Financial Times/Italian manufacturing event

Tuesday 10 June, 2008

I attended this event last week Manufacturing for the Future Conference: Competitive Edge Through Advanced Manufacturing Strategies which has co-hosted by the Financial Times & Machines Italia of the Italian Trade Commission. Apparently this event is on tour & on it’s way from Toronto & possibly elsewhere.

Peter Marsh, Manufacturing Editor of the Financial Times set the table by prefacing that we’ve produced as much in the last 10 years as 10 X what we’ve manufactured prior to that.

Pasqual Bova, Italian Trade Commissioner in Chicago noted that while 1/2 of world growth comes from the US today, by 2020, 80% will come from outside of the US.

Dr. Delachi of the Delmac Group informed us that flexibility is so required in manufacturing today that whereas a customer, Masco, would ask for 10,000 pieces that could be produced in 2-5 hours, now they ask for 200 pieces which are made in 10 minutes.

Sean T. Mahony, a partner with AT Kearney Management Consultants presented “The Future of Manufacturing,” atk-ft-presentation-vf (Copyright A.T. Kearney, 2008. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.) In Q&A he noted human resources issues are critical, in that there are older maintenance workers who have specific knowledge who are retiring & we may lose that knowledge when they leave the workforce. The knowledge of those processes need to be documented so that these manufacturing don’t stop when they retire.

Dr. Contino related mostly his experience with Ducati Italian motorcycle maker, who emphasized creativity
in manufacturing.

James Rutt of BLM Group Corp. presented essentially a commercial for his tube processing technology firm.

The Partnering for Success panel was moderated by Ruari McCallion, a Scotsman editor of The Manufacturer magazine, & hosted Rosy Trovato of Meccanotecnica Riesi based in Sicily & Don Massa of Massa Products Corp. based in Massachusetts. The panelists were brought together by a mutual friend in a partnership. Massa simply saw a great product made by good people @ an acceptable price, so they moved forward. Although they admitted the personal introduction helps, Massa did forge an alliance with a direct competitor by opening up a dialogue rather than discount each other into submisssion.

What blows my mind about all this is that Italy is still even promoting manufacturing & that this event even took place. I know that the Italians, Germans, & other Europeans are still heavily invested in manufacturing, probably to maintain employment, but I question how much growth there is in making new things in these expensive regions. I think many of them are moving operations eastward. My impression is that although the US is still the largest manufacturing country in the world, we’re abdicating future growth to China & other less expensive countries, hopefully not in the race to the cost bottom. Eventually someone will be able to convince leaders in Latin America & Africa to learn that corruption ultimately will not pay off, & that progress for their people will outweigh hoarding wealth among a few individuals, moving manufacturing to probably the last low cost destinations.


  1. Nicely put, Rosy.
    As a US visitor to the UK said when told by a then government minister that Britain was becoming ‘a service economy’
    “But Douglas, we can’t make a living opening doors for each other’.
    Manufacturing is one of few activities that genuinely add value – take ingredients out of the earth and, through the application of ideas and labor, increase their desirability and usefulness.
    Without an added-value core from which the services, like banking, IT, stockbroking, law and accountancy, can hang themselves, you won’t have an economy. Oh, maybe subsistence farming but nothing one would enjoy.
    Don’t throw up Singapore, BTW – it’s a city-state, which services the economies around it, as do New York and London. And it’s investing in high-tech manufacturing…

  2. Hi, this is Rosy Trovato.
    I was one of the speakers in the Conference you were talking about.
    Answering to your question: we are still heavily investing in manufacturing not only to mantain the employment but also because in many fields we are still competitive both in quality and prices.
    you are right there are very competitive countries like India and China that let investments there look like more attractive but this will never prevent the biggest economy in the world to invest in “these expensive regions”.
    All machineries my company employes in manufacturing are made in Germany, the main part of materials we employ are Europe made. we tryed to buy raw materials in US but European prices are still competitive even if the strenght of the Euro.
    So tell me, why we should have to stop investing in our regions?

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