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Published on 2023-11-28 13:00:00 | words: 9035
This article is about Turin- pure and simple.
And this is not really an article: it is more a digest and/or abridged mini-book evolving on two previous items from 2018:
_ an article- Per una politica industriale che veda oltre le prossime elezioni #industry40 #GDPR #cybersecurity / For an industrial policy that survives election cycles #industry40 #GDPR #cybersecurity (slightly more than 4,000 words)
_ a mini-book- Just another book on innovation (in Italy) (vol. 4 of "Connecting the Dots") ISBN 978-1723163937 2018-07-15 (more or less 6,000 words across 31 pages).
You can read both online for free- but if you do not have time, I will reference specific points here.
And, as I will discuss potential future evolution of my birthplace that used to be a company town, I will list various initiatives, from Stellantis and others, that actually could be a Lego (tm) Bricks construction set for a repositioning (and actually, competitiveness increase) of the location- if locals stop complaining and focusing on "extracting value" pushing through a 360 degrees "rentiers" mindset.
A change which, of course, would require adopting a "sustainability" (not just economic- as no economy can thrive long-term if is social and physical "infrastructure" decays) and systemic (in a company town mindset more than anywhere else, everything is connected, à la "Cloud Atlas").
The reason will be explained in the next section (for those of you that do not know it already).
Anyway, while in many past articles on this site shared my feed-back and cross-check on local antics and issues, always added some proposals for change.
One of my activities since 2012 to keep alive experience and skills I had developed in my activities as management consultant since 1990 has been to publish books on change (as I had already published an e-zine on change for senior managers 2003-2005), while few years ago started also releasing infographics and short presentation videos youtube.com/@changerulebook.
The idea is... to make the ideas go around, as I had done for decades first with my network outside Italy, then from the early 2000s within publications.
Meanwhile, keep doing something that might be also useful in other future missions and activities.
My concept is that ideas do not belong to "vertical silos"- 99.9% of what is on my CV was developed by working with those who had specific knowledge in a specific domain, but then times and again I acted as a kind of "working knowledge bee" spreading around and contaminating.
Admittedly, since 2012 actually mostly reused what had developed since the late 1980s- in each mission in Turin since 2012 my official role was a each time a different type of PMO (Senior PMO / Demand Planning, ICT Purchasing Global PMO Consultant, PMO / Senior Management Consultant), but each time "extracted value" from what I learned and developed since the 1980s... outside Turin and outside Italy.
Now, most of the commentary, positive and negative, that I read in Turin about the future is an example of "vertical silo"- even quirkier when, as it happened few years ago, the same people utter different messages to different audiences (but, of course, being cross-domain and non-tribal, I was in both).
So, one of my videos was about data and Turin, sharing a summary of 21 years of a report.
Interesting to see the evolution before and after the 2006 Winter Olympic Games (held in Turin), as well as across all the other crises until 2021.
It is just a couple of minutes, but worth watching as an introduction, to see how data (and not just the perception) about Turin evolved.
The general aim of this article is what is written within the title: converting an issue and a need into an opportunity (yes, blending them).
Incidentally: last Friday the weekly magazine "L'Espresso" gave its cover to a kind of "goodbye" to the former main Italian automotive company, FIAT, now part of Stellantis.
While the articles are interesting, including the data shared within them, I found them as one-sided as many articles I read recently both in support and against the new "circular economy factory" in Turin.
The new life of the factory was announced while a factory that just a decade ago had been heralded as the next phase in the future of the company has been receiving a "for sale" sign.
Personally, for reasons that are actually part of the last two sections of this article, I disagree with both the scaremongers and the triumphalists, as it seems, to me, that both are balancing each other but focusing on today.
As will be discussed in the final section of this article, while preparing this article over the last few days, decided that actually the first progress report of one of my physical+digital projects was an example of that- hence, structured the "progress report video" accordingly.
_ background- my knowledge-based approach to missions
_ Turin, land of opportunities... and jeremiads
_ shifting from jeremiads to seizing the day and more
_ converting an issue and a need into an opportunity
Background- my knowledge-based approach to missions
In late 1989, when I resigned from my first job, started looking at what I had learned since 1986, when it all started, but actually also since the early 1980s, when first in politics, then in activities to support my own reading and computer interests I worked on small "gigs".
