Fluid power is essential for the “mobility” in mobile applications and will be strongly represented at Systems & Components in Agritechnica this November in Hanover. Hydraulics is a key sector in Italy represented by ASSOFLUID, an association having grown from 13 founding companies to more than 190 companies today. These companies represent 70% of the Italian market and employ more than 14,000 people.
In the 1950s, some companies in the hydraulics sector decided to work together, and from there, CETOP – European Oil Hydraulic and Pneumatic Committee – was formed in 1962. Approximately six years later, in February 1968, these companies decided to unite and ASSOFLUID was born.
What was the historical turning point for hydraulics?
The success of hydraulics, which has been dominant since the early 1960s, is due to the many advantages offered by this technology, primarily the impressive power combined with excellent control, transmission and power control features. Over the years, there has been a continuous improvement in the performance, reliability and safety of components and hydraulic systems, which have become irreplaceable in many sectors: industrial, agricultural, earth moving, naval, aeronautic and aerospace, lifting, off-shore, iron and steel, etc.
The advent of electronics and its ever-increasing integration have brought hydraulics to levels which were unthinkable until recently and have enabled an even more consistent use of this technology with continuous improvement.
What are the market trends? What does the market require?
Modern applications require a continuous and constant updating from the technological point of view, aimed at understanding a series of innovations that are not to be seen as an eventual “surplus” or “added value” to products, but rather integral and fundamental parts for the correct functioning of the product.
Pure and simple mechanics is now a distant memory – mechanics and electronics are now two extremely synergistic industries (“mechatronics”). For this reason, the market needs to be flexible and hybrid with highly technological content while at the same time maintaining the quality and reliability acquired and guaranteed over the years.
The current market requires integrated solutions with various technologies (mechanic, fluid, electric, electronic) with the goal of creating systems that are always more efficient and easy to monitor through smart and predictive maintenance systems. Cost optimization of the entire life cycle of machinery is obviously also a factor to be considered.
“Stay with us, stay connected!” is the main theme of Systems & Components 2017. How does “connectivity” reflect the market?
4.0 technologies are enabling new services and business models to be developed, meeting the requirements of monitoring, management, security and efficiency of the manufacturing processes required by the market. Companies are increasingly focused on supplying new services related to the production data analysis and to the reconfigurability of production processes in a simple and fast way.
There are also other features related to specific processes or services available through new technologies, from adaptive manufacturing that makes customized production simpler, faster and more flexible and reduces product development time to collaborative robotics (so-called “self-learning robots”) which are now part of an ever-increasing number of production processes, finally arriving at cognitive systems.
The European market, an innovation leader, is different from the rest of the world. What differences do you see between a highly technological market like Europe with respect to markets such as Asia, Africa and India?
The European hydraulics market represents excellence at the global level even with the technological gap of recent years with “emerging” markets, especially in Asia. At the same time, however, we have specific characteristics – quality, flexibility, attention to clients, the ability to resolve problems in a personal manner – all of which make us a market leader at the global level. European products, but Italian in particular, are highly esteemed and appreciated. Export data, which are constantly increasing, only confirm this perception.
How do you face the different markets as an association? How are you able to support companies that would like to enter new markets?
In terms of “internationalization”, in the past few years ASSOFLUID has been present in the most important sector tradeshows in China, Germany, India, Russia, USA and Turkey, both directly through the organization of national Pavilions as well as with the support of ICE [Agency for the Promotion Abroad and Internationalization of Italian Businesses] to be able to best represent Italian industry.
ASSOFLUID believes that internationalization is fundamental to strengthen its image, but also to best represent its associated companies and their products around the world. Obviously much more can and must be done, especially in countries with the highest rate of industrial growth where several opportunities are opening up for those able to exploit them.
In this context, however, the proper promotion of “Made in Italy” is important. The support of government agencies, primarily ICE, but also SIMEST [SIMEST supports companies in their growth over the entire internationalization lifecycle, from the initial assessment of new markets to the expansion through direct investments.] and SACE [SACE is a joint-stock company wholly owned by “Cassa depositi e prestiti”, an Italian investment bank with 83% of the share capital owned by the Italian Ministry of Economy and Finance. SACE offers a wide range of insurance and financial products: export credit, investment protection, financial guarantees, surety bonds and factoring.], which offer the necessary tools to face the most difficult and distant markets, is also very important.
What are your expectations of this edition of Systems & Components?
Agritechnica is the main tradeshow at the global level for agricultural mechanization and Systems & Components represents a valuable showcase for hydraulic components where the best of Italian production is displayed in an international environment. It will definitely be a fundamental event to promote the hydraulics sector and our associated companies, many of whom participate in this event, a sign that the results obtained to date are more than satisfactory.
Are the reports that you are receiving from your companies positive?
The market in the first semester of 2017 is bringing encouraging reports for a true recovery of the fluid power industry (hydraulic and pneumatic), both for the national market as well as for that abroad.
There is a growth of 3 percent in the national prodcution estimated for the current year, slightly lower than that of sales abroad which should reach 2 billion EURO in total. This will create a positive trade balance of more than 1 billion EURO – further evidence of the quality of Italian products.
Agritechnica 2017 will be held from November 12-18 at Hanover’s Exhibition Grounds. Agritechnica 2015, the world’s leading tradeshow for agricultural machinery, saw more than 452,000 visitors and 2,892 exhibitors from around the world. More than 100,000 professional visitors and 700 exhibitors attended Systems & Components in 2015.
All information for visitors and exhibitors is available online at http://www.agritechnica.com.