Milan, April 2021 - «We could say we are confident, if there weren't two problems as big as boulders that are jeopardizing the recovery: The increases in the prices of raw materials, which they have achieved unsustainable costs and which, moreover, are starting to become scarce, and the weaknesses of the labor market, with enormous difficulties in finding professional figures suited to our needs ". The alarm was raised by Roberto Ariotti, President of Assofond, the association of Confindustria which represents the Italian foundries, on the occasion of the first meeting of 2021 dedicated to the foundries of associated cast iron.
Foundries of non-ferrous metals are doing well, less ferrous ones The sector is confirming a positive overall performance: with 116.7 points on the values seasonally adjusted based on 2020 (Table 1 below), the industrial production of February 2021 (latest figure made available by Istat) remains substantially stable. The economic push it is still positive, after the mini-bounce in January, when the curve recorded + 0.8% up
December, even if, in February, growth slowed to + 0.6% on the previous month (Table 2) The figure represents the synthesis of diversified dynamics between the various companies: February proved itself
decidedly positive for non-ferrous metal foundries, while the relative data are less good to cast iron and steel foundries (Tables 3,4,5). In the first case, there is a new peak of the absolute maximum of the last twelve months (128.8) correcting the recessive dynamics concentrated between December and January.
For the two ferrous sectors on the other hand, the curve is down respectively to 112.8 points for cast iron and 87.2 for steel.
The great unknown of raw materials "The work is there, and this is certainly the positive note - continues Ariotti. Two-thirds of the companies associates are marching faster than in the pre-Covid months, and this comforts us.
However, concern on the raw materials front remains very high. Already three months ago, the foundry companies sounded the alarm when we realized the risk we were facing going to meet. The price of refining cast iron rose from an average of 319 euros the ton, recorded in September 2020, to almost 510 euros at the beginning of April (+ 62%). Regarding scrap, sheet metal in packs went from 303 euros / ton at the beginning of September, to over 421 euro at the beginning of April (+ 38%). But today we have another problem: the material is scarce, and the delivery times are long. Our industry is a hub in value chains, and this situation is a problem for the entire mechanical industry: upstream procurement and delivery of ordered products.
With current costs, the availability of pig iron and scrap, for example, is continuously decreasing.
This brings out a condition of absolute competitive disadvantage for companies financially more fragile, which will not be able to sustain prices and payment conditions requested with serious repercussions on their productive activity and ability to remain on the market ».
Labor market: companies want to hire but cannot find staff
Other shadows are gathering on the labor market: the management of human resources is, in this period, particularly complex for companies: "In many areas of Italy, the emergency Covid is far from over. Over the past few months we have made a great effort to ensure conditions of absolute safety in the factory, almost always going well beyond legal obligations eincurring important costs. But it is clear that each suspected case represents a potential outbreak, capable of questioning an entire operational team. It is difficult to maintain efficiency in these conditions, and the difficulty in finding new professional figures does not help us ».
Precisely the problem, common to most of the metalworking industry, linked to the market of work is also crucial for foundries: «Almost all of our companies are looking for people.
We are a sector where turnover is very low, we offer stable employment and growth opportunities professional, but supply and demand do not meet, and this too represents a problem now structural. I hope it will be dealt with as soon as possible, because it is clear that when it will come removed the block on layoffs - which certainly cannot go on indefinitely - we will have to think not only on the sacrosanct protections for workers, putting an end to the shameful all-Italian dichotomy between overprotected workers and others without any security, but also on the flexibility of which enterprises they need to be able to manage their resources more efficiently. I think, for example, of interventions on the expansion contract, which should also be accessible to SMEs and linked the concessions for hiring young people and women and greater flexibility on the reasons for the Dignity decree imposed on fixed-term contracts ».