Laura Biason

The Gimav Studies Centre released official data on the machinery and glass products sector, which shows the growth trend is continuing for the eighth consecutive year.

“This marks the eighth consecutive year of growth. The upswing in exports continues, and domestic market indicators are starting to improve as a result of the Industry 4.0 Plan incentives. Our sector is growing, and it’s very gratifying to be able to say that the effects of the downward trend that marked the national and international economy in 2009 are definitively behind us now,” says Laura Biason, director of Gimav, the Confindustria member association representing Italian manufacturers of flat and hollow glass processing machinery, systems, special products and accessories.

According to the latest figures on the Italian glass machinery sector, there was a 4 percent increase in overall sales by the sector compared to 2016, with flat glass up by 4.9 percent, and hollow glass up by 2.4 percent. Domestic sales also increased by 4.5 percent.

The sector workforce increased by 4.7 percent as a result of these trends. The overall trade balance rose to nearly $1.15 billion (Euro 984 million), up by 3.9 percent from the year before.

Exports remain the crown jewel of the Italian glass machinery industry, with an exports to overall sales ratio averaging 78.7 percent in 2017. More specifically, the performance of hollow glass was a bright spot, with exports accounting for 84 percent of overall sales, slightly less than $444 million (Euro 379 million). Flat glass reached another milestone with exports increasing from 75.3 in 2016 to 75.7 percent, and far exceeding $811 million (Euro 692 million) in value.

The European market ranked in first place, with 40 percent of overall export sales, while the United States maintained its absolute lead as a top destination country, followed by France, India, Mexico and China.

Strong recovery was once again reported for the Central and South American markets, which now account for nearly 12 percent of global sales (up 59.2 percent from 2016). Brazil and Argentina, together, account for 7 percent of global sales.

The ranking of countries purchasing Italian glass processing machinery includes EU Europe, Asia (up 47.76 percent from 2016), the NAFTA area, extra-EU Europe, Central and South America (up 14.04 percent from last year), Oceania and Africa.

Although exports to North America decreased, now accounting for 19.41 percent of overall global sales, exports to Oceania continued to rise.

The top five destination countries for Italian flat glass in ranking order, after the USA, were Germany, China, India and the United Kingdom, which held its place.

The ranking for hollow glass exports, which grew by 1.2 percent since last year, shows that France is once again the top destination country, while Mexico dropped into second place. Poland, India, Thailand and Argentina also moved up the ranks, but the most remarkable increase was recorded by Japan, which since 2016 has climbed from 29th to 11th place among the largest importers of Italian hollow glass, and now accounts for 3.41 percent of global exports. Iran and Spain also appear in the top 15 this year.

“The data are definitively positive,” says Biason. “The results – confirmed by the increase in domestic orders – are tangible even with regard to the opportunities offered by the Industry 4.0 Plan. We feel that the delayed applicability of incentives, after the publication of the Ministry of Economic Development Notice on April 30, 2017, negatively impacted their effect on the Italian market. For this reason we also feel these incentives should be made permanent or otherwise be made available more strategically, over a period of time that allows for adequate production planning and therefore not year after year. If we wish to make the competitiveness of the Italian industrial system and the glass supply chain outshine foreign competitors, currently our main clients, this solution would allow companies to start formulating major, sustainable plans for modernization and digitalization.”

Biason then looked ahead to the rest of 2018.

“The outlook is positive if we are to judge by the companies’ survey on the general market situation: 93.55 percent of them, in fact, predict further growth in 2018, with a more marked improvement in foreign markets, while 78 percent of companies surveyed also expect an increase in domestic sales,” she says.

The sales forecasts for Europe, both EU and extra-EU, were optimistic, with figures for both expected to increase or remain unchanged. Confidence in Russia is improving; fewer companies expect sales to drop as the market seemingly started to recover with 14.71-percent growth.

The overall outlook is positive with regard to North America and the stability, or growth, of Middle-Eastern markets; sales expectations for Central and South America clearly improved as downturn predictions decreased from 21 percent to 8.8 percent, while the number of companies forecasting their recovery increased to 41 percent.