#Designgoeson: Designdiffusion.com talks with Giovanni del Vecchio, CEO Giorgetti, about the value of the made in Italy wood-furniture supply chain
The Covid-19 health emergency continues, and we currently have two certainties: companies are closed and the Salone del Mobile will not be held. Given this situation, how can we possibly go on?
Giovanni del Vecchio: “Having some certainties helps us think and plan better. Therefore, the cancellation of the Salone del Mobile, as painful and difficult as it is, is a fundamental point from which we can start again. In recent weeks, in our company, we have focused on defining safety conditions for all our employees. We have redefined workloads and rhythms, sanitized environments with special treatments, and equipped all employees with personal protective equipment, which we know is still very difficult to find. Moreover, we have implemented remote working, achieving a share of 98% of employees in smart working mode, even before the last decree, the one by which all nonessential activities were suspended.
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It required a lot of work, but it was necessary to start making plans for the future. Once the company and our employees were safe, we began to think about our production system. Now we are trying to remain cautiously optimistic, as we do not know yet the duration or intensity of this emergency. Luckily enough, Giorgetti is a fairly solid company, equipped to sail in “moderate storm.” However, besides our company, what worries us the most is the endurance of production districts. In our sector, even the largest and best-structured company relies on a supply system that revolves around many small and micro companies, even not very structured, but creative and willing. Unfortunately, however, what in normal times is enough may not be enough in extraordinary times.
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The wood-furniture system: a supply chain that must be safeguarded
Some of these companies work in environments where there is not enough room for social distancing, or it is impossible to divide the activity into compartments, and this could cause their closure, for longer or shorter periods. Or it may be difficult to obtain materials. The wood-furniture system is such a perfect domino that a single missing token may blow up the whole castle. Moreover, a detail that should not be overlooked is that some of these small enterprises drew most of their income from the Salone del Mobile di Milano. Unfortunately, the cancellation of the Salone, for some companies, could mark a dangerous point of no return.
Therefore, it is necessary to find shared solutions to support the supply chain in order to prevent smaller companies from succumbing to the economic crisis that will follow the health emergency. We, like many of our colleagues, are making every possible effort to create the conditions for these very small businesses to be able to start up again with us as soon as possible.
The emergency and the Salone del Mobile that will not be held. What are the alternatives?
In addition to safeguarding the supply chain, the absence of the Salone del Mobile.Milano poses a major communication problem because the most important showcase of the year will be missing. Therefore, we need to find other means to keep the relationship with customers alive, being able to sell our products and receive orders, which will allow us to move forward as soon as we can resume activities.
In this respect, there are several factors to consider. First of all, the Made in Italy furniture industry has a considerable export share. Giorgetti, for example, makes 85% of the total turnover abroad, and, in general, in this sector, the dependence from exports ranges from 70% to 90%, depending on the companies. The real and big issue, therefore, is that all the countries with which trade exchanges are most frequent are as stuck as Italy.
It is really difficult to make predictions if we do not even know the answers to very basic questions. For example: when will France, Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States resume activities? When will we be able to travel again to visit our clients? When will they be able to come back to Italy? While in China activities have never stopped completely, and we are already seeing some positive signs, I am afraid that in Western countries we will need more time to recover, because we will have very different times from China and from one country to another. In this respect, therefore, the effects will last much longer than if we were to consider just a single country.
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The potential of virtual communication
In a situation like this, therefore, communication plays an important role, or rather, it becomes a vital tool to reach architects, interior designers, consumers. And I do not exclude the possibility that, in the medium and long term, communication in general may undergo important changes. Now we must imagine and invent any possible tool to encourage consumers to buy furniture again, which now takes second place, of course. If we delve deeper into this topic, we need to make further considerations. Online communication will be of great help in 2020, and that is a matter of fact. However, in the future, some forms of virtual communication may become complementary to others on a permanent basis.
If we consider the visibility offered by the Salone del Mobile, for example, it is undeniably difficult to achieve with any other form of communication. However, a virtual platform able to bring together several companies, allowing them to communicate in the same virtual place, and perhaps even at the same time, could be a very useful tool, for example. If more companies were able to communicate at the same time, or in the same virtual place, there would certainly be a greater critical mass, resulting in greater visibility. Therefore, this collective platform, alongside all the other channels, is among the possibilities we are considering.
Finally, I would like to add that this global crisis is leading many companies to reflect on different aspects related with daily management; and it is good to take advantage of the need to change to adopt new practices. Keeping in mind that the primary need is to safeguard our supply chain, which must be protected and safeguarded, in order to be ready to restart as soon as possible. [Txt Roberta Mutti]