Those gigs allowed me to discover that I could be good at sales, but preferred sales where I had to know my product (be it home computers, used school books, or even ghostwriting on some specific themes related to history, politics, philosophy).
So, as I had been a long-term interest also in cultural anthropology and archeology, but my business experience had been in number crunching across various industries working with senior management and financial controllers, decided that would work on cultural/organizational change and business number crunching.
First with a partner, then for another employer, and then for my longest-running customer (banking outsourcing) and my second-longest (gas and logistics, but we had met before for projects in controlling within logistics), blended both sides- as I wrote in my moniker, "change, with and without technology".
My project management experience before 1990 and since 1993 has been mainly with different partners or customers or teams on each project- what I call "missions".
So, anybody working with me knows that... I phase-in with data and documentation, and phase-out with data and documentation.
Or: I listen, but then prefer to do a reality check (or extract one if needed), minimize the time wasted in doing what others already did and did not work, and to avoid wasting time on what a preliminary assessment or feasibility study would discourage.
How long is such an assessment or feasibility study? Frankly, sometimes mere minutes- the time needed to browse through a "Request for Proposal" to understand that has already been structured toward specific suppliers that exclude myself, my partners, or my customers.
Sometimes I have to negotiate its duration, and do it incrementally (spend as little as possible first but on key elements within the context, then refine gradually) or iteratively, in both cases using the feed-back on the first results to "tune".
Those who worked with me know also that I like to communicate often with the "other side of the business world": the customer, whenever I am on the suppliers' side; the suppliers, when I am hired as a facilitator, PMO, interface, vendor manager, whatever.
If you follow more than a handful of projects, initiatives, services, negotiations at the same time, you need to build a structure, as otherwise the mere "context switching" (the "where were we?" moment) would end up absorbing a significant chunk of your time.
Which really helps not just on preparing the "phase-out" (as most of what you would need is already in place), but also continuously monitoring how things are going.
As you probably know, I was born in Turin and since 2012, after de facto living elsewhere in Italy since mid-1980s, and then abroad from the late 1990s, my missions have all been in Turin (also if more often than not worked in English and remotely elsewhere, including 2015-2018 worldwide, and 2021-2022 Germany and a bit France).
Since 2012, except for bits onsite in Brazil, USA, and Lugano in my first mission, most of my travels abroad were to meet friends, attend conferences, or both- i.e. few days here and there (London, Frankfurt).
Except for almost a month in summer 2017 in Frankfurt, when attended an intensiv German course at the Goethe Institut.
The latter was B1 level, but to challenge myself spent most of my coffee and lunch breaks as well as spare time with those attending B2 and C1.
Reason? Except French that studied for years in schools in Italy, I am used to learn via books and people I meet in business or during my travels and elsewhere, and accepting (or even seeking) failure to understand is part of learning.
Actually, each failure while learning is useful to integrate the new with what you already know or understand.
My mantra is not just to convert any mission into an opportunity to learn, but also to share cross-industry intuitions derived from both my experience, what I learned by continuously studying and my "learning research projects", or what, by difference or similarities, see in the current environment but could be seen with different eyes.
Corollary: as my colleagues who were trained by me in the late 1980s on how to deliver presentations and training on Decision Support Systems PC-based model building activities may remember, I also have my own "method" to transfer knowledge.
Hence, the last part that described above as "phase-out with data and documentation" has a dual use: when I know that a mission is going to end, I focus on both doing the phase-out activities (or any other "day-by-day" activities), but also to structure what I observed, learned, applied during the mission, so that any incoming "replacement" has a structured starting point to move on from.
Of course: I do not expect that this "knowledge transfer" implies a direct "continuity"- anybody taking over the kind of mission I have usually has to blend skills, data, and personal abilities plus experience, and therefore might propose his/her own assessment and retune.
Sometimes, "knowledge transfer" is replaced by "myth building": so, instead of observing reality to avoid to repeat patterns that proved to be detrimental (or, at least, document what happened and why so that future early warnings are not ignored), a fictional rendering of what happened is generated.
