Industrial machinery and Covid-19: scenario, impacts and prospects

The fifth instalment of the sectoral analyses, conducted by EY and the Luiss Business School as part of the “Italian economy from crisis to reconstruction” project, looks beyond the current phase and suggests some ideas to put the country on a more sustainable growth curve.

In 2019, the industrial machinery sector had a global turnover of more than 12 trillion dollars (equal to 25% of manufacturing value added and more than 4% of world GDP). In Italy, the sector generates 28% of manufacturing value added and 4.7% of national value added, with a turnover of over 230 billion euros and over 860 thousand employees (around 23% of all manufacturing). Its contribution to the aggregated national economy figures mainly comes from mechanical engineering products, an area of internationally recognised excellence generating 145 billion in turnover. Of the total 120 billion in exports from the industrial machinery macro-sector, 82 billion come from mechanical engineering products alone (18% of total Italian product exports).

Like most sectors of the economy, the industrial machinery sector has been hit by the Covid-19 crisis. Based on an analysis of a panel of Italian companies, it is estimated that, during 2020, the crisis could lead to a reduction in turnover for sector companies of between 17% and 23%. Around 665 thousand workers in the supply chain were affected by the production suspension during the lockdown (77.1% of the total workforce). This interruption resulted in a fall in hours worked, with April hours down by around 50% compared to the same month of the previous year. Estimates for 2020 predict a possible increase in sector unemployment of over 20%.

What can be done to ensure the sector’s prompt and effective restart?
To develop a recovery plan to guide the sector in the post-pandemic phase, we propose both wide-ranging activities, to breathe new life into the satellite sectors without which the industrial machinery sector stands to lose a significant share of its turnover, and specific activities to give impetus to the sector itself.

The main action lines to be put in place include:

  • strengthening capital and financial support;
  • growing investment in digital (digital and industry 4.0);
  • greater transparency in supply chain management and the adoption of resilient business models;
  • developing partnerships to support sector growth.
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