UNIC recounts the extraordinary history of the Italian tanning industryThe annual general meeting of UNIC - Unione Nazionale Industria Conciaria (Italian Tanners’ Association) talked about a living, vital, sustainable industry characterised by remarkable “biodiversity.”
“The Italian tanning industry is alive, and above all, vital,” underlined Gianni Russo, President of UNIC - Unione Nazionale Industria Conciaria during the opening of the 2017 general meeting held on 27 June 2017 in Palazzo Mezzanotte, Milan.
It is not a catchphrase, but a fact if you consider the numbers registered by the Italian tanning industry: 1200 companies that confirm its international leadership in terms of value (65% of the European total, 19% in the world) and quality of productions, despite the fact that 2016 was not a particularly brilliant year (total production values fell by 1.7% in square meters of finished leather and by 3.6% in kilograms of sole leather, while the total decline in value was 3.4%).
Exports also declined moderately (-5%), which still account for more than 75% of the total turnover for the industry. Particularly difficult are shipments to Chinese manufacturers (double-digit decline both in Hong Kong and mainland China, but on the whole still the number one foreign destination of Italian leather) and to Germany (-12%), Portugal (-12%), United Kingdom (- 3%) and South Korea (-9%).
Which compartments were the most disappointing? Tanning products for the fashion industry fell (leather goods -7%, shoes and clothing -2%), while padding, especially for car interiors increased (+8%), with interior decorations returning positive after ten years of decline.
The work of UNIC went well beyond these numbers during Russo’s presidency: “In only 12 months together, a radical restructuring has taken place of what was traditionally called a ‘Group’, going from 12 to 3 legal entities. We have eliminated the dispute with BolognaFiere and have regained the entire asset of Lineapelle. We have returned to having an active role in Cotance. The number of members has grown and we will soon open a new facility in Solofra – after Rome, Santa Croce, and Arzignano”.
An important theme discussed during the meeting was that of Industry 4.0. An innovation to be pursued decisively, especially by taking advantage of the incentives offered by the current government (super depreciation and tax credits). Antonio Calabrò, director of the Pirelli Foundation had something to say on this matter: “We have to fight so that the German model of Industry 4.0 does not take over, which is based on an idea of medium-sized enterprises. This would penalise Italy because of its fabric of small businesses.”
The theme of training is also important. In fact, the level of employment in the industry did not change during the crisis, but what concerns us is the scarcity of young workers, which only represent 13% of the entire tanning industry.
“Is it possible that the Italian tanning industry - No. 1 in the world - does not have a research centre of excellence by its side? An active presidency, since its inception, that today is finally flanked by a management of solid experience, leads to the serious hope for a radical change in direction, which has long been hoped for and on which the industry must gamble on.” This is how Gianni Russo, UNIC President, introduced the theme of the Leather Experimental Station at the Meeting, with which the Association has signed an initial protocol of intent.
Paolo Gurisatti, SSIP President, underlined how the problem of the research centre is not money, but an organisation that makes room for research: “We will mainly focus on areas such as Sustainability and Training”.
His words were echoed by Edoardo Imperiale, SSIP Director: “We want to transform a non-productive government reality into a National Research Centre to serve the industry. In September, we will present the new Services Charter and in the coming months we will be working on modernising the laboratories and on training employees. We will also open an office at UNIC to follow the regulatory aspects and we will ask companies and universities to indicate the topics they are most interested in discussing. The forthcoming collaborations with other Italian research excellences is also very important, which will include the CNR, Politecnico of Milan and the Italian Institute of Technology”.
The 2017 UNIC Meeting confirmed the presidency of Gianni Russo for 2017-2018 and the Vice-presidency of Graziano Balducci, Alessandro Iliprandi, Rino Mastrotto, Piero Rosati, Giuseppe Walter Peretti.