Does it help? Short-term, yes- but long-term what was not just forgiven, but also forgotten, comes back to haunt those who swept it under the proverbial carpet.
Actually, generates future costs that could have been easily available by having a proper knowledge retention practice in place.
Let's shift to reality.
Turin, a land of opportunities... and jeremiads
Just have a look at news items I shared on my Linkedin profiles, and you will see plenty of paper clips alternating between bombastic announces and depressing, even frantic, titles about forthcoming disasters.
I really started hearing about decline in my birthplace, Turin, in the 1980s, in my first job- as routinely was told of how things were declining vs. how they had been before.
Anyway, from then until now, whenever in town, heard often the same mix of up-and-downs, usually by tribal boundaries (i.e. each "member of a tribe" sourcing most of the negatives with other tribes).
I will not share that many, as just by looking at news clips over the last couple of weeks is enough.
In Turin, despite all the brouhaha about "events-based economy", "capital of culture", and actually "natural location of
... infrastructure, university, polytechnic, logistics, etc were all built to cover the needs of manufacturing for over a century.
Actually, as I said to others when, while still in London and then in Brussels, visited Turin before the 2006 Winter Olympics, it looked as if were building up the infrastructure for an expanding town, not one that had been losing residents for a while.
As I wrote at the beginning, I disagree with many articles such as those I read this week on "L'Espresso", but also over the last couple of weeks on the Turin section of "La Repubblica", "La Stampa", and "Corriere della Sera", both those extremely positive and those extremely negative.
Before shifting to the next section, would like to just share links that posted online over the last two weeks where discussed also or mainly about Turin (either with my own articles or commenting articles from newspapers).
_ Of reforms and cultural / organizational change in politics and society hashtag#Italy hashtag#EU hashtag#business>
_ The human side of supply chains: adapting to a changing social structure hashtag#Italy hashtag#Turin hashtag#automotive
_ (in Italian) about the rephasing of an event about chocolate that reportedly attracted 600,000 visitors, but... will be moved from late October to February around St Valentine, with a catch- it was barely closed the 2023 event that local authorities announced the change for February 2024, not 2025 my commentary
_ (in Italian) Stellantis increasing incentives in Turin to leave the company the news item
_ (in Italian) while 50mln EUR had been made available for companies due to the identification of Turin as "crisis area", the requests from companies are more than double- including not just automotive, but also aerospace and other industries the news item
_ (in Italian) Microtecnica sale to France halted, and SMEs announcing that in 10 years 50% of small and medium companies will have no employee, as they cannot find enough talent the news item
_ (in Italian) Tyco announces that it will delocalize to China, while other companies involved bring the total of potentially affected to over 83,000 employees the news item
_ (in Italian) Stellantis announcing its new "circular economy hub" where used to be produced cars the news item and my commentary
_ (in Italian) announces about the forthcoming "aerospace city" project, while, side-by-side, the newspaper reports that within the main park of Turin, where used to be buildings, still works and sorting out prior abuses cannot deliver on their promises the news item and my commentary (in English) with reference to what happened to Detroit post-2008 to 2022
Obviously, Facebook has another target audience and profile, but partially overlapping:
_ (in Italian) a long commentary on the 2,000 expected headcount reduction at Stellantis affecting cadres the news item
_ (in Italian) proud announces about the value of Turin as a brand the news item
_ (in Italian) a company, Sparco, announcing a 3,000 EUR bonus for each new child of their employees born in 2024 the news item
_ (in Italian) proud announce of a new bionic arm implanted the news item
_ (in Italian) jeremiad about Piedmont and Turin losing Michelin stars the news item
_ my commentary on the consequences on the local universities of the economic development focus adopted by Turin, as also candidates for the role of Dean of the Turin Polytechnic were reported to have acknowledged the need to look beyond Turin my commentary
_ (in Italian) proud announces about Turin as capital of tennis and re-hosting the auto exhibition news items and my commentary in English
_ (in Italian) bombastic announce that... Turin is the natural location to keep the ATP Finals (forever?) news item and my commentary
_ (in Italian) hilarious commentary on the Town Council of Turin issuing something you would expect from the UN Security Council news item and my commentary
_ (in Italian) quick summary of my article about "Fortress Europe", to focus on the need for a cultural change my commentary and article link
_ (in Italian) jeremiad about the risk that other multinationals will do in Turin what Embraco did in Chieri (same metropolitan area)- leave news item any my commentary in English.
