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ITALIAN-MADE FOUNDRY BETS ON QUALITY AND CUSTOMIZATION
Quality, flexibility, and customisation: these are the three distinguishing features of Italian companies which produce machinery, plants,
furnaces and products for the foundry industry. The sector makes approximately two thirds of its turnover, 1.5 million euros in 2007 (5-7% more than the previous year: data is provisional), abroad. Italian exports in the area of metallurgy and foundry machinery grew in 2007 by 19% in value: the figures from the Italian statistics office (Istat) do not allow to separate out the data for the sole foundry sector, but they nonetheless paint a positive picture.
“Our sector – explains Fabrizio Carmagnini, director of the sector association Amafond – counts approximately 140 companies, of which 85 are members of our association, employing 7,000 people. Most of them are small or medium-sized enterprises, although there are some major players – the only ones to have implemented international production strategies in the currently most promising markets for the foundry sector, i.e. China, India and Brazil”.
The other companies remain rooted in Italy, which is still the country of reference, ahead of the German, American and Japanese producers. “What sets us apart – Carmagnini continues – is the ability to constantly follow the client: we position ourselves as total partners, from the preliminary phase in which a business partnership is considered, until the realisation of the finished plant or the delivery of the product. We are able to select the most effective solutions to guarantee the cast or the type of plant required: our support is crucial in order to guarantee quality solutions with an innovative technological content”.
The Italian foundry sector supplies cast-shaping machinery used by sectors such as automotive, construction, wind-energy, as well as by manufacturers of earth-moving machinery, agricultural machinery, machine tools requiring footings in melted structures. A substantial slice of the demand comes from the automotive sector. “Italy – Amafond’s director explains – is undoubtedly the world leader in pressure moulding with its die casting, gravity casting and low pressure casting machinery, used to make components such as wheels, engine blocks, and non-ferrous cylinder pistons massively used by the car manufacturing sector”. In this aspect the foundry machinery is different from the steel industry, which processes consumer goods (laminates, rods for reinforced concrete, steel tracks): “Foundry products – Carmagnini adds – is a custom-made cast produced in batches to satisfy the specific needs of the buyer”.
The main markets for manufacturers of machinery, furnaces and foundry products are the so-called BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China), i.e. the geographical areas where the automotive industry is moving to in search of more competitive cost-bases. In Europe, Italy has maintained interesting export shares in markets such as Germany, Spain, France and Turkey. “The sector – Carmagnini says – is beginning to move from Western to emerging markets, but Italy will still play a role in the coming years thanks to what is primarily a technology-based competitive advantage. One prime example: we are still ahead in process automation, making machinery which covers the entire span of the manufacturing process. In a sector in which production must take into account the cooling time of metals brought to extremely high temperatures, the optimisation of the manufacturing phases through automated machinery plays a crucial role in terms of efficiency and reduces the need for personnel”.