Specialization Helps Machine Builders Weather Economic Uncertainty: Machine Design Article
Posted by Machines Italia | 04 Sep 2012
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Many OEMs lament that the U. S. economy is treading water. It could be worse. Consider the situation in the Euro zone, which is mired in a recession and facing unemployment above 11%, a debt crisis, and nagging questions about the future of its currency. Despite the turmoil, Italian machine builders are holding their own, according to data from UCIMU, the Italian machine-tool association. Production and exports for the group rose at double-digit rates last year and, while recent orders have declined, the association still predicts export sales for 2012 will be up 12.3%.
The Italian machine-tool sector remains competitive for a number of reasons, says UCIMU President Luigi Galdabini, speaking at this year’s Lamiera exhibition in Bologna, Italy. First, most manufacturers don’t mass produce standard models. Rather, they concentrate on building one-off ma- chines that solve specific problems. The expertise of Italian entrepreneurs lies in overcoming technical hurdles and craft- ing special designs that improve efficiency, speed, precision, and productivity. Some manufacturers might invest thou- sands of engineering hours yet only produce a single — albeit extremely complex — machine a year, notes Galdabini.
This differs from the approach taken in other countries, he says. “In China, volume is growing rapidly, the level of technology is good, but special solutions — zero.” It’s much the same in Japan, he adds, where companies produce high- quality machine tools in large volumes, but custom-made equipment is not their strength. “We have a different kind of competence. Italians are the champions of special machines,” says Galdabini. “We are innovative and competitive, and we are artists, a little bit.” An advantage is that the average manufacturer has only about 60 to 70 employees, and this lets them focus on problem solving and gives them the flexibility to customize and personalize the end product to exactly match customer requirements.
“We are not in the business of copying somebody else and being lower in price and quality. This is not the Italian style. We will always get beat by China and India on cost, with simple machines. Our aim is to be tops in performance, quality, and innovation,” Galdabini says.
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