Additional point: after assuming that Intel would set up a factory nearby, then that a gigafactory from Stellantis would be set nearby, then that another gigafactory would be set nearby...
... eventually the factory went elsewhere, the potential gigafactory for Stellantis maybe will be elsewhere in Italy, where infrastructure is already in place, the gigafactory for Ivrea will not be set there as the power infrastructure after decades of set aside from the glorious Olivetti past would take years before is in shape- missing the market opportunity.
Then, it was announced a battery research centre for Stellantis with a 40mln EUR investment for 100 jobs (albeit highly qualified)- as per the announce on Stellantis' website on 2023-09-08:
To keep those two lists short, mainly on the Facebook side skipped most of the relevant post that did not contain a screenshot or link to a news item.
Still, by just reading the two lists above without clicking on any link, I think that you can get a feeling.
It looks like an emotional rollercoaster, but it is really just a sign of the difference between perception and reality.
The perception is that a town like Turin now (not in 50-100 years, when could quite well be half its size) can keep its services and infrastructure by shifting just to cafés, restaurants, hotels.
Few days ago shared a post comparing with Detroit (see the list above), but this is the source article, with a key quote:
"Detroit's decline into insolvency formed amid 20th century globalization in the auto industry, according to economists. The city's population fell from 1.8 million to 639,000 in the most recent but controversial count by the U.S. Census. "With the population leaving, with the infrastructure staying in place, it meant strains on the city. Cumulatively, they started to mount over time," said Raymond Owens III, a former senior economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.
The 2007-08 Great Recession left another round of scars on the city as scores of homes fell into foreclosure. The U.S. Treasury Department has since funded the removal of 15,000 blighted structures in the city.
One local analysis suggests that in 2020, Detroit's effective property tax rate on homes was more than double the national average. Detroit's new tax, spending and placemaking policies have drawn the interests of bond investors in recent years, providing another source of revenue for the local government."
In Turin, the previous administration was criticized for giving out too many licenses for new shopping mall, killing local businesses.
The point was, as the sale of shares in partially owned companies (eventually repurchased at a premium), to raise liquidity due to the high level of prior debt, as local taxes had been already pushed to the authorised limits.
As was told in 2016 by the then Mayor of Turin at an event to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the 2006 Winter Olympics, after the previous two Mayors (same political party) told what they had done before, during, after the Games... "I am the one who paid the bills" (in Italian, shared an article after attending the event, more than 10k readers so far).
Recent demographic figures discussed something similar to one of the issues of Detroit- leftover infrastructure and its social and financial maintenance costs.
Actually, announces in Turin already included stating that an area that used to be for logistics will be levelled down (maybe converted into a garden?), as after decades waiting for a new future it had become an attractor for those living at the margins of this supposedly inclusive and progressive town.
I discussed most recently the impact of demographic trends on the future of Turin within this article, sharing also data from official public reports.
Another area formerly linked to the industrial past of Turin instead will become yet another university location.
I still have my doubts how cafés, restaurants, and hotels will support universities focused both on humanities and technology, including the new campus that should deliver a blend of both.
Why? Well, as I wrote repeatedly in past articles, it wasn't that long ago that the Turin Polytechnic proposed a master for a dozen of students blending both, aiming to attract less than 10 people from smaller companies from the territory.
Despite the large number of companies even just within manufacturing, and despite all the webinars and conferences and workshops I attended since 2012 locally at both the Unione Industriale (the local industrialists' association- akin to CBI, for my UK readers) and Chamber of Commerce, extolling the virtues of a "new Renaissance" or "new Humanism", local companies did not answer.
So, the first one planned was simply scrapped (shared in previous posts online both the announce and then the announce of the scrapping, as well as further announces about a relaunch and the new planned "blended" location).
Reason? Yes, the usual "if we train them, they will leave"- as demand exceeds offer for those blended skills.
