Here we are. Ready to go. The 2018 edition of Xylexpo – the 50th anniversary edition that opens a new season for the Milan exhibition – is here. Forgive us for putting more emphasis than it would be “politically correct”, but we are talking about “our exhibition”, where “our” means that our magazine has been collaborating for many years with the organizers, who are also the publishers of this magazine, as well as the association of Italian manufacturers. But these are probably the least relevant, more “private”, reasons, if you want… We must and we want to say “our” because this exhibition is the mirror of the Italian market which, despite hard blows and painful wounds in recent years, is still very vital. It’s the exhibition of the Italian industry as a whole, although we have done all we could to discredit it, and today we are all together under the same roof, small and big companies, knowing that things can change, you can even say that Mars is the most hospitable planet in the universe, but you have to do it together…
“Our” because it’s the house we know better than any other, a house open to the world, we want it to be part of the world, sharing it with all the suppliers of technology and related products and with all the visitors who have been coming to Milan for fifty years and will keep coming back to Milan (or Mars, if necessary) in the future. “Our” because there has been a new atmosphere around Xylexpo for some time: everyone has realized this is an asset and, as such, it must be nourished, managed, supported, enriched, lived, experienced, desired!
So, driven by a healthy market and a new awareness, we are opening the doors of the 26th edition, from 8 to 12 May, in the FieraMilano-Rho expo center. The total exhibition area will be close to 35 thousand square meters (the final figure will be available ex-post, as the organizers are still receiving last-minute applications) with 426 exhibitors (until April 20), including 309 from Italy and 117 from abroad.
“The available space is basically sold out”, says Dario Corbetta, general director of the event and Acimall, the Italian association of wood technology manufacturers which, through its operating arm Cepra, controls and organizes the international exhibition. “We have consolidated the number of exhibitors, although the final figure is slightly lower than two years ago. However, this is due to a specific trend, namely that many co-exhibitors have disappeared, as they have been finally absorbed into the controlling companies. Just think about the consolidation we have seen in recent months, with the decision of a few major groups to adopt a “one brand” strategy, thus cutting the number of brands listed in our catalog; they have disappeared or they have been embedded into the name of a machine model.
And then, as we have said for a long time, statistics cannot be compared to ten years ago, when the situation was totally different, while the market today is really “constrained”. Reality has changed radically, and we all have to face totally new challenges and situations. That’s why we are saying that Xylexpo is opening a new season, we want to be very practical, open, transparent: we want to state that, starting from 2020, we want to offer a brand new show to the market, focusing on the big topics of an industry that has been going through a big revolution. Going back to exhibitors, we are pleased to see that Xylexpo is hosting some new brands, this is a sign of vitality, with new companies growing and ready to step onto the global stage in an exhibition focused on high technology. We have a few more exhibitors from Germany, some from China, some Turkish companies willing to test market response to their expanding product portfolio and quality-price ratio that, for a certain segment of customers, is still important and sometimes critical. As it happens all over the world, and most of all in the biggest exhibitions, the layout of Xylexpo will clearly show that we are in the “age of big groups”. I will never get tired of saying that exhibitions are the mirror of the industry, and in our industry, the role and size of big groups have become even stronger and bigger. Around them, a vital and variegated universe of micro and small businesses… Mid-sized companies seem to have disappeared, there are really few representatives of this category. The gap has widened. The common denominator is the level of technology, that’s a basic condition that all industry companies must satisfy, independently of their size. Xylexpo will show this: it will feature big international groups that can build complete plants for big furniture manufacturers, and it will also feature those who produce equally sophisticated technology to make products with the same quality but smaller volumes, maybe addressed to a market niche identified with competence and passion”.
What about visitors?
“You know that Xylexpo is predominantly focuses on the domestic market. 70 percent of our visitors are Italian and we should not forget that Italy is still one of the most important markets in the world, with consumptions of wood and wood-based materials technology worth approximately one billion euro. It is also one of the most advanced in terms of demand, as it is home to advanced customers looking for solutions with high innovation content in terms of finished product quality and the possibility to maximize process automation, a trend shared by all companies. Let me say it clearly: if your technology is successful in Italy, you can approach the rest of the world with great confidence. The success of the recent Salone del Mobile indicates that leading-edge design and production support a demand of ever different, ever new and powerful materials, supplies, machinery, technology and processes. For this reason, at Xylexpo in Milan, we have exhibitors with specific features, with a certain standard of products and size, because it’s no use being here if you don’t have the ideas and resources to approach the world. We expect many visitors from all over the world, also thanks to a powerful promotion campaign in over 50 countries; Xyexpo has positioned itself in this market segment and if you want to see the best of technology, you must come to Milan, where you are less “distracted” by other segments upstream or downstream of the production of goods. And also, you are not constrained by narrow aisles or bottlenecks, and you don’t find any booths selling traditional clothing. Preregistrations are encouraging, indicating that the number of visitors will increase”.
Is it an exhibition for demanding users?
“Listen, exhibitions are not a platform, but an arena where competitors join the game to show their best, to race and win. It’s a place where visitors can immediately compare the options they have identified, one next to the other: the winners are those who prove to these informed, qualified and demanding spectators that they have the best tools, whatever the type and size of the problem to be solved…”.
Adding the fourth hall was a challenge. You won.
