Interview with AMAFOND President Riccardo Ferrario
In Europe, the second year of the Covid-19 pandemic is still providing for uncertain times, and the hope is that vaccination strategies will lead to something like a return to familiar life.
Regardless of this, the foundry industry was able to pick up speed again after a sharp slump in 2020, and the forecasts for Germany predict a significant recovery for the second half of the year.
Many foundries also used the forced cutbacks in production last year to restructure their companies and prepare them for the accelerated digitalization of industry.
We still have to live with the fact that face-to-face events in Europe are canceled or postponed, so we are happy that we can create virtual spaces in digital media where we can at least talk to customers, interested parties and friends from a distance and maintain communication.
The Italian suppliers of the foundry industry are now making such a communication bridge and meeting space available to German foundries.
On May 19th and 20th, 2021, Italian mechanical engineering invites you to a webinar for the German foundry industry. Register Here https://fonderiagermania.eventidigitali.ice.it
In the run-up to and in preparation for this top-class event, we spoke with the President of the Association of Italian Foundry Suppliers AMAFOND, Riccardo Ferrario:
FP: How are you doing personally in the second year of the pandemic, and how did the Italian industry – especially those in the heavily affected regions of Lombardy and northern Italy - get through the difficult times since last year?
Answer: I am personally doing well, as well as my family. We are extremely prudent and respecting all protocols for reducing the risk of Covid 19. I have to say that 2020 was difficult year for most of our associated companies, especially for those fused on Automotive as end market of their specific business; however, we did see some good sign of recovery in the last quarter of 2020. As an example, cast iron foundries recovered a lot; consequently, companies who produce and sell consumables scored good result too. More difficult was for the company who makes machineries. For them, the average turnover dropped down to 25 / 30 %.
Besides, costs of raw materials dramatically increased in the first quarter of 2021; increases in some cases more than 50%, with consequent margin reductions for our sector. Exactly the opposite of what we need. Hopefully we will soon go back to normal market condition, but weaker from the financial and economical point of view.
FP: Corona left deep cuts. Were companies still able to pursue opportunities and further development during the crisis?
Answer: as usual, when a critical moment suddenly comes, companies with lean and flexible production process are capable to suffer less. Besides, I can also confirm that the ones voted towards innovation with good financial situation in the previous year, have been capable to further invest and launch new products and machineries. Now, they are in better position for catching the recovery plans in front of them.
FP: We are currently also suffering from the fact that trade fairs and congresses cannot take place as face-to-face events. The Italian suppliers are therefore preparing themselves specifically for the German market with the upcoming webinar. What significance do the German-speaking companies have for the mechanical engineering of AMAFOND companies?
Answer: Traditionally our associated companies are highly appreciated by the German market for their products of excellent quality and competitiveness. There was less business in 2020 but in continuity. Clearly it was more difficult for us searching new business opportunity, new customers, and the fact that we could not travel and meet in persons our German friends has further penalized the Italian supplier chain. We are social people, we trust on personal relationship; however, we have also discovered that we have probably travelled too much in the past, also losing time for moving from our country to abroad. For sure, companies who are capable to talk in German language have been more listened by the Germans, especially when engineers talk together. Many Italian companies have been capable to improve this aspect by also helping each other’s. it was quite common sharing German speakers, and this is another important aspect of Amafond; all together for increasing our opportunities. Besides, Amafond has decided to totally renew its web site: we are going to release our new version soon: innovative, easy use for fast findings of what you need, with virtual fair sections, and of course in German language. This also means to be innovative.
FP: What can the participants of the free webinar expect on the two days? Which highlights can you announce to us today and which casting processes will be mapped? Are there specific points of focus?
Answer: from our side, this is fundamental moment and we want to show our strength to Germany, our spirit of innovation, our vitality in this difficult year. In fact, the “file rouge” of the company presentation will be innovation, not commercial. We as Italian recognize that our business will dramatically change and be more oriented to a sustainable world in every aspect, both for product and machinery. Eco-friendly usage, but also energy cost savings, and better circular economy are “must” for us and our German friends.
I want to personally thank ITA – Italian Trade Agency in charge of promoting us abroad, for financing our free webinar. And Foundry Planet, for its highly appreciated contribution to make our event more visible to the German Market. Together, we can have a prosperous future and make our foundry business more sustainable. We are positive and ready to accept this challenging opportunity.
FP: Thank you for the interview. We look forward to a healthy reunion and hope the webinar will be a success, offering an interesting exchange.