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Cooperation in the packaging industry: rivals Italy and Germany ally to compete in global market

by Ilaria Vesentini

The time has come for Italy and Germany to stop competing and turn to cooperation to beat off global competition in the packaging machinery sector. The two countries each have an 18% share of the overall market: just over €6 billion each of turnover, in a worldwide market worth €37 billion, of which about a half is made up of exports.

The machinery builders from the two sides of the Alps (represented by the UCIMA employers association in Modena and its counterpart VDMA in Frankfurt) came together at Interpack – the biggest triennial fair in the world that ended last week in Dusseldorf with the record of 2,865 exporting companies and 170,500 visitors present. They emerged from the fair with the commitment to collaborate.

And it is not just the processing and packaging sector which is integrating German and Italian players on single orders from big multinational clients (by uniting their respective specializations the peers generate an unbeatable and pioneering technology for Industry 4.0 solutions). To conquer emerging markets there is also a reciprocal advantage in coordinating the monolithic German industry, with its strong business system, with the extensive coverage and flexibility of Italian operators, able and amiable vendors who suffer however from solipsism and disorganization.

These are the motivations that form the basis of the global agreement announced in Dusseldorf between the two main European fairs of the sector, Interpack and Ipack Ima (the next edition will open in Fiera Milano on May 29, 2018).

“We are making several acquisitions of specialized fairs in the world and we will increasingly operate in synergy with UCIMA and Ipack- Ima. It does not make sense to work one against the other, it is better to create synergies,” said Bernd Jablonowski, global portfolio director of processing & packaging for fair operator Messe Dusseldorf. And he added that the signing of the Italo-German agreement is a question of weeks.

“If in 2000, innovation progressed every three years and the focus was on Interpack to present new machines, today that is not enough. The speed of technological change has halved times and the alternation every year and a half with Ipack-Ima becomes strategic for all the leading European packaging industry,” said Riccardo Cavanna, chief executive of the similarly-named company from Novara and president of Ipack-Ima. The international fair is preparing to debut in Milan in an enhanced form, covering 140,000 square meters and with 3,600 exhibitors.

“Fairs remain the fundamental tool to promote our companies in the world, both us and the Germans depend for more than 80% on exports and together we manage 50% of global trade in packaging machines,” said Enrico Aureli, president of UCIMA. “The scenario that we have before us is for a global growth concentrated between Africa and Asia (with rates of 5-6% per year versus 2-3% in Europe), if we exclude the very closed American market. We are talking about far flung countries, where our robots, Italian and German, position themselves in the high end of the sector and where the current geopolitical context makes commercial strategies increasingly more complicated and uncertain.”