By Alessandro Zucchi, President, ACIMIT,
Italy is a highly networked country, its economy driven mainly by services and manufacturing. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) – many of them family-owned – comprise 95% of Italian businesses and produce 66.9% of the country’s GDP.
After mechanical engineering, the textile and fashion sector is the second most important industry, involving approximately 45,000 companies. The small size of many of its textile companies has not been an obstacle to the development of the sector, since they operate largely in industrial districts – a key to the Italian production model.
The district is characterised by a high concentration of companies, all independent, located in a limited geographical area and historically linked by the same production purpose. Thanks to the collaboration within the district to which it belongs, each company can specialise in a specific activity, whether spinning, warping, weaving, dyeing or finishing, resulting in a high degree of skills and differentiated production, as in large, vertically integrated companies.
The presence in Italy of a highly networked textile industry enables a continuous exchange of ideas between ACIMIT machinery manufacturers and their local client companies. Furthermore, these local industrial systems often have the ability to anticipate future trends. Today’s digital transformation is now calling for similar networks to be established – this time between machines.
For the textile sector, digital transformation involves achieving a complex balance between modernisation and technological advancement while maintaining a focus on the creativity and craftsmanship that remains crucial to securing success in the international arena.
Much progress has been made by Italian textile machinery manufacturers since the last ITMA in 2019 in enabling digital transformation in the three critical stages of design and planning, production and machine and parts maintenance.
Among significant developments, 3D printing is now being used by machine builders to rapidly create part prototypes, enabling an agile collaboration between different production units and allowing flexible and personalised designs. Added to this is the use of embedded informatics for the different production units and the integration of collaborative robots (cobots) integrated into the manufacturing network.
Sensors embedded on machines for data acquisition further enhance machine and product monitoring and communication with other divisions within textile manufacturing plants, and predictive maintenance is being used to optimise schedules and reduce costs, with augmented reality supporting operators during maintenance.
All steps in the textile production process are energy intensive and we believe that the Industry 4.0 technologies used in the textile supply chain can lead to savings in energy consumption, as well as the reduced consumption of other raw materials.
Cloud computing and Big Data Analytics enable the collection and processing of a considerable amount of information coming from the production machines. Processing this data enables improved planning and monitoring, process and product traceability and preventive and predictive maintenance.
All of these activities can limit the waste generated in the production chain and also reduce energy consumption.
On the road to digital transformation, ACIMIT has now introduced its Digital Ready certification specifically for Italy’s textile machinery manufacturers. The certification is designed to simplify the production process, making use of a standard language and unique data reading system that allows different types of machinery to dialogue with production systems. The certification builds customer loyalty while establishing a virtuous link between textile machinery manufacturers and their customers.
It’s another win-win situation for successful collaboration.
ACIMIT (the Association of Italian Textile Machinery Manufacturers) is a private non-profit body dedicated to promoting the Italian textile machinery sector and supporting its international activities. It represents over 300 companies employing around 13,000 people. According to preliminary data the value of Italian textile machinery sales in 2022 will exceed €2.6 billion – up about 10% from 2021. Exports account for more than 85% of this value.