Less than a year has passed since Acimga changed its skin and address, and yet the association of Italian machine builders for paper, graphics and converting appears completely reborn. Ideas, projects and initial results for an ambitious organization, which has already picked up new members.

The organizational structure? Bare-bones to say the least. The headquarters? Shared with another association. The programs? Many, concrete and stimulating. Acimga 2.0 enters the scene just months after the nomination of Andrea Briganti as its new director.
The change of pace is clear, and if we wanted to find a key word to define the general spirit, that word would be “service”. Briganti, has fallen into his new role with gusto, and, aided by a committed and very much involved leadership (president Marco Calcagni and vice president Aldo Peretti), is redrawing the profile of the association of machine builders for printing and converting. An interview with Briganti follows.

With a staff of just two people and the Assago offices shared with Assocomaplast, Acimga seems very different from what it was. What is the new Acimga’s identity, and how is it structured?
Acimga is, now more than ever, a business association, a voice for concerns that see themselves in its goals and programs. On the other hand, in some ways it more resembles a service company than an industrial association: we carry out activities of promotion, training, markets mapping, etc… which we commission when necessary from external specialists and organizations.
Moreover, there’s no question that Acimga “exists”: it has a board of directors and coordinates work groups that flesh out the new projects and decide which steps to take moving forward.

And in terms of representation? Your target sector has many faces…
Acimga represents segments of the printing and converting machine industry that differ greatly from one another, and which need not only to achieve “critical mass” toward common goals, but also to plan actions dedicated to the individual areas. Thus, having opted for a streamlined and “flat” organizational model, inspired by the principles of participatory direct democracy, we are now working to “verticalize”: we are forming the first work groups dedicated to individual technologies and areas of expertise – rotogravure, flexo, converting, digital printing… – in which extremely important Italian concerns operate, and in which new ones will be created, as new enterprises band together. Furthermore, the growth trend is clear: from last June to today, membership has risen by 40%, but we estimate that the amount of untapped potential is still very high.

Acimga has the potential to become the point of reference for new concerns and market segments. What type of enterprises have an interest in joining the association?
In addition to Italian manufacturers, large and small, of machines, equipment and components for the graphics/converting/paper sector, and their suppliers already registered as “associate members”, Acimga can also represent foreign concerns operating directly, with their own branch, in the Italian market.
Furthermore, the new statute enables us to welcome specialized publishers, along with other supporters, such as banks and financial institutions, for example.
We think that forming an association today does not simply mean “waving the Italian flag”, but creating a B2B community in which to see and be seen, exchange information, establish contacts and, last but not least, conduct branding. Because, nowadays, even in the industrial goods sectors, first you “sell” the concern, then the product.

A radical restructuring then. And what are you accomplishing with these ideas and ambitions?
We are working on many fronts that converge at the point of the institutional goal, i.e. promotion of the sector and support for its concerns. We have therefore relaunched all activities aimed at enhancing the presence and authority of Italian manufacturers in the markets that matter, first and foremost through participation at fairs and analysis of outlet regions and sectors.
Also, we have identified new channels of intervention which, by initial assessments, appear decidedly positive. Such is the case, for example, of the communication operations that take advantage of the new Acimga website, connected to social networks. In particular, by looking at the B2B dynamics, we have identified Linkedin as an adaptable and effective tool, and the training course we organized to teach members how to make the best use of it was much appreciated.

Another operation that passed with flying colors are the content transfer meetings, where operators of the various segments of the industry (materials, machines, services, converting, users…) interfaced on dynamics, problems and opportunities. The first one, held in November in Milan with many participants (and fans), was followed by one in Munich, which we organized during ICE Europe under the title “Print Our Pack”, in collaboration with G&K TechMedia and the support of ICE Agenzia. We have also scheduled two meets at Converflex (see news on cover, Editor’s note). In general, we prefer short encounters with an international character, enlivened by experts and buyers from the major end users.

These are some very concrete initiatives…
With all the tools out our disposable, “physical” and virtual, we want to connect the global community and open new spaces for visibility and promotion to Italian concerns.
Another example might illustrate the possibilities. In collaboration with a service company, we are setting up a monitoring center in order to map the most promising markets, in 5 year cycles, by directly contacting the concerns that operate in those regions, via Linkedlin and by telephone. We’ll start with Romania, Germany, Mexico and the United States, and we’re asking concerns how the market will evolve in the coming years, which technologies they are using and how they’re thinking of changing them, etc. in order to have an effective “thermometer” of the sector and the trends that guide its growth. The more concerns take part, the more effective and meaningful the report will be: that’s making community.

And at the institutional level? Will you continue to lobby? What relationship does Acimga have with international associations?
If by lobbying we mean developing relationships with government ministries (of economic development, foreign affairs, etc.) in order to support the promotional programs approved by the board of directors, absolutely; that is a standard activity for an institution such as ours which, among other things, belongs to Confindustria and is a founding member of the paper/graphics industry federation.
In parallel, and with renewed vigor, we are trying to relaunch EumaPrint, the European arm of the international federation Global Print, of which we are a member. It is internationally, in fact, that guidelines and the balance of sector regulations are decided (particularly pressing are those relating to safety), that fair events and emerging technologies are promoted, that national associations support their industries, and so on.
At Converflex, then, we will meet with analogous European associations to restore clout and scope to the federation. In the meantime, we are monitoring other relevant organizations, even of different type, such as, for example, the European Rotogravure Association.

So Converflex is looking to be an important event for many different reasons…
I’m convinced of it, and so are our members, which indeed occupy a third of the exhibition space.
What’s more, this Converflex has seen various concerns join up who hadn’t exhibited in years, encouraged by the synergy with Ipack-Ima and other industry events and attracted by the international scope that the coincidence with Expo 2015 only amplifies. Considering the importance of exports for Italian concerns, the universal exposition represents a positive factor: long distance visitors have yet another valid reason to come to Milan this year.
On the whole, then, the association’s members are determined and actively engaged.