At the same time, the reason is also what was in an old joke "if they were to understand that I like thinking, that could be an issue".
Last but not least: probably those better suited to blend both were those already covering key roles within companies that often belong to families and, in pure Italian style, where official key roles were spread across family members.
Hence, the risk was not just "if we train them", but also to project on the open market the "human capital"- and lose it.
In Turin, it is not uncommon to receive contracts where even people with significant experience are basically asked to sign non-competition agreements covering all their past, not just what they developed with the new employer: extracting value from prior investments.
Hence, maybe those new "blended" course will churn out newly hired with both mindsets- but this will create some issues to those used to hire technical skills focused on delivery, and getting instead those who want to make a difference or think systemically (as this will probably be the net result).
Hence, I am curious to see how the "talent retention" policies will develop: mix scarcely available skills with a completely different Weltanschauung of what the "job" purpose is, and you get a revolving door, not what many local companies were used to, which could be basically described as "hire right out of school, and keep until they retire".
Yes, the new "aerospace city" will probably eventually develop- still, if even aerospace companies are within those seeking for aid and other conditions for companies in crisis, there is something missing in this wonderful picture.
Also, one wonders how will be repurposed all the technological side of the Turin Polytechnic that was focused on automotive and related industries- and how will be kept alive.
Anyway, this sound like a... jeremiad- but I think that the quick assessment points listed in this section could actually be useful to outline the context for non-locals before moving onto the next section.
Ignore the continuous news from Turin announcing projects and then making the round as if it were a duty to provide them funds, while instead local élites apparently find better investments that investing in their own territory from which keep extracting value.
Because it is time to shift from observing current opportunities to move ahead, to identifying existing elements that could allow to implement a new reality.
Shifting from jeremiads to seizing the day and more
Personally, I do expect a potential significant retrenching / repurposing also of parts of the area called "Pescarito", which was again focused on logistics that made sense when Turin was a massive manufacturing area, and therefore also smaller manufacturing companies could set here to benefit from existing infrastructure (including logistics, but also finance) that was sustainable thanks to the massive manufacturing sites of the company town.
The concept is simple: yes, my connections in banking in Turin decades ago complained that any company growing up demanded what was called the "tasso FIAT", i.e. a preferential interest rate on financing (as most Italian companies traditionally financed through banks, not venture capitalists, commercial paper, etc).
Still, if you give preferential prices on anything to a main local player that ensure continuity of revenue, you can make affordable covering fixed costs and possibly also the funding costs of CAPEX, and any further corporate customer is basically mainly margin, allowing a better flexibility.
Actually, when I was a consultant with his own company in UK, I followed a similar approach: long-term customers had preferential conditions, "spot" customers were asked different conditions and the reference rate, to be reduced upon specific conditions (e.g. risk sharing on new customers or negotiations), or when provided continuity.
In the early 1990s, I remember discussing with an American colleague and mentor who had been living and working in Italy for decades how a leading Italian bank based in Turin considered highly innovative was said to be investing on IT 20% of the "spread" between interest charged and interest extracted (public data from a magazine)- which at the time was over 700 basis points (7%- the spread, not the interest), and he compared that with a bank considered in the USA highly innovative, which spent less both in terms of percentage of the spread and... with a spread that amounted at a third of the one possible in Italy, i.e. 250.
Moreover, many local suppliers told me that they were used to long official payment terms, but really worked assuming that what they billed was not the official revenue and did not generated the official margin- as to have cashflow and operate they used factoring, e.g. giving invoices approved but not yet paid, and get the value minus a percentage, while the factoring entity would take care of getting the payment.
Until the late 1990s, when I was told that banks started seeing those invoices as riskier, and eventually, before Marchionne arrived in the early 2000s, more than once was told that their invoices where not accepted, as the risk was considered too high.
When I worked in Rome at the beginning of the Marchionne era, when was announced that General Motors was going to pay to avoid having to take over FIAT, the new CEO was an unknown entity from Canada, and the joke I was told was "how many months will that cash last".
That was the perception in the early 2000s in Italy.
Anyway, that "bet" paid, as you know, as did the further "bet" of taking over Chrysler.
