious drop in demand for machinery. Obviously, the causes are largely attributable to the Covid-19 pandemic, but even before that there had been signs of a market contraction.
In the immediate future, much will depend on the measures the government will put in place in favour of investments in capital goods. In particular, the confirmation (albeit with differences in rates) of the budgetary lawof the Transition 4.0 plan is going in the right direction.
As for foreign markets, there is an excellent propensity among Italian firms for internationalisation processes. Actually, the drop in exports was mild despite the effects of the lockdown.
As regards business travel of personnel, the problems relating to health safety remain to be solved, but on that front we are expecting a substantial recovery in the flow of sales/orders as soon as the situation returns completely to normal.
Which will the challenges at European level be?
For sure the challenge at European level is the competition with the Asian production, Chinese especially. China has grown more than Italy or Germany in recent years in terms of production of wood processing technology.
This growth also applies to the quality of their products, to the forms of internationalisation and to customer assistance, all this while remaining quite competitive in terms of price.
Europe can win the challenge by further increasing the quality of its production solutions and by improving even more the post-sale assistance.
How has the Covid-19 pandemic impacted the sector? In your opinion, how should companies handle this situation? Which will the more radical changes be?
In addition to negatively impacting the flow of orders, Covid has also driven companies to accelerate in-house digitalisation processes.
New companies must address this topic at all levels, starting from the product and including personnel training, marketing and relations with the clientele. This means that in the future we shall be seeing more and more totally digitalised companies.
Digitalisation of companies: how far have we come?
As regards the wood processing technology sector, unfortunately we are still behind. Not all companies think the new digital systems are fundamental for their work.
Suffice it to look at the activity on the social networks that now have become one of the most important marketing channels. Only a very few companies of the sector have committed to and invest in this asset.
Industry 4.0 is a popular topic. Is this something tangible, or do you believe it’s mostly a slogan?
Industry 4.0 has been one of the most tangible topics in recent years in the fields of technological development and public support of investments. These are concrete measures placed at the disposal of final users who intend to upgrade their production by improving their machinery and by exploiting to the full the concept of interconnection.
It is not enough, but certainly it is a starting point on which in the near future the Italian government should base the economic policy, at least as regards tool engineering.
How will the trade fair industry change? What are the projects/innovations for Xylexpo?
The trade fair industry has been hit by a tsunami of cancellations and postponements. It is certainly a sector that will pick up again because in these last few months we have realised that no digital tool can replace a physical fair 100%.
Visitors want to touch the product and develop human relationships with all of the operators, and this is only possible at a physical fair.
That said, there will be a merging process between the physical fair and the virtual fair, by which the latter will be used to support the former and will contribute to making the event even more attractive.
Xylexpo in 2022 will have to develop along these lines, and the staff is already working at the ideas that will animate the next edition in Milan.
Looking into the future, what do you see or would like to see?
We can see that the sector has undergone three severe crises in the last ten years (2009, 2012 and 2020). This sequence of negative events has never been seen before in the history of world economy.
We expect to see over the medium term a phase of economic expansion that is long enough to allow companies to grow more easily than in the past.