The figures for 2009 inexorably show the effects of the recession that has been gripping the entire sector for some while now: production capacity came in at just half its potential. Plagued by closures, suspensions and the scant utilization of its plants, the Italian heavy clay industry has seen production fall a further 32% on 2008, hovering at around –20% for roofing tiles and –56% for hollow tiles and blocks.
If we look at pre-crisis figures, we see that output dropped from 20 to 21 mill. tonnes to 12 mill. tonnes in 2009: this figure is decidedly lower than the all-time lows (15 to 16 mill. tonnes) recorded in 1965, 1985 and 1997.
It is true that there are faint signs of recovery on the horizon and experts are using them to formulate their forecasts: positive symptoms of a trend which is based more upon stubborn expectations of a long-awaited upturn than real figures.
If we want to be coherent, however, we must honestly and intellectually acknowledge those aspects of the forecasts which touch upon the future market situation and emphasize that:
› energy and environmental considerations will condition client and designer choices more and more
› the end-user will play an increasingly important role in identifying the most appropriate building solutions
› information and training will be fundamental in the “Darwinian” selection of materials and building systems
› faster building phases and on-site safety will force people to adopt a more mature and guided sense of responsibility
› the vast number of buildings needing renovation and modernization will become our biggest market
› research and innovation will be the tools we use to come up with the solutions and proposals we need to quickly meet our goals
› we need the right financial investment into new production technologies and human resources to guide and support the eagerly awaited new economic cycle
At this point it is our right and our duty to ask the question: what solutions, products and strategies does the heavy clay industry intend to implement if it is to guarantee itself a place up there with the other top sectors and compete in the inevitable evolution that is under way?
President of Andil
(Association of the Italian Clay Brick and Tile Industry)