Certainly, expecting a different outcome was very difficult indeed. The crisis triggered by the Sars-CoV-2 pandemic, with the ensuing lockdowns and stoppages in industrial production, has brought various industrial sectors to their knees. In this far from positive scenario, the machine tool, robotics and automation industry has been no exception.
According to data from the “Centro Studi & Cultura d’Impresa” of UCIMU (the association of Italian manufacturers of machine tools, robots, automation and related products), 2020 was the annus horribilis of the Italian machine tool industry. All economic indicators recorded significant drops, but this is a situation that is shared at international level: the Italian industry remains in fourth place among producers and exporters and fifth in the ranking of consumer countries.
The situation in 2021 is completely different. The beginning of the year is characterised by a strong recovery (just as for the entire Italian economy, with GDP growing by more than 6% according to initial estimates), with orders and turnover on the rise. The estimates made by the UCIMU Study Centre, and confirmed by the results recorded between January and June 2021, speak of double-digit growth in turnover compared to the 2020 result.
Machine tool, robotics and automation industry: the 2020 result
According to the data released during the annual meeting with members by UCIMU president Mrs. Barbara Colombo, during 2020 the sector’s turnover dropped by 20.4% compared to the previous year, reaching 5 billion 182 million euros. In detail, turnover on the domestic market fell by 20.3% compared to the previous year (2 billion 321 million euros), while exports dropped by 20.5% (with a total turnover of 2 billion 861 million euros).
Forecasts for 2021
According to the figures presented by UCIMU President Mrs. Barbara Colombo, the machine tools sector’s turnover in 2021 will reach €5.7 billion, a 10.9% increase over the 2020 figure. The contribution to growth will come (almost) equally from both the domestic market and exports. Orders from abroad will reach a turnover of €3.1 billion, up 9.4% compared to 2020 figures; orders from the domestic market will generate a turnover of €2.6 billion.
A recovery, UCIMU leaders underline, which must however be supported by government intervention. It is essential to renew incentives such as those of the Transition 4.0 Plan and the New Sabatini for the coming years, while new impetus must be given to the training of highly qualified personnel (through, for example, tax credits for those who invest in this sector) so as not to miss the train represented by the PNRR European funds.
Results for the first half of 2021
The forecast for the current year is supported by the partial results of the first six months of 2021. During the annual meeting with members, it emerged that the order index for the first half of 2021 grew by 88.2% compared to the same period last year. Specifically, domestic orders increased by 238%, while foreign orders grew by 58%. In short, it is the domestic market that drives the entire machine tools and robotics sector: a further sign of the good (if not excellent) health of the national economy.