MECSPE observatory: investing in efficiency and innovation

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According to the MECSPE Observatory in Q1 2023, for 75 per cent of companies, turnover remains stable or is growing and the order book is considered adequate.

According to the MECSPE Observatory, the customary research that has been monitoring trends in the Italian manufacturing industry for 10 years, carried out at this stage also in view of the Bari edition of the benchmark fair for the supply chain organized by Senaf (Bari, Nov. 23-25. ’23), Q1 2023 was definitely marked by the difficulty in finding human resources (for 59 percent) and raw materials (40 percent), as well as rising interest rates, while in terms of performance, for almost three-quarters of the companies, turnovers remain stable or growing compared to the same period last year, and for 75 percent the order book is considered adequate.

Based on the findings, enterprises must become increasingly efficient to optimize costs, be economically sustainable and globally competitive.

Certainly, innovation is one of the main aspects of transforming companies and making them more modern, but for structural growth in the industry this is only one piece.

It will also be necessary to continue resource growth, an issue that is very much on the minds of businesses today, and on creating a green culture that focuses on people and society from an ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) perspective.

The three main pillars of MECSPE

Innovation, education, and sustainability are exactly the three main pillars of MECSPE, which returns for the second time to Bari as a reference point for the manufacturing sector in Central and Southern Italy.

«The industry is confirmed as a pillar of the Italian economy, and entrepreneurs have understood the importance of continuing to invest in innovation and the growth of resources with adequate training” says Maruska Sabato, MECSPE project manager. “Especially now, when new technologies such as AI are emerging that could revolutionize this industry but require specific skills that are difficult to find on the market. Today MECSPE has an important task: to accompany entrepreneurs during this journey of digital transformation by making available to them not only the exhibition part, which remains important, but all the connections that are created at the fair thanks to the presence of industry associations, companies, and experts. A comprehensive platform where companies can discover the latest solutions, touch them with their own hands, share experiences, and learn about industry news.»

Returning to the three pillars for businesses, where are we on the innovation and digitalization front, a factor that most directly impacts businesses in terms of efficiency?  Which are the emerging trends?

Digital growth and AI

Seven out of ten companies believe they experienced medium to high digital growth in Q1, and many are beginning to be “attracted” to new technologies, such as artificial intelligence, that could significantly “change” the industry: for six out of ten entrepreneurs, AI will have a positive impact (only 11 percent will be negative), 11 percent already use it, 13 percent will introduce it soon, and 37 percent are already inquiring about it.

Companies believe in it and invest in innovation, which is why MECSPE has planned a program full of dedicated initiatives to promote the benefits of digital culture and facilitate its implementation in business and production processes.

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One example is the AIDAM Village-Italian Association of Mechanical Automation, a technological and innovative area representing the Italian mechatronics industry, a worldwide excellence. «The manufacturing industry in Italy certainly ranks high in Europe for technology and innovation. An achievement to which industrial automation has undoubtedly contributed, along with the customization of solutions that only Italian companies can create» says Michele Merola, AIDAM president. «The Industry 4.0 plan, now called Transition 4.0, has revolutionized our country and the way we produce. This was a process already underway in many Italian companies, and the plan only accelerated this transformation through which companies have understood the benefits of digitization. The challenges are not over: our industry, which serves virtually the entire world and a wide variety of supply chains, is continuing to innovate to maintain the excellence we are known for as the Italy brand.»

Alongside the AIDAM Village, there is also space for young companies—which represent an index of dynamism in the country’s entrepreneurial fabric—with the StartUp Factory initiative: an area tailored to foster networking between innovative and technology startups and small, medium, and large enterprises.

Digitisation, updating and training

The increasing focus on digitization, therefore, brings with it the need to acquire new skills and train human resources. What are companies doing today to grow internal skill sets?

Among the actions they have taken or will take, nearly six out of 10 companies are investing in refresher and training courses for existing staff, and nearly three out of 10 are focusing on young people by entering into agreements with ITS, IFTS and universities.

Indeed, the topic of young people is very much on the minds of entrepreneurs, as on the one hand it reflects a new model of industry more in line with Gen Z expectations, and on the other hand it is an interesting pool from which to draw resources that are in part already trained, as in the case of ITS.

To address this challenge, MECSPE and ITS A. Cuccovillo Mechatronics Puglia will bring to the fair for the second time the Piazza Formazione 4.0 (Training Plaza 4.0), a meeting point between students and partner companies that will highlight the importance of the link between business and education.

Confindustria Bari BAT, since the first edition of MECSPE, has also clearly shown the direction that entrepreneurs must follow for their own development: «Businesses in recent years are increasingly approaching the issues of innovation and training: there is a growing awareness that the quality of graduates, super-technicians from ITS, and especially our graduates is fundamental for the growth of companies» comments Cesare de Palma, president of the Electrical and Electronics Mechanics Section of Confindustria Bari BAT. «MECSPE has returned to Confindustria Bari BAT and its Mechanics Section the role of protagonist in the industrial history of our territory, guaranteeing support to SMEs for their need for innovation and technological development. It is necessary to have a hub for the enhancement of investment programs and to support the business system and academic research to develop technology transfer activities in the most innovative and up-to-date way, and this is done through the industrial confrontation and osmosis that develops at the fair.»

Green culture and ESG criteria

In addition to innovation and training, the issue that is growing most, at least on the awareness front, is that of sustainability. And here an important chapter opens up: if large companies have a more heartfelt green culture, partly as a matter of “obligation,” what is the picture among SMEs?  On this, according to the MECSPE Observatory, there are small improvements: the level of knowledge of ESG criteria rises to 41 percent of the sample (6 pp higher than the last survey), as do entrepreneurs who consider their companies fairly or very green, which rises to 45 percent from the previous 35 percent.

But there is still a long way to go, and it will be necessary to raise awareness among entrepreneurs of the direct and indirect benefits of a more pronounced green culture, which reflects positively on all areas of business.

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A role fully grasped by MECSPE thanks to many initiatives such as the Eco-friendly Path – I do more, a real and virtual journey among exhibitors who stand out for green and sustainable business practices.

But the most important novelty on this front for the Bari edition is the Exhibition Heart “Energy Transition & Sustainability in the Manufacturing Industry: from Transportation to Business,” the most strategic area of the fair, which will be developed on three focuses: mobility, manufacturing and the hydrogen supply chain.

Through panel discussions, speeches, and discussion moments enriched by best practices and successful case histories, technology and market experts will illustrate the challenges that the automotive industry and companies will have to face in view of 2035, the possible impact of sustainable mobility on the supply chain, and what measures and solutions companies will have to adopt.

Finally, there will be no shortage of historical highlights, such as the Confartigianato Village and the ASCOMUT Village – Italian Association of Machine Technology and Tools, in addition to the participation of CNA Produzione and Confindustria Bari BAT and the support of the Municipality of Bari and the Puglia Region.

MECSPE makes an appointment at the New Fiera del Levante in Bari Nov. 23-25 to guide companies toward efficient practices.

The figures of MECSPE BARI 2019

20,000 square meters of exhibition area, 16,243 visitors including professionals and students, 656 companies attending, 54 conferences and workshops, 10 special initiatives, 6 exhibition areas, 3 pavilions, 1 exhibition heart “Intelligent WORKSHOP”.