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The Studies Office of Acimall, the association that brings together Italian manufacturers of wood and furniture technology, has drawn up a preliminary forecast for 2023 that is still positive, showing a 3.5 per cent growth in production compared to 2022.
Although the order trend is decidedly less satisfactory compared to the excellent figures of previous years, the companies still have a strong order portfolio, which has enabled them to increase their turnover in 2023 as well.
This result, when added to the plus 5.3 per cent recorded in 2022 over the record year 2021, testifies to the positive health of the companies in the sector, which have been able to invest and consolidate their position in Italy and in markets around the world.
Exports and the Italian Market
Exports, which account for around 70 per cent of the total, grew by 7 per cent (EUR 1,935 million in value), while sales on the domestic market fell by 4 per cent compared to 2022 (EUR 805 million in value), a situation also confirmed by the decrease in imports (EUR 270 million in value, minus 7 per cent compared to the previous twelve months).
The Italian market is therefore going through a less positive moment, in the light of user investments that have reached very high levels in recent years, effectively saturating the active technology park. This downturn can be considered physiological and must therefore be read in the right light. Apparent consumption fell by 4.3 percentage points to € 1,075 million, demonstrating the strong demand for wood and furniture technology in Italy, which remains the fourth largest market in the world behind China, the United States and Germany, ahead of Vietnam, which ranks fifth.
It is also interesting to note that in 2023 the world of technologies for wood and its derivatives continues to boast an excellent performance in terms of trade balance, with a surplus of 1,665 million euros, 9.3% more than in 2022.
Forecast for 2024
After the 'boom' of the past few years, the woodworking machinery sector has been showing a trend towards more 'normal' levels for the past few quarters, a trend that is expected to continue in 2024.
The director of Acimall, Dario Corbetta, stated that it is very difficult to make forecasts today, also in the light of the dramatic international events that could have decisive repercussions on the entire world economy. "Our sector,' he added, 'is not exempt from the classic alternation of more positive periods with others that are decidedly less satisfactory: the novelty - if we want to talk about novelty - is that the growth of the past few years has been so strong as to generate a real upward spike, a very marked discontinuity that will impose a slow return to normality, hence the persistence of negative values, albeit limited in percentage terms, for a longer time. The sector is perhaps becoming overly concerned about what is to all intents and purposes a physiological contraction. "The figures for 2023 prove this," Corbetta concludes, "today the companies are undoubtedly more robust, both financially and from an organisational point of view, compared to other, much more difficult seasons in the past: this will allow them to manage a contraction that we can safely define as 'normal', albeit made more accentuated by the extraordinary results of the previous three years.
Factors for cautious optimism
It is also important to remember that in recent years the Italian market has benefited from measures to support investment. These could now be repeated thanks to the measures envisaged by the 'Industry 5.0' plan, included in the National Recovery and Resilience Plan, which have been given the green light by the European Commission as they are consistent with the 'REPower EU' plan, aimed at accelerating the transition of the countries of the community towards the use of clean energy and, more generally, the adoption of all those measures that enable a reduction in consumption.
This is the context for the new facilities decided by the national economic authorities to support those investments that meet the connectivity and integration standards in the management networks of companies envisaged by 'Industry 4.0' and can in addition guarantee less energy-intensive results.
“For the two-year period 2024-2025, companies will have at their disposal, through the tax credit tool, funds amounting to 6.3 billion euros to be added to the benefits of ”€", a plan created to support all those interventions aimed at improving the energy efficiency of machines and plants," Dario Corbetta tells us. "The contraction in recent months may therefore have been affected by the decision of many companies to wait for the new measure to become fully operational before deciding on new investments."
There are therefore grounds for cautious optimism with the certainty that Xylexpo 2024, the biennial international exhibition of woodworking technologies organised by Acimall and to be held at FieraMilano-Rho from 21 to 24 May, will enable potential customers and users to grasp innovations in terms of consumption management.