Quality first

Gianluigi Barettoni, President of Afemo, suggests how to develop new projects, machinery and strategies. Focusing now more than ever on the DNA of Made in Italy

"Let's go back for a moment to the beginning of February 2020. The year had started very well, and I’m speaking as President of Afemo, the Association of Manufacturers and Exporters of Machinery for Goldsmiths. Now, there seems to be a certain desire for renewal in the air. Many people, also at Cimo, are taking advantage of this "pause" to rethink some production phases, lay the foundations for new projects, and we are studying new machines with our team of engineers, which is a true luxury in normal times. The feeling is that we can go back to work as we did before. We don’t yet have clear ideas on what the future is going to be like, but one thing is certain: the Covid19 emergency is a worldwide problem, and we are surely more equipped than others to restart.

Of course, what is going to be missing immediately is the turnover that fairs are able to generate. The only strategy I can devise to block the blow at least in part consists in implementing direct contact with customers, for example through technology. Only in this way could we absorb the inevitable reduction in turnover that is being caused by the emergency. Our specific sector is closely connected to jewelry companies: the sooner they get back on track and the sooner we’re gonna restart too, of course. Cimo's clientele is mostly of medium-small range; they are the ones that concern us most, because major groups follow different dynamics, out of the bulk of the market. In Italy, the recovery may take very long time also because families are facing expenses that they had not budgeted for. This means that if they did have extra money for non-essential purchases, they will no longer have it for a while, and this will be at the expense of jewelry and accessories.

Afemo had numerous ongoing initiatives abroad, for example in Uzbekistan, where an important workshop was originally scheduled for May. Since we cannot do it anymore, we should compensate for it with other initiatives, in order not to slow down our expansion in these strategic new markets. With great surprise, however, we are recording an increase in requests for machinery and materials for investment casting in New York and Indonesia: these are small companies that are evidently carrying out orders already in place before the outbreak of the emergency, and this bodes well. It may also be a small rebound due to those who invest in gold and gemstones as a refuge in this kind of situation, or perhaps it is the signal that certain buyers don’t allow themselves to be slowed down by anything.

As for the measures to be taken as soon as possible to avoid the aggravation of the crisis and the triggering of a negative chain reaction, the only tools at our disposal at the moment are Cassa Integrazione (layoff compensation) and real support from the banks, who must absolutely give us the possibility not to interrupt the supply chain. In short, they must “feed” all of us, entrepreneurs, to allow us to normalize the situation, pay wages, return to work as soon as possible. Most of the companies associated with Afemo are family businesses who are now at home thinking about how to pay wages to their employees. We’ve had big crises in the past and we have all suffered from them, but jewelry has never died. This is a dark moment that no one could have ever imagined, we couldn’t be ready in any way. However, I believe we can and must start again by focusing more and more on one factor: quality. Those who have mainly invested in this factor in recent years will be able to rise again and grow within a reasonable time, further increasing the gap that already distinguishes Made in Italy from all competitors."

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