Press Releases

13 March 2017

Positive trend for the SMEs of the mechanics and subsupply sector, more and more oriented towards the 4.0 Digital Factory


– In 2016, turnovers increase (48.7%) and stable (44%) or increasing (46.8%)employment situation. The enterpreneurs are more and more satisfied and see new perspectives in the market

– The 4.0 industry is the new development horizon: waiting for the application of the Piano Calenda (Plan) the companies elaborate strategies and plan to increase the investments in qualifying technologies

A lively sector that left behind the negative conjuncture and look with confidence at the development perspectives offered by the fourth industrial revolution: this is the picture of the Italian companies belonging to mechanics and subsupply sector taken by the last edition of MECSPE Observatory, realized by Senaf on the occasion of MECSPE, the event that is the reference point for the 4.0 manufacturing sector, which, with more than 1,800 participating companies, will bring to Fiere di Parma (Fairground), from the 23rd to the 25th of March, innovative machines and processes, able to imprint a concrete transformation to the manufacturing sector, dedicating a whole hall to the 4.0 technologies. As a matter of fact, according to MECSPE Observatory for the SMEs of mechanics and subsupply, 2016 ended with increased turnovers for almost the half of them (48.7%) and a positive employment situation: if the 44% kept the numbers of persons in charge stable, the 46.8% hired new staff. Also the results imagined for 2017 are positive:the 56.6% prospects an increase of its own turnover and a stable (49.8%) or increasing (46,2%) employment situation. This satisfies the enterpreneurs with only a 5% not satisfied and 6 out of 10 (59.9%) very satisfied with the present trend of their company.

For more than the half of the businessmen the market is again solid and will keep on offering new business chances – states Emilio Bianchi, Senaf director – The companies must consider again their own production paradigm, in the presence of a transformation that is interesting the sector and is oriented towards digitalization and integration of technologies more and more advanced in the production processes, in order to make them lean, efficient and highly performing. Strong thanks to the recovery of their economic impulse, the enterpreneurs are not scared by this evolution: they keep on investing in R&D and are more and more oriented towards the model of the 4.0 Digital Factory.

Thanks to the Piano Calenda (Plan) and to the Government support, the perspective of a 4.0 Italianmanufacturing sector is really improving among the enterpreneurs, even if for the 55.1% this goal is still far away. In the meantime the half of the companies states that it has a strategy and a clear general vision for its own future as ‘Intelligent Factory’ and how to integrate the 4.0 technologies in its own processes in order to optimize the production. For almost the half (49.7%) the general digitalization got in the company is good, above all when we talk about the relationship with customers and sales channels (57.1%) and product planning and development (54.9%).

In order to get to these results, the SMEs invested a variable amount of their turnovers.  Nowadays, if more than the half (50.5%) dedicated less than the 10%, is the 36.6% that exceeds this amount, and this will get better during the next years. Almost the half of the Italian companies (49.2%) predicts to dedicate more than the 10% of its own turnovers to investments in 4.0 technologies: almost 4 out of 10 (38.7%) will invest from the 11 to the 25% of the turnover and the 10.5% more than the 26%. A budget increase that is explained also considering the maxi amortisation plan foreseen by the Government for the introduction of 4.0 machines and solutions, that will be highly used by the Italian companies (this is what the 47.9% affirms): if more than one fifth of the Italian companies will use it for the first time (21.2%), the 26.3% will ask for it after the advantages of the 140% one. A number that is destined to increase after the explanations of the direction test of the 15th February 2017 about the goods included into the 4.0 investments, that will help the 25.8% of the doubting companies to understand if they can really take advantage of it.

The SMEs of the mechanics and subsupply division, that have already introduced new qualifying technologies, preferred solutions for IT safety (30.6%), robotics (20.7%)mechatronics (20.1%)cloud computing (16.5%) and simulation (16.2%), that will be aim of further investments during 2017. Therefore, at the end of the year, the IT safety will be present in more than one third of the companies (35.7%), in more than one fourth there will be robotics (25.8%) and mechatronics (26.4%), whereas more than one fifth will be equipped with cloud computing (23.7%) and simulation solutions (21.3%). But during 2017 the internet of things will take advantage of the highest investments, registering a +12% with a presence in almost one fourth of the Italian companies (24.9%).

