UNIC: the extraordinary history of the Italian tanning industryThe annual general meeting of UNIC - Unione Nazionale Industria Conciaria (Italian Tanners’ Association) talked about a living, vital, sustainable industry characterised by remarkable “biodiversity
“The Italian tanning industry is alive, and above all, vital,” underlined Gianni Russo, President of UNIC – the tanneries association a during the opening of the 2017 general meeting held on 27 June 2017 in Palazzo Mezzanotte, Milan.
It is not a catchphrase, but a fact if you consider the numbers registered by the Italian tanning industry: 1200 companies that confirm its international leadership in terms of value (65% of the European total, 19% in the world) and quality of productions, despite the fact that 2016 was not a particularly brilliant year (total production values fell by 1.7% in square meters of finished leather and by 3.6% in kilograms of sole leather, while the total decline in value was 3.4%).
Exports also declined moderately (-5%), which still account for more than 75% of the total turnover for the industry. Particularly difficult are shipments to Chinese manufacturers (double-digit decline both in Hong Kong and mainland China, but on the whole still the number one foreign destination of Italian leather) and to Germany (-12%), Portugal (-12%), United Kingdom (- 3%) and South Korea (-9%).Which compartments were the most disappointing? Tanning products for the fashion industry fell (leather goods -7%, shoes and clothing -2%), while padding, especially for car interiors increased (+8%), with interior decorations returning positive after ten years of decline.
The tanning industry figures – 2016
The work of UNIC went well beyond these numbers during Russo’s presidency:
In only 12 months together, a radical restructuring has taken place of what was traditionally called a ‘Group’, going from 12 to 3 legal entities. We have eliminated the dispute with BolognaFiere and have regained the entire asset of Lineapelle. We have returned to having an active role in Cotance. The number of members has grown and we will soon open a new office in Solofra – after Rome, Santa Croce, and Arzignano.
An important theme discussed during the meeting was that of Industry 4.0. An innovation to be pursued decisively, especially by taking advantage of the incentives offered by the current italian government (super depreciation and tax credits). Antonio Calabrò, director of the Pirelli Foundation had something to say on this matter:
We have to fight so that the German model of Industry 4.0 does not take over, which is based on an idea of medium-sized enterprises. This would penalise Italy because of its network of small businesses.
The theme of training is also important. In fact, the level of employment in the industry did not change during the crisis, but what concerns us is the scarcity of young workers, which only represent 13% of the entire tanning industry.