Plastic moulds Waiting for the rescue

The latest data released by the world association ISTMA World have demonstrated the good performance of the Italian and global tool industry but the wait for the release of some big automotive projects – electrification included – are partly changing the scenario.

Piero Ciampi

According to the statistics by the international sector association ISTMA World, for the whole 2016 the made in Italy tool production ranked sixth in the world in terms of value, for a total of 2.684 billion US dollars. Real giants preceded it, like China (25.1 billions: but the datum is updated to 2015); United States (about 15 billions in 2015); Japan (2014: 10.2); Germany (5.3 billions) and Korea with 5.9 billions (2014). All these Countries highlighted a constant growth trend, and according to observers, outside this top-6, we could state the same for Portugal and Spain. If from the figures concerning the overall tool production we move to the only plastic field, the scenario does not seem to suffer particular upheavals. The Peninsula still remains sixth, with a value amounting to 1.661 billion dollars behind Germany (1.6); South Korea (3.2); Japan (3.8); USA and China with 6.2 and 12.3 billion dollars. It is once more worth underlining that the most recent update of the estimates concerning these last four nations dates back to 2015. Italia confirms its sixth position concerning then export, although in this case the turnover disparities between one and the other market protagonist decrease. Sales abroad accounted for 908 million dollars for domestic manufacturers against 922 of Japan and 986 of Canada. Germany ideally conquers the bronze medal with its 1.070 billions while the ranking is headed by South Korea (1.5) and People’s Republic of China with its 3.4 billions. Three-colour toolshops do not appear in the list of the first ten importing States, dominated by the States (1.77 billions); by Mexico (1.259); by Germany (1.227 billion US dollars). In terms of value expressed by the domestic market at the end of 2016, Italy is stable again in sixth position with 1.095 billions against the Korean 1.5 (2014 datum) and the German 2.7. On the podium, by decreasing order, the omnipresent China (9.6 billions in 2015); USA (2015: 7.3); Japan with its 3.6 billion US dollars according to 2014-surveys.

«Hybrid motors and the electrification trend», Corti added, «might further boost the market and the rising lightening requirements are expected to drive the demand for injection moulds: die-casting will work instead at structural parts».

Decreasing visibility

According to ISTMA World, overall the value of the tool production in the world fluctuated around 42 billion dollars and the one of exports, in slight downturn at the time of the research publication, slightly under 14 billions. Imports still amounted to about 14 billions while the rising market approached the figure of 38.2 billions. Finally, referring to the sale flows of plastic moulds, 74.7% of what manufactured in the European Union appeared redistributed inside the Old Continent itself, which instead imports from Asia 27.7% of its requirements. After less than two years from the release of the Statistical Yearbook, from which we have drawn the information reported here, the scenario does not seem concerned by significant changes. This is the opinion of the General Director of the Union of the Italian manufacturers of precision tools and equipment Giovanni Corti, who however believes that something is moving in the background. «For Italian tools and not only, today the main outlet macro-area is represented by the automotive world», the representative of Ucisap told Stampi, «that is going on working stably. It is undeniable that the field is affected by signs of slowdown – essentially caused by the wait for the release of some big projects –which influences moulds». The impasse has started occurring and being perceived in particular since last September and it has mainly concerned work planning strategies. «Nobody reports a real drop of orders», Corti specified, «and neither a crisis in course or looming at the horizon. In comparison with the recent past, the order visibility is different. While until the autumn of last year many could boast a complete order book for almost the entire 2019, now in the vast majority of cases we reach summer maximum. However, the previous situation probably showed some anomalies». The work is still abundant, its programming is instead complicate: flows, in the opinion of the general manager of Ucisap, «are irregular and inconstant» and the future will bring other changes.

In comparison with the recent past, the order visibility is different. While until the autumn of last year many could boast a complete order book for almost the entire 2019, now in the vast majority of cases we reach summer maximum.

Route change

«Hybrid motors and the electrification trend», Corti added, «might further boost the market and the rising lightening requirements are expected to drive the demand for injection moulds: die-casting will work instead at structural parts». Diversification is the password also in relation to the export destinations of some big traditional manufacturers. «Portugal is an example», Corti highlighted, «as its main customers have been for a long time German manufacturers, now often replaced by Spanish». Italy does not seem to be involved in the new trend and goes on working primarily with high added-value territories like Germany but also with East Europe and Turkey. «The entire Europe proves to be sound and healthy: Italy and Germany are its driving engine. They have very clear market goals and they are not involved in the price competition and in low-cost machining. Outside the EU, in Orient there are big Countries that are making huge investments in innovation and manufacturing systems and with which we have not established intense relations, yet. However, action margins may increase».

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