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Interview with President A.F.E.M.O. Gianluigi Barettoni

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T.Gold 2021. We talk about the present and the future with Gianluigi Barettoni, President of AFEMO - Association of Manufacturers and Exporters of Goldsmith's Machinery.    

President Barettoni, nice to meet you. Let's start with a topical question. This year, for the first time, T.Gold is completely integrated with VicenzaOro. In these difficult times, it is an acknowledgement of the importance and added value of companies producing machinery and technologies applied to the world of gold and jewellery - not forgetting technologically close areas such as the eyewear sector -. What strategic advantages can arise from this new location?

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Undoubtedly, being able to present the technologies in the main exhibition centre was not only a great achievement for us, but above all a recognition of all the work that has been done over the years. In previous managements of the fair - certainly not in the current one - machinery was always seen as something secondary, or at least something accessory to the jewellery exhibition. Now we have taken a course that has enhanced the added value of our companies because – to be said without false modesty - with the activities of the association we do nothing other than highlight the activities of our associates: in other words, the results we achieve go hand in hand with the technologies developed by our companies. In this regard, we can undoubtedly say that the value and absolute quality of the technology expressed by Italian companies worldwide is unparalleled and fortunately also inimitable, even though there are many companies around the world that try to copy our technologies every day, with poor results.  

Clearly, this year's event will be an important one for us. We will have the opportunity, for once, to be close to our customers.  We say "for once" because we are well aware that this year's is a special positioning, linked to this edition which unfortunately is still significantly affected by the covid cataclysm, which has led to an upheaval also in terms of exhibitor presence. When everything returns to normal, as we hope it will, T.Gold will have to be positioned in an area for which we are studying the best hypothesis together with IEG - Fiera di Vicenza, a partner to which we are now actively linked with an important agreement that sees AFEMO at the forefront in the organisation of T.Gold as a consultant to the fair both in terms of acquiring new exhibitors, assessing the quality of the machinery they will then exhibit, and in the qualitative assessment of the buyers to "approach" the event. Clearly this will be an important event for us, and we are aware of all the difficulties we will encounter: we certainly do not expect the event to be at full capacity, but we are confident that we will achieve at least satisfactory results.  The organisational work that is done with IEG is really important; our director works daily with Director Carniello's staff: this has allowed us to evaluate every aspect of the event on a daily basis, managing to find the best solutions - for them in terms as organisers, for us as a group of exhibitors. In conclusion, what we have done in this special year has been a team effort of great trust and great hope.

Afemo's members include companies of excellence that are resolutely forward-looking. Some of your associates, in particular, invest a substantial proportion of their budgets in research and development every year. What tools do you provide them with to publicise the results of this excellence?

It is true that the success of Italian gold production technologies - and in particular the success of AFEMO associates - is due to the reliability of our companies, which  invest in applied research with a medium- to long-term vision: this is one of the reasons why we see our technology constantly at the cutting edge. In addition to continuous investment, we should also mention the tailor-made design of our machinery, carried out together with our customers. It is worth remembering that, clearly, the machining operations do not change in conceptual terms, but the parts do change, and they are continually modified according to the needs of the market, which, for example, wants a certain type of product this year and for the next two years, and then, as consumer demands change, clearly also requires a change in production technology. Without a doubt, the two keystones are to remain close to our customers by listening to their needs and always being close to them, especially in after-sales services, where we provide a 360° service, from basic services to services provided remotely.  If, for example, a machine that we sell in India reports a problem, we remotely have the governance of the machine, aligning it to the new requirements or resolving any technical problem. This is undoubtedly the key to our success and our way of working, which goes from continuous investment to proximity to the customer.

After this very difficult period, we are beginning to see encouraging signs of recovery. In particular, Italian technology seems to have retained all its appeal... What is the international market trend like from your point of view? What are the opportunities for your associates?

Without a doubt the period was difficult. Like everyone else, we felt the impact of the pandemic, but this did not lead to a structural crisis: the market slowed down a bit, but we never stopped working. This has happened because we have always invested a lot over the years: we represent companies that have always been present internationally, all over the world, to sell or to provide assistance. If this kind of work is done well, a one-and-a-half year stop-over clearly cannot erase all that was done previously. Logically, we miss the direct contact of the trade fairs, customer visits and workshops we do around the world. We have been able to get through this period with a certain serenity, thanks to what we have built up in the past, from the international agreements made for example with the government of Uzbekistan or the one we are studying with the state of Botswana, to the intense collaboration with the Ministry of Economic Development and the ICE offices. It is logical that, like everyone else, we live off of interpersonal contacts, and interpersonal contacts can never be lacking; now we hope that this situation is going to fade away and that there will be no further problems to deal with. In this sense we are hopeful: a test bench will be the September fair, where we will at least begin to understand how neighbouring countries respond to the market. In this regard, we are counting on being able to meet our European customers, those from North Africa, the Middle East and the Gulf area, just as we hope our interlocutors from the former Eastern European countries will arrive. I want to repeat that our mentality will never change. We will never lose the desire to be close to our customers and to invest in them, in order to be able to withstand and overcome any dark moments like the one we have just been through.

The role of President involves decision-making and the ability to address the development policies of an association. How do you play this delicate role?  

My way of interpreting the role of president of AFEMO is to be the reference person at the service of the associates. 

I - as president - and we, as the board of managers, together with our director, have the primary and absolute objective of listening to our members and bringing their needs to the various discussion tables. I believe that this should be the role of the president of an association and that there can be no other way.  In addition, over the last two years, we have established a much closer relationship with our members that has led us to be able to benefit from certain services directly from our members: to give an example, one of our associates, BTT - a company in the LEM Industries group - is now providing us with support marketing department, allowing us to carry out various activities thanks to a person assigned to support us. This method will be further extended in the near future and I believe, as president, that following the needs of our representatives can only lead to positive results. It goes without saying that, as is often the case in a company or a family, different views and opinions may arise among our members. Of course, in the life of the association everyone contributes with their own ideas and needs, and often it is not possible to satisfy everyone. However, from time to time we try to do our best and what we cannot achieve in the present we try to implement as soon as possible with skill and care, with the aim of always being able to offer the best, committing the maximum of our efforts. My way of interpreting the role of president is still, for me, to receive phone calls from our members even at six o'clock in the morning, whatever the need may be - from the most important thing to the simplest one -. I am always at their disposal, to give and receive those indications that can be transformed into actions capable of producing positive results for the whole group of associates.

www.afemo.it