Most tanners and Italian machinery manufacturers that I spoke to agreed that the current BSE crisis was uppermost in the mind of the industry. Giuseppe Necco, general manager, of the Poletto group, was one of them. ‘In the current market, BSE is a problem. There is less product to treat in Arzignano and this could lead to problems with importing raw material and, hence, a decrease in investment.’

The problems stem from the fact that tanners are unable to get higher prices for their leathers, while being squeezed by the higher price of raw materials. Unable to pass on the rise to their customers means they need to cut back elsewhere, and this is usually in investment in machines and other hardware.

The problem with such a strategy is that the consumer is becoming more and more discerning and wanting leathers that have to be of higher quality, without marks and scratches. There is also the problem of greater environmental control. If the tanner does not invest in new machinery he will be left behind.

Probably because of these factors, Necco was slightly pessimistic for the medium future: ‘Poletto have orders up to June/July, but after that things will get tough.’

He did say that there was interest from people at the Anpic fair in Mexico. These were mainly from tanners in the USA and Mexico itself. Of the other markets, he suggested that in Italy there is very little to do, the only area seemingly investing is Solofra, in the south of the country, but they are reaching saturation.

There was perhaps some hope in Pakistan, but the other boom area, China requires a government import permit for machinery and currently there are none available.

Necco said that the way forward for the Poletto group is to start and invest in research and development to change the machines for the future. This will include a new spray unit and dryer. The market wants a spray unit to do more than just spray on finish.

Tanners want a unit to produce effects on leather that are more complicated than simply covering a piece of leather; it has to be done in a designer way and achieve finish effects that are not usually achievable with a spray unit. To achieve this Poletto are developing ideas using computer controlled systems.

The other area always of concern is the environment and the new units will be designed to reduce bounce-back and reduce their footprint area in the tannery, thus saving space.

There will also be energy savings with the machines consuming less energy, for instance new dryers that can save up to 35% of the energy consumed by older models have already been installed into the Margi tannery in Holland by Poletto. They have also sold four more gas dryers to tanneries including Bader in Germany and Conceria Antilope in Santa Croce.

Other developments include new shaving and splitting machines. There will be a new shaving machine by the summer and a prototype splitting machine which is due in September.