MILAN, Italy: It has been another jam-packed day here in Milan, highlighted by three of Italy’s largest manufacturing technology trade shows – FluidTrans, PLAST and Xylexpo – which feature across more than 100,000 square meters of tech from some 1,500 exhibitors, including fluid power and transmission, plastics and woodworking.
FluidTrans is hosted by Feddermacchine’s ASSOFLUID, an association of Italian fluid power and transmission equipment and component firms. The show, which this year has focused on applied innovation (a common theme on the trip so far), is spread across 40,000 square meters, and features 340 exhibitors, 47% of which are from abroad.
Italy’s fluid power and transmissions industry has shown significant growth sine the global economic crisis, catching up on losses since 2007. The hydraulics industry has grown domestically by almost 25%, while the country’s pneumatic sales are up by 10.6%, according to Assofluid.
Also, the association says Italy’s production of power and motion systems posted an increase of 37.2%, while industrial automation is expected to grow by 15% this year. The association says it’s hopeful it will soon reach the export-driven, pre-crisis levels.
ASSOFLUID represents 197 companies that employ more than 14,000 people, representing more than 70% of the country’s fluid power and transmission industry.
An Applied Innovation Area is also featured at this year’s show, showcasing industrial and manufacturing-led prototypes designed by Italian think-tanks and university R&D centres, which include the Politechnico di Torino and Ferrara-based Imamoter from Italy’s National Research Institute. University exhibitors include the universities of Brescia, Genoa, Modena and Parma.
Some of the technologies on display this week include:
- The ASIU-Active steering input unit, which was developed to advanced motor gearing systems with wires equipped with active feedback capabilities.
- Mesap, a mechatronics and advanced system production pool. It introduced the EHA-INAVICO, an electro-hydrostatic actuation system for power actuation, automation and vibration control applications.
- Easy Robotics introduced a software developed by the University of Brescia designed to control pneumatic components in machinery assembly, conveyor and packing applications. The system allows static and dynamic calculations to occur, which then identifies the picking and verification of specific components best fit for specific material handling operations – an innovation truly dedicated to fulfilling the dreams of Italian OEMs to maximize personalization services.
This week also marks the return of the Feddermacchine’s PLAST, Italy’s largest showcase for the world’s plastic and rubber manufacturers and OEMs. This year’s show features 1,500 exhibitors and 3,500 machines from 58 countries, 30 of which are foreign businesses.
Italy’s plastics and rubber industry exports enjoyed a 20% growth in 2011, earning more than $5 billion. The industry’s trade surplus has also risen by more than $2.3 billion thanks to increased demand for extruders, moulds and forming machines, according to Italy’s association of plastics producers, ASSOCOMAPLAST.
On Tuesday night, we had the opportunity to have dinner with the president of ASSOCOMAPLAST, Giorgio Colombo, who is also the managing director of a Milan-based extruder manufacturer ICMA San Giorgio.
Colombo stressed the success of his industry was dependent on continued innovation and personalization services to increase the value-added component of the Italian manufacturing industry.
“To be innovative means more than being big,” he says. “We want to make sure our equipment works in ways that maximizes our customers’ efficiencies, and would rather focus on bettering our products and services than boosting production that could compromise quality.”
Italian OEMs have shown, based on statistics, that they’ve been able to grow without making a huge case for improving productivity, instead focusing on bettering innovation and R&D activities and ramping up the value-added component. It’s a strategy that appears to be working. Italy’s manufacturing exports represent 70% of production in an industry worth more than $34 billion to the national GDP.
That’s a model productivity challenged Canadian companies should note.