Column number 80 – 2021

The gradual implementation of the vaccination campaign throughout Europe and the United States is in some way fostering optimism for the future in the industrial sector as well. The companies involved in this sector, in any case, had never stopped, except in the first months of the pandemic, and this meant that the industrial sector was the driving force for the great recovery of the third and fourth quarter of 2020. A recovery that, of course, was not enough to compensate for the drop in turnover, production and orders: according to the statistics of Cecimo, the European Association of Machine Tool Manufacturers, production in 2020 fell by 26%, returning roughly at the values ​​of 2009-2010, the lowest point of the financial crisis of the last decade. If we add to this figure that a decline in the production of machine tools had already been recorded during 2019, it can be extrapolated, with a motivated conviction not to deviate excessively from reality, that, beyond the pandemic crisis, the contraction of production, already underway, is partly due to the conclusion of the expansionary phase of an economic cycle. It is, in fact, very likely that the effects of the pandemic and the blocking of many activities were felt to a more marginal extent on the industrial sector than on other sectors of the economy, more aimed at the consumer.

Of particular note is the jump in demand from Italy in the fourth quarter, with a sensational + 347% in orders compared to the same period of 2019. A sudden growth, followed by a rapid decline in the third quarter, which did not prevent a -28% in the year.

What will be in the coming months depends in part on the progress of the health emergency, but only in part: if it is true, as it is true, that the industrial sector is less involved in containment measures and therefore is less affected by trend, the growth in the coming months will certainly be such as to allow a return to the levels of the end of 2018 in orders and production, but it could also represent the beginning of a new economic cycle, perhaps shorter than the previous one, which lasted just over ten years. If this is the case, after a surge between 2021 and 2022, we can expect a period of substantial stability or even a slight contraction until 2023.

It is also true, however, that the effectiveness of statistical models in the presence of a situation such as the current one, whose last precedent is a century ago, is not so clear: the recovery in consumption, on the one hand, and the slowness immunizations in fast-growing countries may represent discriminating factors which, at this time, we are unable to assess correctly.

For now, we welcome with enthusiasm the probable reopening of the fairs in attendance, starting with Made in Steel and Emo, in the autumn. It will be a bit like waking up from a long sleep and you will forgive us if, meeting us in the stands, we look at each other as the survivors do.