Mechatronic Skills in Italy: Taking Stock of the Situation

On November 5, 2019, the Tuscan edition of Forum Meccatronica was held, with the participation of over 500 people. It was an opportunity to talk about the technologies implemented by the companies, to discuss and study the data from the Mapping on Mechatronic Skills in Central and Northern Italy.

by Michela Zanardo

The sixth edition of Forum Meccatronica – the annual and itinerant event for the stakeholders of the industrial automation supply chain – was held on November 5th in Florence. After the events in Lombardy, Veneto, Emilia Romagna, Marche and Piedmont, it was the turn of the Tuscan industrial district, one of the most interesting, with a marked productive specialization and a natural vocation for technology and innovation, characterized by the production of pharmaceuticals and textiles, paper and tobacco. The exhibition-conference, designed by the Mechatronics Group of ANIE Automazione – association of the ANIE Federation – and realized in collaboration with Messe Frankfurt Italia, welcomed over 500 visitors and, inspired by the increase in the industrial digitalization market, focused on digital maturity and new technological goals in the Italian manufacturing industry. The event was an opportunity to meet technology suppliers 4.0, universities and associations, which can provide the necessary skills and accompany even the less structured companies in the first steps towards digitalization.

A moment to discuss and take stock of the situation
During the plenary session, speeches were made by the event organizers and local representatives. Donald Wich, Chief Executive Officer at Messe Frankfurt Italia, said: “A mandatory path for any industrial company, digitalization represents a competitive priority that is not always fully exploited for lack of managing or financial skills. A further challenge, also for the location chosen this year. The Forum is an important opportunity of discussion and synthesis on how the suppliers of automation components and systems are moving in the digital transformation of the Italian manufacturing industry. An opportunity to dialogue for interlocutors belonging to different areas of competence, favoring the contamination of experiences and the sharing of know-how.
According to Sabina Cristini, Chairman of the Mechatronics Group of ANIE Automazione, the massive participation to the Forum proves the high interest in the topics discussed; in fact, the challenge facing the Italian manufacturing sector is to maintain its competitiveness in the global context. In a market characterized by uncertainty and volatility, it is certainly strategic to consolidate the leadership of companies in the various technological sectors thanks to continuous innovation. The technologies currently available, also related to digitalization, are enabling a real multidisciplinary approach – with increasingly integrated and interconnected platforms – favoring this process transformation.
Gabriele Baccetti, Director of Confindustria Toscana, said: “We have promoted and participated with pleasure in this appointment because the opportunities that mechatronics offers to our productive fabric are to be spread. 17% of the GDP of our region is made by the manufacturing sector, there are 7,000 mechanical production units in Tuscany and over 75,000 workers. A local reality that must look at investment opportunities in mechatronics and in the industry 4.0 in general. Our companies are already investing in this sense, but it is necessary to do more also in terms of training”.
Lorna Vatta, Executive Director of Artes 4.0 – “Advanced Robotics and enabling digital Technologies & Systems 4.0”, one of the 8 Skill Centers selected by the Ministry of Economic Development – called a public tender for all companies in the Italian territory for the creation of industrial research projects and experimental development on the issues and areas of Artes 4.0. “Skill centers are open to everyone and can potentially work with companies wherever they are in Italy,” she said. “With 127 members, we have a nationwide coverage. The natural physical presence comes to the regions of central Italy, but we are also working with companies and organizing events in Veneto and Emilia Romagna, for example.”

Complete mapping of mechatronic skills in Central and Northern Italy
The results of the Mapping of Mechatronic Skills in Italy were previewed. The survey, carried out by the Politecnico di Milano and promoted by Messe Frankfurt Italia and ANIE Automazione, maps the skills and technologies in the main production districts and is carried out annually with respect to the territory hosting the Forum. “With the sixth edition of the Mapping of Mechatronic Skills, the monitoring of central and northern regions is concluded”, commented Professor Giambattista Gruosso, Associate Professor DEIB Politecnico di Milano, who is responsible for its implementation. The analysis detects a strong awareness of the use of mechatronic technologies in the 4.0 perspective. Their use is growing, albeit in a climate of lower investments compared to the past years, at the same time the companies interviewed ask the sector a greater effort to facilitate technology integration and flexibility, together with the need to form a managerial class and to make customers understand the benefits of product and process innovation.

The technologies presented by the companies
During the day, visitors participated in conference sessions on innovative topics in the areas of design, production and performance. The companies that supply automation technologies took turn on the stages of the conference rooms, bringing in-depth information on mechatronic projects, for example about reviewing new concepts for more flexible machines, demonstrating the potential and versatility of simulation and virtual prototyping, performance of networks and communication architectures for machine and plant interconnection, constant growth of applications and services for the creation of value based on the data made available on the cloud or on edge platforms. To confirm the advantages that can actually be achieved, experiences with customers on innovative projects were also reported.
The best reports of each category were awarded: for the Design session “SPE: Single Pair Ethernet, the new innovation for Industrial Ethernet” by Harting, for the Production session “Internet of sensors: IO-Link technology as a means to increase the intelligence of systems and their connection to the cloud” by Pepperl+Fuchs, and for the Performance session “Condition Based Monitoring requires New Sensing Technologies” by Analog Devices.
The organization of the 2020 edition of the Forum, which will take place in Bari, has already started.