The integration of these 4.0 qualifying technologies in the production processes will offer advantages above all from the point of view of the optimization of the quality control of the processes (78.8%) and of the one in real time of the supply chain (50%), followed by remote monitoring (38.6%), improvement of the energy consumption (34.8%) and chance for a predictive maintenance (33.2%).

But for the transformation process of the companies into intelligent, digital and connected factories there are some obstacles, like the uncertainty of the investments-benefits ratio, (44.9%) their cost (34.6%) and the necessity to have a skilled staff (33.5%). Another difficulty is the underdevelopment of the companies we collaborate with (26.5%).

“Waiting for the new professional and academic paths for tomorrow’s workers, and for the Competence Center and Innovation Hub foreseen by the Piano Calenda (Plan) for the company literacy, today we need meeting moments among the companies, in order to compare ourselves, exchange opinions and experiences, and to touch the competitive advantages of this fourth revolution – explains Emilio Bianchi – Big companies, as a matter of fact, believe that they can be a model for the small ones: a process with a domino effect that must be facilitated and promoted. With the MECSPE Labs – Digital Factory project, that begins this year in Vicenza and Bari and that we want to bring forward within the next months, and with this new edition of MECSPE, where the qualifying technologies will be the protagonists, we want to help the manufacturing sector to find the Italian way towards the 4.0 industry.


The present company trend results generally satisfactory for the companies of the mechanics and subsupply division, with the 59.9% of the enterpreneurs who talks about a very positive company performance, the 35.1% that is on average satisfied and only the 5% that is bothered.

Satisfaction that can be partially explained, as a first step, looking at the general trend in 2016 and at the predictions for this year.

In 2016 compared to 2015, as a matter of fact, the turnovers increased for the 48.7% of the companies, whereas the 39.1% states a stability and the 12.1% a decrease.

Talking about employment, the number of the persons in charge increased for the 46.8%, remained generally stable for the 44% and only a 9.2% had to reduce its staff.

The orders portfolio is considered “appropriate” to the own financial sustainability levels by the 69.8% of the companies; for a 30.2% is insufficient. Positive signs about liquidity that is considered good by the half of the enterpreneurs (50.8%), sufficient for almost 4 businessmen out of 10 (38.8%) and negative for the 10.4%.

Talking about the predictions for 2017 related to turnovers, the 56.5% supposes to get a turnover increase, the 38.8% stability and only the 4.7% a decrease; and related to employment, if the 49.8% states that it will keep the number of persons in charge stable, the 46.2% thinks about increases and only the 4% predicts decreases.

The export is still a driving factor for the SMEs in Italy with almost 8 out of 10 (76.7%) that state to export their own products and services with a variable incidence. The 32.7% told to realize abroad less than the 10% of the turnover, the 15.3% “from the 11% to the 25%”, the 11.6% “from the 26% to the 45%”, the 10.2% “from the 46% to the 70%” and the 6.9% “more than the 70%”.

Who exports, heads mainly towards countries in Middle-West Europe (81.3%), followed by East Europe (30.5%) and North America (26.2%). About the 22.5% exports to Asia, the 16% to Middle East, the 15% to South America, the 10.7% to Russia, the 7.5% to North Africa, the 5.9% to Oceania and the 2.7% to South Africa.

There are no doubts about the future of the market where the single companies work: within the next 3 years, only the 8.5% expects a market contraction, whereas the 53% is convinced of its development and the 38.5% believes that there won’t be big changes compared to the present trend.

In this economic horizon, the SMEs keep on believing in the importance of research and development  (92.4%), investing different amounts of their turnovers. The 49.6% dedicates to them less than the 10%, but the 25.2% invests between the 11% and the 20%, and the 10.8% exceeds this limit.

Note about the methodology: the survey was realized by GRS Research & Strategy on a sample of companies belonging to mechanics and subsupply using CAWI (Computer Assisted Web Interviewing) and CATI (Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing) methods. They got 333 answers, a random sample statistically relevant, characterized by a territorial distribution aligned with the one of the starting universe. The survey took place in February 2017.