Mauro Bergozza, president of Incoma, was pessimistic about the leather industry in general: ‘I am told Anpic was flat – the payment times in these countries are too long.’ He thought there were too many fairs around the world. ‘In fact, there are no important fairs anymore.’

‘Before, tanners wanting new infomation had to attend fairs. Now, with e-mail etc, the information comes to them. There is no spare time for fairs; there is not even time for the all the extra work that is needed. With the just-in-time world everything is stretched including profits.’

He was more enthusiastic about the Bologna fair and thought it a very good meeting point for tanners who wanted to know about the latest trends in leather. ‘They can get it all from Bologna’. However, he said that for machinery manufacturers it is difficult to introduce new models every year. ‘This is a high investment and leads to a decrease in profits.

‘The environment and health and safety regulations that we face are keeping people employed. The manufacturers are not working as they did two or three years ago, because these factors are taking so much time. You could employ more people, but that is at an increased cost.’

Bergozza also thought that after the last recession the role of the developing countries changed. Where companies such as Incoma used to send technicians out to these countries, the visits now need to be controlled. ‘Often, they [the developing countries] do not invest, they use the first option available.’

On the subject of the state of the Italian industry he was not upbeat either. ‘For machinery, business will decrease.’ He thought that some tanneries are 30% down on production compared with last year. If there is no slowdown in Santa Croce or Arzignano these areas will remain the best bet to offset the recession. ‘Of the regions, Arzignano invested heavily about three or four years ago and there will be a similar development for the next two or three years.

‘In Santa Croce, after the 1999 recession, investment was slow, but we hope that as with Arzignano, there will be investment coming. In Solofra, any investment will be slow in coming, as they had high investment five or six years ago.

‘Generally, confidence in the sector is low. As it is in many industries, the words of Alan Greenspan [the head of US Federal Bank] were not encouraging and if the US economy is going into recession, this has a negative impact on EU investments, which hits machinery manufacturers hard.’

Coupled with the raw material difficulties, the BSE and FMD crises, Bergozza thought the only chink of light would be if boot fashions turned to corrected grain leathers this winter. ‘This would open up the Russian markets for rawstock’, he commented.

Together with Incoma, Bergi OFB and Tanmac form the group. ‘Bergi are in very good condition. They now have a solid position having developed well over the last year. The trend is positive and we have already covered 40% of the total turnover we did last year [by the end of March]. This will help reinforce the other companies in the group.

‘In the past three years Incoma have changed their production and invested in new equipment. They now have competitive equipment and have outlets in the paper industry. However, we have to hope that the market improves but, frankly, it’s a black market to the end of the year’, Bergozza said.

Tanmac have consolidated their customer base and Bergozza is happy with the products they make. ‘Tanmac produce about five to seven stackers per month. They are simple and good technology machines at a good price.’

Bergozza said that advances by the group involved a two step finishing programme for upholstery leathers. The first is a reverse rollercoater to apply a basecoat to the hide. This can be followed by using a fixed bar spray cabinet to apply the finish. The fixed bar is used in place of the rotary spray heads. Incoma see the advantages of the fixed bar over the rotary spray head as:

* reduced VOCs. ‘The machine has been granted a Veneto license for use on finishing lines in the area because it reduces emissions’, Bergozza said

* chemical reduction. The amount of product used in the finishing process is reduced, as there is very small overspray. Savings of up to 70% have been achieved

* regularity of deposition. The same amount of product is applied time after time. There is very little variation in the quantity deposited

* Quicker cleaning. The fixed bar can be changed in 5-10 minutes, which is an advantage given the quicker turnround times required these days. And it is easier to clean. The problem with rotary machines is that there tends to be a build up around the edges of the cabinet. With the fixed bar this does not happen

Incoma are close to an agreement with ICAP to recommend ICAP chemicals with their finishing end machines. The new Versus Soft rollercoater machine has an ABS system on the feeding device so that if the leather doesn’t go through the machine automatically opens. This reduces the likelihood of damage to the machine or the leather. The ABS can be adjusted for any type of leather, which when it fouls the machine is expelled from the machine without affecting other leathers on the belt. There is a Versus machine in the three ICAP facilities in Italy. ‘The idea is that ICAP and Incoma can show customers that their leathers can be finished with ICAP chemicals and our machines’, Bergozza commented.