In view of the new scenario that will see the motion and power transmission sector and the fluid power sector under the same umbrella, Assunta Galbiati, the newly elected ASSIOT president talks thoroughly about the tools to be adopted in order to enhance the qualities of a macro sector considered among the “excellences” of the Italian industry.
di Silvia Crespi
You were elected ASSIOT president last June. At the presentation of the new team, you spoke about the desire for continuity with the previous board, while, at the same time, setting out toward a new direction…
The merger with ASSOFLUID creating the “container” for sectoral representation, will necessarily change the context in which we operate. Following this, the question of continuity will become the goal, positioning ASSIOT in this new context, which hasn’t been defined yet. For sure, we have clear ideas on how to move forward. There will be focus on membership attractiveness, as has always been the case for ASSIOT and ASSOFLUID – which will also be valid for all players wishing to come on board in the future – without losing individual identity. Quite the contrary, identity will be emphasized and promoted in order to increase the number and quality of projects, using member characteristics as a spring board in forming the macro-sector, capturing opportunity for generating synergy and added value, all this through the interaction of the different technologies and set ups association members have to offer.
The mechanical transmission sector is enjoying a boom period. Performance has been encouraged by national government policy, especially that of the ex-economy minister, Calenda. How do you see the future for companies in the sector?
Without doubt, the policy put in place by minister Calenda has contributed to the excellent results coming out of this sector. This has also led to a positive impact on companies who produce made in Italy capital goods. However, policy alone cannot explain the success the sector has enjoyed over 2017 and the positive forecasts for this year. In 2017, the sector grew by 11.3% on 2016, above all thanks to Italian manufacturers’ ability to seize dynamic international demand where sales increased by 11.8%, over 1% more than internal market orders at a “lower” 10.6% growth. According to the ASIOT economic commission, the same trend can be seen this year, with exports one percent higher than internal market demand. These are the figures creating positive energy for the coming months. Today it is getting tough to make forecasts even for the medium term, after the battering taken in 2009, we prefer to “keep all eyes on the visible horizon”, but this cannot go on forever. Many in the business community have already had to make decisions. Record production has been seen across the Italian panorama for the last two years with production capacity no longer able to keep pace with demand. This gap can only be filled through investment. The Calenda plan made taking some important steps in this direction possible, now many people are waiting to see exactly where this sector of Italian industry is in terms of size and potential.
How is the role of the association changing? How important do you think networking is in the extended supply chain optic?
In reality, it is not the role of the association that is changing but, for better or for worse, the context in which associations operate, sometimes, as has been the case over recent years, radical change is afoot. Their role of support remains a constant, while the way in which their activity is carried out is very different. I can give a simple example, but one that is nonetheless significant: in 1971, the year of ASSIOT foundation, a company’s principle difficulty was to pick up information. Today, this is as simple as it gets thanks to the internet. Now the problem has become filtering this information. To distinguish what is useful from what is not, what is meaningful and what is the so-called fake news.
An association’s role has to be strongly linked to the sector’s needs. Networking may be the only exception to this rule. Inter-personal relationships, where people with the same passions and problems can come together to swap experiences, will always be fundamental. There are many who marry the idea of human salvation coming through sitting together around a table… in other words, common experience with humanity’s naturally gregarious personality will be of more use than an endless list of theories and speeches in trying to resolve even the most complex of problems. This is why I believe networking is a key aspect of the ASSIOT experience and will be ever more so as the opportunity to get to know and swap ideas with the entire supply chain and its technology becomes possible.
The Galbiati group is an example of excellence in Italian mechanics. How important is specialization in keeping Italian companies competitive?
Customization is by no means unique to our group. It is an integral part of the Made in Italy concept. One peculiarity of Italians is to always want (and often know how) to get into the nitty gritty of a question. We want to understand why an approach works but also why another doesn’t. Applying this, in the right way, to the professional sphere, getting to know the ins and outs of a client’s situation, if you like, getting into his shoes means the best possible solution will be found. Let’s not forget that this is the country of Leonardo, the first industrial automization expert, with Italian industrial solution expertise following in his illustrious footsteps. This is why customization is important for Made in Italy production, however, it is not enough simply to understand this, it must also become a part of the value proposition and it is on this point that we have a lot to learn, especially from our German counterparts. Excepting a few notable producers, too little is being done to collectively promote Italy’s exceptional ability to create tailor made solutions. And to think we are in the epoch of Industry 4.0 where customization and customer demand will be the watchwords to industrial success. I am convinced that believing in our abilities and getting them across to the market will represent an enormous opportunity for Italian industry. Do not forget that in the word “appreciate” there is a reference to the idea of “price” and if we don’t believe in our capacity to justify this, why should a customer do so? Following investment, the next phase must be training; Italy is a country of industrial excellence and maintaining this position is an obligation. Know-how of the highest level is required to keep the country at the pinnacle of global technological expertise. I sincerely trust the government will re-confirm the Industry 4.0 plan which has contributed so much to the economic buoyancy of recent years.
In the industry 4.0 panorama, training is essential, both for in house professionals and collaboration with research centres, schools and universities. How is Galbiati approaching this?
To requalify and update skills is the country’s priority to stay competitive. Globalization and technological progress will not slow down. We have to act now to identify the skills needed for tomorrow. This is the way to create the worker of the future. How? Investing in the creation of technical institutes with greater interaction with students. Each single company can already do a lot, but their sphere of influence is limited to their employees or at the most, to the partners they work most closely with. Company competitiveness is influenced – above all that of an Italian company – which typically has a long and complex supply chain – by its ability to adapt and help its clients, suppliers and suppliers of suppliers adapt to changing conditions. Staying competitive depends on the entire supply chain’s ability to do so. In such a context, focusing attention only on collaborators would be a somewhat short-sighted and, frankly, inadequate approach to get to the required solution. It is more a question of putting a “system” in place, skills and abilities alone will not guarantee international survival. Once again, we see where the association can make a key contribution. It is the association’s role to spread the kind of culture required across the sector, helping to find solutions for those not able to solve training questions alone. Here, companies already travelling down this road will be asked to lend a hand. This should not cause worry of losing competitive advantage, but rather help the entire sector to step up in finding solutions to a company’s difficulties. In other words, turn selfish into selfless gestures, finding solutions that overcome a common problem, leading to a brighter shared future. I desire to create a communal training program in which students can be trained on a rotational basis, inside companies, where not only those businesses with strong structure but all companies can receive training on a specific topic. All companies need qualified professional figures, graduates and technicians. Schools must clearly grasp the needs of business and the responsibility for this understanding comes from us. We must go to them, explaining exactly what figures the modern industrial company needs. It must also be said that the majority of Italian schools do not possess state of the art technology and many students struggle to comprehend what working in a modern industrial structure is like with its digital plant. This is why internships are fundamental. The same increased integration is hoped for in the university context. Greater training focus must come into place from the first year of a degree course. Germany is a great example for this. Galbiati is putting forward a proposal which foresees a meeting with professors where a company project is presented, should the project be positively welcomed by the teaching department, a small group of students is then selected to develop it. As the project and meetings progress, the various working steps are explained up to the conclusion. This becomes a kind of “third” way substituting, or together with, the classic internship. Never underestimate the vital nature of strong relationships with the institutions.