The impact of the pandemic on the mechanical

The effects of the Coronavirus pandemic were inevitably also felt in the national mechanical engineering industry sector, closing 2020 with a loss. Having said that, there are some positive signs: the fact that despite the losses being heavy they are not unbridgeable, and that we are already looking ahead, thinking about the recovery, which, albeit slow, is presumed will characterize the next two years.


Anima Confindustria, the industrial sector organization representing mechanical engineering companies, has taken stock of the situation with a series of studies and surveys. In the latest research, whose findings were divulged at the beginning of the year, it was underlined how 2020 closed with negative results, but also how most of the mechanical engineering companies were able to react to the impact of the crisis. The industrial sectors linked to the HoReCa supply chain have suffered the most, taking a heavy blow as a result of the decline in tourism and the prolonged closure of bars, hotels and restaurants.


Focusing on the figures, starting with those that bode well for the future, it emerges first of all that the extent of turnover losses forecast in 2020 continued to decline: at the end of May 45.5% of the sample forecasted a loss greater than 20% of turnover, in September 29.4%, and in December of last year the figure fell to 20%. More than one in four companies forecasts drops in turnover between 10% and 20%.


The figure that is the greatest cause for concern is the one relating to the decrease in orders: for one company out of three it was more than 10% in the last six months of last year, with peaks of up to 50%, which are therefore impossible to recover in the course of 2021. It is also for this reason – Anima Confindustria points out – that an immediate recovery is not expected, rather a “slow and gradual” trend in the next two years that will bring a return to the figures of 2019.


Whilst awaiting the recovery, we must however deal with the heavy legacy left by the Coronavirus. The crisis caused turnover to collapse by 9.4%, with a total of 44.5 billion euros in 2020. A result far from the 49.1 billion euros of 2019 and, in fact, a step back to the production figures recorded in 2016. There was a more limited decrease in workers in the sector (about 221 thousand units in 2019), with a drop of 0.4%.


The outline of sector performance provided once again by Anima Confindustria is also interesting.  Energy production dropped to 15.05 billion euros (-7.4%), mainly due to the drop in exports (-9.9%): there were serious losses abroad for gas turbines (1.49 billion, -17.5%) and steam turbines (-21.9%), internal combustion engines (-18.0%) and pumps (1.45 billion, -11.3%). On the other hand, measuring instruments for gas, fuel and water remained stable, with no changes compared to 2019 (1.02 billion in turnover).


For the Logistics and Handling sector, the decrease was approximately 13.8% with a production figure of around 4.84 billion euros. The production of Food Technologies seems to be the most affected sector, with a loss of 13.5% on the 2020 turnover, equal to 4.55 billion. In this case, as well the 15% decline in exports has a heavy impact, with the worst results recorded by those companies that are part of the HoReCa supply chain.


The Technologies and products for Industry sector saw slightly lower losses compared to other sectors for the segment with (-7%), while for the Construction and Infrastructure sector the decline was around 9%. Finally, the Machinery and systems for human and environmental safety sector, with a turnover at the end of the year of around 3.13 billion euros, closed with a drop of 8.4%.


Focusing on export, which greatly influenced the negative performance of mechanical engineering companies, Anima Confindustria stressed how, in the first half of 2020, the decline was in double figures, at 19.7%, equivalent to a loss of over 3 billion out of a total of 12.34 billion euros of exports in 2020, against 15.37 in the first half of 2019. Only Saudi Arabia showed contrasting results, with an increase of + 5.5% (323.3 million) in Italian mechanical engineering exports in the first half of last year.