The digital age has changed more than 6 out of 10 manufacturing companies in a significant manner and 55.8% of Italian entrepreneurs see their company as innovative.

  • In the First Semester of 2018 there has been an increase of revenue (61.4%) with a growth forecast of 66.6%.
  • Human-technological relationship: for more than half of the sample group it is people that occupy a fundamental and central role in processes, whilst for 36% it is technology that is of primary importance, but only if supported by suitable human training and cultural change.
  • 4% have confidence in the chain concept and have established technological partnerships


How innovative are Italian manufacturing SMEs?

The MECSPE Observatory, presented by Senaf at the new tour of “LABORATORI MECSPE FABBRICA DIGITALE, La via italiana per l’industria 4.0” (MECSPE DIGITAL PRODUCTION WORKSHOPS, the Italian approach to Industry 4.0), evaluates the first semester of 2018, presenting the state of play for Italian companies and their relationship with digital change. A process of change that in recent years has changed greatly or quite a lot more than 6 companies out of 10, in a context that on a general level digitalisation is notable (47.4%), complete (37.8%) or in a few areas only  (9.6%). 55.8% of Italian entrepreneurs see their company as very or quite innovative, whilst 7 out of 10 believe that the best tools for innovation are first and foremost the transference of knowledge, followed by targeted consultancy (64.8%),  comparisons with similar companies (36.4%), workshops (31.8%) and the tutorship of an academy or university (23.3%). 87.6% claim to have a medium-high level of awareness of the technological and digital opportunities on the market. During 2018, 21,2% will invest from 10% to 20% of revenue in research and innovation, and many believe that innovation has permitted companies to create new supply chains. Even though some respondents have not as yet implemented technological partnerships, 30.9% are considering doing so, whilst 30.4% believe in the concept of the chain and have focused on these partnerships to encourage the technological development of the company.

“We are finally reaping the tangible fruits of the process of change that has swept across our country and the sense of confidence that guides Italian companies. The feelings captured by the MECSPE Observatory on the first six months of 2018 is confirmation of this. The investments made in technology and innovation are considered by most of the entrepreneurs to have served a purpose, convinced that this is the right direction to follow. Training and the transference of knowledge are still, however, considered to be fundamental assets, without which no challenge can be fully taken up in an effective manner

Maruska Sabato, Project Manager of  MECSPE 

Confirmed are the intentions to invest in new enabling technologies , now widely used by SMEs in the mechanical and sub-contracting industries, that have introduced solutions for IT security (89.2%), connectivity (79.7%), cloud computing (67.1%), collaborative robotics (35.4%), simulation (31%),  big data (29.1%), additive production (28.5%) and the Internet of Things (27.8%). Augmented reality has been chosen by 15.2%, as has intelligent materials,  whilst nano-technologies have been adopted by  7%. At the current time, the main reasons for a slowing down in digitisation is the uncertain trade-off between investments and benefits (for 43.5% of companies), the excessively high investments required (35.7%), the lack of internal competence (26.2%), the backwardness of the companies involved in collaboration (17.9%), as well as the absence of adequate technological infrastructure (14.3%), the lack of clear vision from top management (12.5%) and doubts about the safety of data and potential cyber attacks (4.8%).

What role do people and technology play?

In the process of technological change, the human-machine relationship is perceived in a variety of ways. More than half of the sample (54.8%), claim that people always occupy a role of fundamental importance that is central in processes and that the human perception is the real driver of change. For 36%, however,  technology has a leading role, but only if supported by suitable human training and cultural change. 8.6% claim that technology is fundamental and the only enabling factor for the construction of solutions that permits the improvements of obsolete process paradigms, whilst only 0.5% have a catastrophic vision, in which people will no longer hold a central role and are destined to be replaced by machines. When asked if current professional figures will disappear68.3% answer “Not completely”, predicting the creation of new/specific figures with strong IT skills. For 24.3% certain figures cannot be replaced, compared to 7.4% that think that the traditional professions will not be able to keep up and are destined to be replaced.

