Innovation and flexibility, components made in Italy
Comacomp President Alessandro Malavolti presents the strong points of the Italian industry in this sector. Technological quality and ongoing investments in research and innovations are the principle weapons for competing on international markets and beating back the competition of low-cost products manufactured in emerging countries
Components make up one of the most important sectors in Italian mechanical engineering. The industries manufacture components, spare parts and accessories for agricultural machinery at a premier level of technologies to cover a wide range of merchandise. Alessandro Malavolti is the president of Comacomp, an association within FederUnacoma, the Italian Agricultural Machinery Manufacturers Federation.
The components sector encompasses a very wide merchandise category. What are the principle merchandise sectors and the main markets for the Italian industries?
The wide range of merchandise can be divided into macro-areas: mechanical components such as power trains for PTOs, reducers and multipliers, gear boxes and gears, free wheels, clutches, axles and the like; hydraulic components, cylinders, pumps, motors, valves and so on; electric-electronic components, which include electric plants and wiring, electronic regulators and controls, GPS systems, computers and onboard instruments, etc. Equally important are those in the area of various components, track, cabs, seats, brake systems, frames, three-point hitches, etc.; irrigation components, booms, pumps, fans, filters, CPUs, nozzles, etc. At present, the major markets can be identified as Germany, France and the United Kingdom in Europe, Japan for Asia and the United States for the Americas.
Components make up a strong point for the Italian mechanical engineering industry. What are the reasons for this premier position?
The production of components is perfectly synchronized with the peculiarities of Italian small and medium size enterprises with high ranking for technical specializations, flexibility for personalization, constant research on innovations and niche markets in which they operate. The Made in Italy product is warmly welcomed precisely because it’s innovative, capable of significantly improving the quality of the mechanical means used in agriculture and in other sectors.
The globalization of markets has created greater business opportunities for Italian component industries but has also favored the large scale spread of products made in the emerging countries. What’s your evaluation of this and what kind of market trend can we expect for the sector?
Delocalization toward emerging countries is there but concerns mainly medium-big scale component makers whereas the small ones have chosen to diversify as a defensive weapon. These are the strong points we talked about earlier which have made it possible to shift to production with high technological and quality content which means not getting into the race based solely on price there is for production from the emerging countries.
Electronics are a key factor for control and the correct management of mechanical means. What are the mature applications and what are those still under development?
Electronics have been an integral part for tractors and self-propelled machinery for a number of years, as much for managing engines at low emissions levels as for safeguarding and the control of the safety of the vehicle and the operator. Also implements have become involved in recent years for seeding and spraying for example, whereas we expect the entire world of implements to be covered within the next 5 or 7 years.
Beyond IT and electronics, what are the new technological frontiers for components… the miniaturization of instrument systems? New materials for the manufacture of components?
Studies and the use of new metal alloys aim at the development greater mechanical resistance of machines, such as new filling materials for components for work on the single point reducing and slowing the wear process of the components themselves.
The relationships between studies and the development and use of materials featuring very high performance, and environmental sustainability and safeguarding, are increasingly greater with a global view to saving energy and reducing consumption. There are examples of new materials with great thermal isolation used in some machinery parts and especially in the cab.
Today the cab is seen as a part of the machine a lot of special attention is dedicated to, looking more and more to the operator and comfort as well as his or her safety.
The use of plastics which improve noise levels precisely inside the cab by reducing low frequency noise is a very real example of this new way of studying the machine and its components.
The industrial fabric in Italy is made up of small, medium size and large scale manufacturers. Are there different management models and different ways for staying in the marketplace for each type of company?
For the small and medium size ones, they bet on flexibility, versatility, creativity and style, on speedy decision making processes, a great capacity for reacting to external events. In this case, the portfolio of their customers has to consist of a few big purchasers.
Whereas for the big companies, their characteristic factors are greater managerial resources, financing and contractual powers as well as a medium-long term vision of strategy and separate management of operations and strategy. For this type of companies their customer portfolios are much more diversified for small, medium and large and also their market outlets are more diversified.
What are the factors making up the “common denominator” of component enterprises and what are the priorities on the Comacomp agenda?
We have a full range of activities to work on and all of them are of fundamental importance. Consider innovation, the development and protection of know-how and patents, internationalization, the development of synergies with a system allowing enterprises to network and, of course, research incentives.
The next edition of LIMA International, coming up November 9th to 13th in Bologna, will host the Components Salon as undoubted one of the strong points of the exposition. What new features as regards organization and content will we have?In the meantime, we’re expecting a further increase in the number of industries exhibiting in the components sector and can expect an extremely wide and highly qualified range also entering the New Techniques Competition. On the side of promotions and business, the basic objective is developing contacts with international business figures and foreign delegations and thus an increase in B2B meetings. We will ensure a higher profile in the seminars and appointments for technical updates scheduled over the days of the trade fair for a precise focus on the issues of interest to the components sector.