The current situation is full of criticalities and challenges. What is the mood of ASSOMAC member companies?
“The situation is quite critical. The pandemic has taken us by surprise and unprepared both in terms of health, work, and daily behaviour. Unfortunately, we have not yet and not at all emerged from this situation. The impossibility of moving not only between foreign countries, but not even within Italy, has created many difficulties for the installation of new machines, but also for customer assistance. We will have to learn how to face a future where we must be able to make the most of the possibilities offered by digital, starting from the organisation of meetings to the assistance and installation of our systems remotely. To date, the sector is holding on, it is in difficulty, but no company has had to close, despite the fact that turnover has dropped by an average of 30%. Also the reduction of the burden of costs helped us to resist. It is not a fact that we are pleased to register, but it is the reality that has somewhat cushioned the effects of the crisis”.

What lines of continuity with the past will continue during your presidency?
“Sustainability, listening to members and a trade association increasingly thought of as a team, capable of working together. Attention to training and digitalisation.Among all these issues, I would say that sustainability (not only environmental, but also social, of security, products and processes) will undoubtedly be the main theme for the years to come. In the past, as an association, we have invested heavily in the self-certification of machinery (Green Label). An effort that we will continue to ensure that it is also recognised within the plans relating to the Green Deal and the NextGenerationEU. We will conduct initiatives aimed at further enhancing the Green Label as an instrument of recognition of the sustainability of our machinery and therefore worthy of being part of any project related to the Recovery Fund, which the Italian Government is studying. We ask this Government to recognise the vital importance of Italian manufacturing in increasing the national GDP and to which particular attention should therefore be paid when choosing the destination of the funds looming on the horizon”.

What developing themes do you consider most strategic?
“There are so many that we have decided, in agreement with the presidential council, to divide the areas of responsibility between the president and vice-presidents so that each one can concentrate on specific issues (in the following pages, the interviews with vice-presidents Paccagnella and Bergozza, ed).My working group is focussing on the diversification issue of outlet sectors for the mechanical-footwear sector. We realised that we are good at proposing production systems. As some companies have already done, beyond the footwear/leather goods/tanning sector, we will therefore strive to find other industries to address in order to offer our technologies.The wooden, construction, bio-medical sector, all areas of adhesive technology… are just a few examples. A more in-depth research will begin probing many others and various areas. Evaluating what technological innovations to make available to our sector will be another point my working group will focus on. There are technologies, I am thinking of Artificial Intelligence to name one, that could find interesting applications also in our sector, but which, being unknown or expensive to develop and implement, are not taken into consideration. We believe that the association could be a very powerful weapon to discover, understand and offer the sector very useful tools for innovation. Another objective that I consider appropriate, and that I mentioned earlier, is to use the theme of sustainability to lobby lawfully and virtuously, so that our skill in being respectful of certain values and parameters gets rewarded also through financial support for those who invest in new machinery.Finally, we intend to conduct a study that clearly detects the desires of fashion houses in terms of certifications, so as to provide useful guidelines to our members concerning the innovations to focus on and to implement on their machines. We are witnessing some sort of reshoring phenomenon and are therefore providing our subcontractors customers with machines that, already in the production phase, could help them reach very successful standards”.

On what points should companies in the sector focus in order to overcome the many difficulties of this very complex historical moment?
“I believe that no one in the world today questions the quality of our machinery. Having reached this level and considering the critical issues highlighted by Covid, we can only focus on technological innovation that allows us to offer our customers functional services, as well as highly competent and innovative assistance. I believe that developing a remote assistance system that all Assomac members can use to support their customers will add further value to our machinery. The customer himself, after getting accustomed to our platform, will be encouraged, for convenience, to buy other machines that use the same infrastructure. It could turn out to be a powerful marketing tool, as well as a work instrument”.

SIMAC TANNING TECH has been rescheduled for September. Do you already know how to structure it?
“The event from 22 to 24 September, always in conjunction with Lineapelle, obviously remains a big question mark related to the health emergency. We don’t know yet if foreign visitors will be able to travel. That said, we are preparing ourselves with optimism, hoping to be able to experience a ‘normal’ trade fair event, while remaining very attentive to everyone’s safety.In any case, since the trade fair world has changed and keeps changing, we are also taking into consideration combining the physical event with a digital one that can better support business opportunities. We are renewing the collaboration with the ICE 365 platform and we are enhancing our web app with new features. They are support tools that we believe are useful not just in light of the current moment, but also for the years to come. Fairs will inevitably have to study tools that can support their sectors well beyond the physical event itself”.
Detto questo, noi ci stiamo preparando con ottimismo, sperando di poter vivere un evento fieristico ‘normale’, pur rimanendo molto attenti alla sicurezza di tutti.
In ogni caso, poiché il mondo fieristico è cambiato e sta cambiando, ci stiamo anche dedicando ad affiancare all’evento fisico un corrispettivo digitale che possa supportare al meglio le occasioni di business. Stiamo rinnovando la collaborazione con la piattaforma 365 di ICE e stiamo potenziando la nostra webapp con nuove funzionalità.
Sono strumenti di supporto che crediamo utili non solo in considerazione del momento attuale, ma anche per gli anni a venire. Le fiere dovranno inevitabilmente studiare strumenti che possano supportare i propri settori ben al di là dell’evento fisico in sé”.