The most requested specialist profiles by 2030

Looking to the future, young people and digital skills, the most requested specialist profiles by 2030 will be:

Robotic Engineer: 30.3%
Big Data Specialist: 17.9%
Artificial Intelligence Programmer: 13.8%
IoT Specialist: 9.2%
Multichannel Architect: 7.7%
Cyber-Security Expert: 6.2%

In terms of the overall training that the fourth industrial revolution demands of personnel involved in the analysis and management of data, the level of skill is considered to be high by almost 6 entrepreneurs out of 10  (56.2%) and medium by 38.4% of the sample. Searching for new professionalism to deal with the challenges of Industry 4.0, the company contacts personnel agencies (53.4%), universities (38.9%), technical institutes (36.1%), consultancy companies (24.5%), institutes and trade schools (24%). There there are also inserts (15.4%) and placement offices (9.6%) as points of reference.


The current economic progression for Italian companies in the mechanical and sub-contracting sectors in positive overall, with 74.8% of entrepreneurs noting very positive results, 24.1% stating that they are quite satisfied and only 1.1% stating that they are discontent. Compared to the same period in 2017, in the first half of 2018 revenue had increased for 61.4% of companies, whilst 32.4% stated that it had remained stable and 6.1% noted a decrease. There was a significant increase compared to 2017, with an increase of 12.6%. The order book  was considered to be “adequate” with the level of economic sustainability by 89.6% of the companies, compared to 10.4% for whom it was insufficient. With respect to predictions for the remainder of the current year, 66.6% expected an increase in revenue, whilst 28.5% believed it would remain stable and 4.9% anticipated a decrease. Numbers that are still increasing compared to a year ago, when positive expectations were recorded at 57.9%.


Export remains the determining factor for Italian SMEs in the manufacturing sector with 7 out of 10 (70.1%) stating that they export their products and services to varying degrees. 25.4% state that less than 10% of their revenue comes from abroad, 12.9% “from 10% to 25%”, 15.2% “from 26% to  45%”, 12.1% “from 46% to 70%” and 4.5% “more than 70%”.

Exporters focus mainly on:

Central-Western Europe: 82.4%
Eastern Europe: 49.5%
Asia: 30.8%
North America: 26.4%
Russia: 14.3%
Middle East and South America: 12.6%
Northern Africa: 9.9%
Oceania: 4.9%
Southern Africa: 2.7%

There are no doubts about the future of the market in which the individual companies operate. In the next 3 years, only  6.5% predict a contraction of the market in which they operate compared to 59.8% that are clearly convinced of the development of their sector and 33.7% that believe there will not be significant variations compared to the current situation.


Methodological note: the research was conducted by GRS Research & Strategy on a sample of companies from the mechanical market using the CAWI method (Computer Assisted Web Interviewing). There were 409 responses, a random and significantly significant sample, with territorial distribution in line with that of reality. The research took place from July-August 2018.


Now in its 18th year, MECSPE is the international fair for technology and innovation, and the point of reference for the manufacturing sector.
The numbers for MECSPE 2018: 110,000 m2 of exhibition space, 53,442 visitors,  2,260 companies present, 58 training moments, 34 workplace islands and demonstration units, 12 themed salons and 5 high quality squares.



Machines and tools – machine tools, tool and equipment; Digital Factory – information technologies for intelligent factory management; Motek Italy – factory automation; Power Drive – Systems- Parts – Mechatronics; Control Italy – metrology and quality control; Logistics – systems for logistic management, machines and equipment; Mechanical Subcontracting – subcontracting of industrial processing; Electronic Subcontracting – design, electronic processing, parts and accessories; Eurostampi, Machines and plastic subcontracting – moulds and moulding; the processing of plastic materials from rubber and composites; Additive Manufacturing – rapid prototyping and 3D printing; Processing and Finishing – machines and installations for processing and finishing of surfaces; Non-ferrous materials and alloys – aluminium, titanium, magnesium.


The stages for 2018/2019 of the “MECSPE WORKSHOPS FOR DIGITAL MANUFACTURING, The Italian approach to Industry 4.0”
The touring events continue  for Senaf, created with the aim of travelling across the strategic areas that are aiming to adhere to the national plan for Industry 4.0. The new talks will bring together entrepreneurs and associations in Brescia, on 21 September, with the focus on “General Mechanics”. This will be followed by Turin, on 29 October, dedicated to “Automotive”; Catania, in December, on “Electronics” andBologna in February with the “Iot and AI” event. The tour will end in March, with the focus on the Man at the centre of Manufacturing, at the regular event in Parma, as part of MECSPE.




Paola Gianderico

mobile: +39 331-7623732

landline: 02-54123452; fax: 02-54090230

e-mail paola.gianderico@mypr.it