“Yes. We had to do it because in 2016 we had filled up all the available space beyond reasonable limits. We don’t run after records, we don’t want to have 100 thousand square meters or 100 thousand visitors, but rather create an exhibition that is a business place, an effective meeting point for demand and supply. With the addition of the fourth hall, we can offer more space to many exhibitors, we were surprised by the requests we had, but that’s the distinctive feature of this edition: really many companies requested more square meters than in the past, confirming the positive period we are experiencing. Our success was not just selling more space, from 29 thousand square meters at the previous edition to 35 thousand this year, but rather offering a more “comfortable” review, with the possibility to preserve certain initiatives (last year the “Xylexpo Arena” had been canceled due to lack of space, editor’s note), and have a new, fourth pole of attraction within the exhibition. As everyone knows, our exhibition has applied for a long time principles that others have introduced only recently, namely building the layout of each hall around the most famous and bigger companies of each segment. I take the opportunity to thank the companies that have accepted to leave their traditional positions to create a focal point in the new hall 4: I am referring to Ima Group, Felder Group, Weinig Group and those who have realized this was a great opportunity and have seized it, allowing us to design a hall with high industrial and technological contents, that will surely be a powerful magnet for visitors”.
You have mentioned Xylexpo 2020 a couple of times, your projects for the future…
“The experience of recent years has showed that you cannot stand still. Moreover, there have been significant changes in the exhibition calendar, as each exhibition has better identified the role it can play. We have made and are making our decisions, taking a direction that will be even clearer in 2020, but you can already see the signs in these days at the FieraMilano-Rho expo center”.
What do you mean?
“First of all the contents of the exhibition, the companies attending the event, the most represented segments: this is clearly our vocation, I mean the secondary processing of solid wood and panels. That’s the road, and we want it to be straight and comfortable for anyone who rides it, with any means, useful, or better indispensable, for each visitor. We are sending out clear signs in some areas that represent value-added contents and give us the opportunity to test some decisions that will be replicated on a larger scale in two years’ time. I am referring to the area in hall 4 we called XIH-Xylexpo Hub Innovation. We have selected two hosts, Gruppo Comunica and Cloud Plugs, to launch a clear message, i.e. some technologies are probably granted for the big groups, but for other organizaitons they are still unexplored or relatively unknown territories. This will be a key focal point in 2020 and we are sorry we could not make more this year already… Beyond general statements, digital technology is a real revolution and I believe we have to help everyone understand this message, we have to show the many opportunities that exist for the further development of companies of any size. We have invested significantly in another area, hall 2. That’s the location of WAX-Wood at Xylexpo, as we cannot exclusively focus on software, Internet, mechatronics, we also have to keep strong bonds to our origins, made of wood, craftsmanship, style, culture, design, values. This is a tribute to wood created in collaboration with three major representatives: the association Culturalegno-Lignamundi, driven by the passion of Gianni Cantarutti, whose role is often underestimated; Savinelli 1876, a brand that needs no introduction and has turned the transformation of peculiar wood pieces into leisure items into an art; Riva 1920, with whom we have established a longstanding partnership and friendship, showing pieces and furniture selected by Maurizio Riva. The offer will be rounded off by “Les Tourneurs de la Basse Valleè” in hall 4 and sculptor Pietro Arnoldi in hall 2. Another highlight will be the “Tino Sana” Museum, another long-time friend of ours, who will be one of the big stars at Xylexpo this years, with sixteen areas that will provide a frame for halls 1-3. It will be a unique experience: besides the presentation of all the initiatives promoted with dedication and commitment by Tino Sana and his family, Xylexpo will also display ancient equipment and unique pieces, a historical heritage that I am sure will impress even the greatest fans of advanced technology!”.
And finally, the return of Xyexpo Arena…
“We really feel that, today more than ever, there is a strong demand for information, discussion, knowledge, because many things are changing and not everyone has easy access to the necessary information. The agenda is very rich and I invite everyone to refer to the Xylexpo website for the program; but let me mention the entities that will be involved, offering specific meetings inside the Xylexpo Arena, first of all four seminars organized by the “Giulio Natta” Department of Chemistry, Materials and Chemical Engineering of Politecnico di Milano and Catas, the leading European laboratory for the wood and furniture industry, dedicated to the sustainability of adhesives and coatings. These meetings offer relevant contents, also through the participation of valuable testimonials such as Panguaneta, Marlegno, Agroils, Alpi, Arpa Laminati, Arsonsisi, Akzo Nobel, Ica, Merck Group, Gruppo Lechler, Valcucine…“Industry X.0” topics will also be discussed in four meetings organized by Accenture, each featuring a specialist of specific aspects of the current industrial revolution, and in-depth presentations by Iq Consulting, a spin-off of the University of Brescia, dedicated to digital technology, 3d printing, project culture and supply management. Two meetings will be focused on joinery and carpentry, organized by Stefano Frignani of Kosmosoft, who will illustrate the “Joinery 4.0” concept and an innovative “method” he has created. Another major actor at Xylexpo Arena will be Conlegno/FederlegnoArredo, dealing with the hot topic of “due diligence” in the wood and pulp industry, while Csil-Centro studi industria will present its successful “World Furniture Outlook”, 2018 edition.
And finally, don’t forget the third edition of XIA-Xylexpo Innovation Award, assigned by a panel of university professors and industry engineers to the most “revolutionary” solutions, with an awarding ceremony scheduled on May 9 during “The Night of Xylexpo”. (by Luca Rossetti)