According to ISTAT data, Italy's GDP in the third quarter, similarly to that of the main European countries, showed, according to preliminary estimates, a robust recovery across all economic sectors, with the main economic indicators returning close to pre-crisis health levels.
Data for the period July-September 2020 in the woodworking technology sector also showed a similar trend. In general terms, orders for woodworking machinery and tools for wood-furnishing marked a more limited drop than expected, testifying to a certain improvement in the economic situation compared to previous quarters, strongly conditioned by the lockdown period.
Acimall's quarterly survey
The quarterly survey carried out by the Study Office of Acimall, the Italian association of woodworking machinery and accessories manufacturers, reveals that wood-furnishing technologies accounted for 10.1% fewer orders than in the same quarter of 2019, in line with the figures for the machine tool sector.
Orders from the domestic market decreased by 32.3 per cent, against a better trend in international demand, which fell by only 1 per cent. The overall trend is made less heavy by the fact that orders still grew by more than 40 percentage points compared to the dramatic period April-June 2020.
According to the Acimall survey, the order book is equal to 3.1 months (they were 2.4 in the previous quarter), with an increase in prices since the beginning of 2020 of 0.6. Another comforting figure is the drop in turnover which, compared to the same quarter in 2019, is 9.5%, compared to 29.8% in the previous quarter.
Acimall's qualitative survey
For the next period, the qualitative survey reveals that 47% of those interviewed indicate a positive production trend, while 18% are inclined towards a downward trend; the remaining 35% expect substantial stability. Employment will be stable according to 65 per cent of the sample, while 29 per cent expect a decline and only 6 per cent think it will grow.
Inventories are stable for 65% of respondents, up 6% and down the remaining 29%.
The use of digital communication tools
The production system of the wood-furniture technology sector has found the necessary ways to move forward during the long period of total lockdown that Italy, like almost the whole world, has experienced.
In fact, companies have made strong use of digital communication tools: webinars, online demos and “digital conversations“ have allowed companies, and continue to do so, to keep relations on foreign markets alive, reaffirming their competitiveness to customers all over the world, traditionally attentive to the quality of “made in Italy“. These tools have also shown a strong value on the domestic market, where there has been a significant drop in demand, which can be mitigated by the incentives for companies that the entire production system is clamouring for.
The issues linked to the digitalization of companies both in terms of plants and in terms of staff training are at the centre of political attention also because the challenge will most likely be played out in this field.