Cover Story: The Italian Expedition
With spectacular landscapes, architecture, gastronomy and some of the world’s most revered luxury fashion houses - Italy is also home to manufacturing giants spread across various industries - famous for their innovations and widespread offerings. Middle East is a melting pot of cultures and trade. Over the last few decades therefore it has opened its market for Italian goods and services; and the cleaning and hygiene industry is no exception. We speak to Italy’s leading cleaning and hygiene manufacturers and professionals about their presence here, the market conditions back home and the cleaning and hygiene products on offer.
-By Rashmi Karanjekar 
According to the CEO of Afidamp Servizi, Toni D'Andrea Italian manufacturers are probably one of the biggest exporters of cleaning and hygiene products and solutions in Europe. “Even small companies with a turnover of less than five million Euros have around 75-95 per cent share of exports. Statistics reveal that an average export share by the machinery manufacturing companies in the region is close to 70 per cent. Major brands like Comac, Fimap, IPC, RCM, Dulevo, Eureka, as well as small organisations are doing very well in the Gulf countries.” Afidamp Servizi is the business corporation of AfidampFAB (The Italian Association of Professional Cleaning Equipment Manufacturers) and the organiser of trade exhibitions, events and meetings in the professional cleaning industry. In a span of almost 30 years, trade exhibitions organised by Afidamp Servizi under the brand Pulire have achieved worldwide industry recognition in the professional cleaning sector.On asking about the current market situation back home D'Andrea informs, “The Italian manufacturing market has remained stable till last year as we experienced little shrinkage in the business by two per cent probably due to the country’s economic situation but still in the last five years the economy in the cleaning and hygiene industry has been stable in terms of supplies.”  “In Italy you will come across excellent manufacturing companies, market leaders not only in the cleaning industry but overall. The issue is we don't have an internal market.
That’s one of the biggest limitations for the Italian manufacturers thus anything you manufacture here you have to plan it for exports,” avers Alessandro Bibiano, Chief Operations Officer, Asia & Middle East, Klindex. Klindex manufactures and designs floor machines, diamond tools, equipment, products for grinding, polishing, restoration and cleaning of all kinds of floor and surfaces. The brand is present in the Middle East market with 15-20 per cent export share since the last 20 years and work very closely with major distributors and companies in the GCC countries including public spaces and major five star hotels in the UAE, and Makkah, Saudi Arabia. In the UAE, Klindex is available through Continental Trading.
While talking about the Italian cleaning and hygiene service industry D'Andrea believes that due to the financial and economic situation the cleaning contractors are not investing in new machines; instead they prefer to repair or refurbish the machines thus affecting the manufacturing business. On the other hand, the service market has been experiencing immense growth as the outsourcing process has gained momentum that indicates that the cleaning contractors and service providers are getting more business. “Giving the opportunity to a specialised cleaning service provider is considered more economical and efficient. Even the big entrepreneurs have decided to outsource the training services rather than doing it in-house.” 
Entering Middle East
“In Middle East the focus is always on high-quality products.” says Domenico Prestia, Marketing Manager - AFH, Sofidel S.p.A. He adds, “When we approach the Middle East market we have to be very focused on innovation and the value we offer. This market is very demanding with high competencies and strong service ethics, which makes it challenging yet pleasurable.” The Sofidel Group, founded in 1966, is one of the leading manufacturers of paper for hygienic and domestic use (tissue) in the world. Daniele Mamoli, Export Director of Industrie Celtex S.p.A. - offering tissues, TNT and dispensing system for the professional market, says Middle East is a huge market and it is expected that the tissue paper segment will improve between 2019 and 2022 in both value and volume. With export share of 65 per cent, Industrie Celtex is present in the Middle East in countries like the UAE, Jordan, Lebanon, Oman and Kuwait. The brand entered the Middle East market in 2010.
D'Andrea comments, “Recently, I got the opportunity to judge the MECHF Awards 2019 in Dubai and I was impressed by the quality of people and work the y do in this sector. I believe this region at the moment is more advanced in the world compared to countries like Japan, Korea and Singapore. Highly skilled workforce with a keen interest towards learning, innovative products and solutions along with a highly competitive market reflects well in their output.” Furthermore, discussing the region’s receptible market conditions Paolo Scapinello, Export Area Manager, Filmop International s.r.l. opines, “The market is more open to innovation as it has understood that innovation means better service, better results and less cleaning costs, which allows Filmop to bring highly innovative products and systems in the Middle East.” Filmop International, founded in the early 70s, offers more than 4,000 finished items including a complete range of dusting and washing systems for floors and surfaces, mop soaking systems, wet mopping, multipurpose and housekeeping trolleys and waste collection solutions. Filmop exports to over 80 countries worldwide and currently around 60 per cent of its products are shipped abroad. “Filmop made its first move in the Middle East in the early 90s. Over the last three decades, we have served this market well, stabilised our presence in all the countries and have registered very good sales results too” he adds.
