Interview with UDIB President Gian Marco Dalpane

Q: It has been more than 6 months since the EU terminated the antidumping measure against certain iron and steel fasteners from China. Did you observe any significant change in the Italian market after the termination? And, are the local suppliers, distributors, or importers in Italy also influenced by the termination?

A: The unexpected termination of the antidumping measures didn't make any significant change in the Italian market, as the time needed to open (or reopen) the contacts with the Chinese producers and keep high quality of goods is surely not so short. Probably the lack of certainties on the next future, or better, the certainty of new measures in the next months has kept the importers far from the new Chinese possibilities. As a matter of fact, the observation period was not enough to give significant evidence of changing, and I think it will be the same at least for the next six months.

Q: The EU has begun to impose import licensing for fasteners since April 29 (which some in the industry worry that it may become another way of restricting goods imported from other non-EU countries). Do you observe any influence from this policy that has been put on local Italian importers? And. does this policy also cause impact on other countries’ suppliers Italian distributors/im- porters are currently cooperating with?

A: As far as I know, the only problems are on the operations. All the Ministry Offices weren't ready to face such a decision and all the importing documents have a very difficult process to clear the duty. The documents must be processed manually and no electronic process is enabled in most European Countries. This is causing delays to all importers, discussions and additional unexpected costs. The EU Commission took another decision against the trading and importing companies, even if it was so clear that for most of the items there is no more competition with the European manufacturers.

Q: 2017, with the emergence of many positive factors (e.g., the upcoming Fastener Fair Stuttgart, the antidumping measure against Chinese and Taiwanese stainless steel fasteners, which is scheduled to expire on Jan. 08, 2017, etc), will be an important year for the global fastener industry. What scenario do you think the Italian fastener market will be in the new year and will there be any new measure, regulation, or development you think will appear?

A: I think that the expiring of the ADD measures against the SS fasteners, as it has been for the carbon steel ones, will not change the market situation that much: the protection measures are useless for a global market! On the other hand, certainly the high pressures on the EU Commission and the strength of the lobbying system will produce a new protection policy that may be related to other commodities including fasteners. This will surely produce a completely uncertain scenario, even if I think that the fastener market is more influenced by the general economy than by the political decisions.

Q: “Industry 4.0’’ has been a very hot issue for the industry recently. How do you think the Italian market (or even the global fastener market) will be under the framework of Industry 4.0? What is the current application of Industry 4.0 in the Italian fastener industry? Or. does Italy have its own similar industrial upgrade program? Please specify.

A: In November 2015, Mise (Italian Ministry of Economic Development) announced a paper titled “Industry 4.0, the Italian Way to the Competitiveness of Manufacturing”, with the subtitle “How to Make the Digital Transformation Industry an Opportunity for Growth and Employment “, which has indicated its action strategy. In particular, it drew eight areas of action to promote the development of the fourth industrial revolution: revive industrial investment with particular attention to those in research and development, knowledge and innovation; encourage the growth of firms; foster new innovative entrepreneurship; define protocols, standards and interoperability criteria shared at European level; ensuring network security (cybersecurity) and the protection of privacy; ensure appropriate network infrastructure; spread expertise for Industry 4.0; channeling financial resources. Mise is currently working on this document.

The Italian fastener distributors following the Mise suggested strategy, are trying to invest in new protocols and networks, both on the internal and international market.

Q: It seems that more and more fastener suppliers are turning their focus on the development of automotive and aerospace fasteners, and relevant demand for these categories is also increasing. Does it show the same scenario in the current Italian market? If not, what type of fastener and application is ranked the top in the demand of the Italian market? If yes, is there any regulation or certification required for suppliers interested in going into these related Italian market sectors?

A: Yes, even in Italy, the automotive fasteners are leading the market and they are the only ones which can really change the future of the distributor companies, even if the competition is becoming always harder and the average prices are consequently falling. The certifications are required on the single part that must be previously approved passing strict tests. Once the parts are approved, no changing on the process can be done. The result is a certain quality, linking the automotive industry to the distributors.

Q: After UK has voted to leave the EU, will there be any change in the fastener supply and demand in the Italian et? And, will there be any change in the cooperating way between the Italian fastener industry and its UK suppliers/clients?

A: Even if any change happens, the consequences will be observed only after several months. Nowadays, the UK outgoing has not started at all, apart from the popular decision. Frankly speaking the “fasteners” connections between Italy and UK are not that strict, so I don’t think that any influence will be remarkable in the future, apart the risk of finding UK as a new competitor in the EU market, due to the possibility to avoid any ADD measure from the Eastern Countries.

Q: Do you think that the Italian fastener market in 2017 will show further growth? Which product category or application you think is the most promising and the most potential?

A: Let me say that the Italian market is totally unpredictable: in 2015 a remarkable growth (10% -15%) has been            registered so to permit to all the distributor company to reach the top of the yearly turnover. This trend has been confirmed by the first three months of 2016 after which the sales started to slow down and now the market is back at the beginning of 2015 levels.

There are no previsions of most potential nor promising product category different from the previous periods,

Q: In 2017. does UDIB have any plan or schedule to assist its members in facing new challenges or facilitate interchange among members and interaction with other associations? And (if you know), does any Italian UDIB member plan to make further investment or expand their business territory in 2017?

A: The challenge for UDIB during the new year is to assist its members in keeping that they all update on new regulations, which afflict the fastener system every day, at Italian, European, and International level. We’ll keep on pushing the cooperation among UDIB members, and possibly at European level, between UDIB and the other national associations. Furthermore, UDIB is willing to be more present even on technical matters. For this reason we asked to be part of the UNI commission (the Italian Organization for Standardization) and we decided to produce a fasteners’ technical guide to be shared among all the members. As the President of UDIB. I’m for free and fair trade, so I heartily wish to have no more unpredictable decisions by the EU Commission: we need to invest in our companies, market and business, without being influenced by changing politics, which follows political reasons only and not the real economy needs.

Date : 24.02.2017