Gimav—the association that represents Italian manufacturers of glass processing machinery, systems, special products and accessories—reported a 3.75% increase in sales in fiscal year 2018 compared to the previous fiscal year, according to data analyzed by the company’s Study Center.

There was a 2.08% increase in flat glass sales, confirming robust growth in the domestic market (+8.54%), officials said, and a 1.04% rise in exports. The European continent was the most significant market for flat glass produced in Italy, with a more than 50% share of the total. There was a decrease in exports to non-EU markets. Geographically, the U.S. stands out as the top customer, with a 15.98% share, followed by Poland, Germany, Brazil and France.

Thanks to the incentives provided for by the organization’s Industry 4.0 Plan (a program of government incentives for machinery upgrades), sales in the domestic market grew by 8.49%. Flat glass experienced the biggest increase in growth, up 9.57%.

This edition of the report looked beyond 2018 to the Gimav Study Center analysis of manufacturers’ perspectives on performance in 2019. There were widespread expectations that the economic situation would improve, with 83% of the respondents projecting an increase in overall sales.

Specifically, more than 80% of companies expressed optimism in the performance of exports; but, due to uncertainties about the Industry 4.0 Plan, only 50% had the same feeling about Italy’s domestic market.

“In light of these forecasts, it becomes even more clear just how strategically important a well-structured and long-standing Industry 4.0 Plan can be for Italian businesses. Process innovation requires lots of time and certainty if businesses are to plan for sustainable, effective investments. It is crucial that a strong message be sent regarding Industry 4.0 Plan’s long-term continuity that takes into account not only tangible and intangible goods, but also the ongoing training of human resources,” says Gimav president Michele Gusti.