Andrea Chiappori, Scientific Technical Manager, Sutter Industries S.p.A says, “Middle East is a growing market with immense opportunities. Also, the growth in tourism from all around the world has led to an increase in the standards of cleaning, and this is where we can offer our best support.” Sutter Industries S.p.A., a Sutter Group company, headquartered in Borghetto di Borbera, in the province of Alessandria, Italy has been involved in the production and marketing of cleaning and surface treatment products in the professional sector for more than five generations through a capillary network of distributors, covering now more than 60 countries. The professional division of Sutter is developing 50 per cent of its business abroad, and 20 per cent of this value is developed by Middle East countries. In the Middle East, the brand is present in countries like UAE, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Iraq, Kuwait and Oman for the last 10-15 years. “In these countries, we are offering a complete range of floor care products, disinfectants and cleaning solutions, with a main focus on healthcare segment and food area,” adds Chiappori. 
The distribution channel
For the manufacturers the distribution system/channel is very important as they represent the brand in the region. Hence these companies work very closely with their distributors and offer training, support or assistance whenever required. “In the UAE, Dubai has excellent dealers, with great history, competence and in some cases better acceptance than the very manufacturers. They know what the people are expecting here and they supply exactly that,” explains D'Andrea. Brands like Klindex do provide consulting and training to salesmen and the technicians at the site. “One of the key aspects of selling in the Middle East is to provide superior after sales service and consulting,” says Bibiano. Likewise Sutter Professional while providing their dealers with training on the products, usage, and sales go to great lengths towards training the end users too. “We conduct seminars, training courses at the field and even invite our dealers to Italy where we have our own training facility for practical support,” says Chiappori. Similarly, Filmop offers a pre- and after-sales assistance along with qualified training to both sales force and end users. 
Latest technology and innovations 
According to D'Andrea some major companies in Italy are manufacturing a specific line of products i.e. robotics or Artificial Intelligence assisted machines. It has been observed that robotics and AI assisted machines are progressively replacing the jobs which won’t need the competence of a man. D'Andrea says, “Cleaning vast surfaces found in public spaces which attract heavy footfalls like airports, metro stations, and shopping malls require the service providers to clean the area during the night shifts. Hence, robots have replaced these jobs which won’t incur any labour cost. On the other hand, when you need to clean specific areas you still need human intervention.” In the tools category, innovations have been made in terms of production using new materials i.e. microfibers, recyclable plastics or integrating some equipment such as trolleys with electronic devices like tablets, sensors, dosing systems, driving wheels, etc. Lastly, for the cleaning chemicals segment there are strict laws issued by the government and the industries need to adhere to it, shares D’Andrea. “The chemical industry should have a clear vision while offering solutions for different surfaces while considering factors like health and environment. The production process should be evolved with environment friendly procedures. There are many companies which have completely diverted their production into new concepts such as less harmful, green range, etc,” briefs D’Andrea.
Meanwhile, amongst the latest products launched by Filmop International is the Duo Pro System, a professional wringing system consisting of a convenient wringer and two buckets of 17 l and 25 l respectively, which allow you to separate clean water from rinsing water. Another new product is ErgoSwing, an innovative system consisting of telescopic handle with turning grip and mop holder with ergonomic joint designed for easy movement. The new system guarantees less strain and increased productivity, together with better floor cleaning performances. The ErgoSwing usability analysis demonstrates a significant reduction in wrist bending and extension, maintenance of correct posture while cleaning floors and a notable lower perception of effort when compared with traditional systems. 
Chemicals and environment is the major concern worldwide hence many companies are completely changing their policies, the internal process, and their mindsets too. According to D’Andrea, Italy is a part of Europe and is obliged to adapt the sustainable practices as per the European Union rules. He says, “We follow the same standards as France, Germany and Nordic countries so we are looking forward to new concepts. We have entrepreneurs and companies who are really convinced that this is the right way and they react very easily and efficiently.” To this Mamoli adds, “We believe that every business model today must not disregard Blue Economy values and should safeguard the environment and its resources. Industrie Celtex is inspired by a perfect equilibrium of natural ecosystems where nothing is wasted and everything is reused in a circular process; to transform waste into new raw material.” Emphasizing on the sustainability practices followed in the region Chiappori concludes, “Our green line, the ZERO range has received great acceptance in the overall region. Besides, in Europe the concern about the environment is much greater but the Middle East market is not far behind!” 


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