Meanwhile, the town was trying to re-invent itself- and, before 2008, around the 2006 Winter Olympics, it was considered an innovative case study with all the announced projects and repositioning activities (marketing has always been a good Turin point, since I remember- delivery was something else, as if it were the "boring technical detail" that somebody else could solve, while the thinking minds moved onto the next big thing).
A town that, is worth remembering, in a recent list few weeks ago was positioned at the 31st place for quality of life in Turin, recovering... 23 positions- but the title was on the latter, not the former.
Milan, the eternal comparison point? Second within the same list.
As you saw in the previous section, and with more details in previous articles about Turin, the list of news items and posts about the current status can be summarized as follows:
_ Turin has been for most of the XX century a company town
_ that company was the Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino (i.e. FIAT), for most of the century
_ in the 1980s, I was already told that there was a decline, outsourcing, externalization, etc
_ from about 2005, both media and my local contacts talked about "downsizing" and "streamlining"
_ if you remove the key player in a company town, all that was built around it starts shrinking
_ the only elements that kept expanding are University and Polytechnic- as if little had changed, courtesy also of banking foundations
_ at the same time, the 2006 Winter Olympics "spirit" released a continuous stream of plans to be an event, culture, even sports town.
The silver lining was that, due to its industrial past, and the restructuring of the banking industry in the early 1990s that resulted in creating banking foundations, Turin had two of the largest ones in Italy (in terms of initial assets and then investments).
You can read a review of a book about that with links to the official reports ("Tombari-Greco - Fondazioni 3.0: Da banchieri a motori di un nuovo sviluppo - ISBN 9788830101326").
Banking foundations had the mandate to focus on their own territory (but as reminded recently, there were loopholes that allowed to expand beyond that), and for years practically there was "sprinkler money": a bit for anything- not enough to scale up and develop, but enough to keep afloat, and act as an incentive for even more "projects"- a kind of "Zombie business development": you create because there is funding available, not because you have a plan for a self-standing activities and that funding is useful for the initial investment phase, more expensive and extensive.
I noticed in 2012 what this implied- but eventually saw an attempt to refocus on key projects (albeit probably some in Turin remember that since then I kept complaining about the "tribal" culture that further spread money around, instead of focusing resources from all the sources on few objectives able to build sustainable development).
Over the last decade, there was an increased number of events (partially attracted via "seed" funding or sponsorships from local champions- including banking foundations), but times and again the same pattern repeated.
Say that event X is done each year in a different location, and that at last Turin is able to entice the event here.
Once done, local media and also local élites enter a kind of self-referential routine of saying that Turin is the natural location for event X- permanent location.
At the beginning of this article shared the link to a video presentation:
"So, one of my videos was about data and Turin, sharing a summary of 21 years of a report."
The self-referential routine applied there too: each year I attended the presentation of the annual report, being an independent entity could just report what data showed- and each years was a list of critical issues that had been ignored and qualified a decline.
Each year local media reported on that, each year interviewed local élites who each year collectively accepted the verdict, discussed what could had been done and what should be done, and then... "passata la festa, gabbato lo santo", we say in Italian.
Or: ritual done, wait until the next year.
Over the last few years, since Covid started, all this routine accelerated, and more events, more new reasons for others to select Turin as natural location were vented- on local media, or even in announces to the National Government, invoking also European Union resources.
Be it the national competence centre for AI, the worldwide "capital" of liberty, becoming ATP Finals or Eurovision permanent location, becoming the location of a key "gigafactory" for batteries, the food capital, the book capital, the art capital, today again a resurgence of memories of when in the early XX century Turin was the movie industry capital of Italy, even at times in the past becoming the permanent location of Winter Olympics...
Sometimes, feels as if I were reading about Athens telling to its "partners" within the Delian League to subsidize yet another initiative.
The catch? Frankly, Turin became since the 1980s more Macondo from Garcia Marquez, than Athens at its peak.
The curious element is that this implies another routine: anybody coming here, or willing to get an appointment here, for whatever reason is expected to praise the town, its "guiding lights", promise this and that...
... but then, most move away, and come back praising only when there is an opportunity for a new gig in town.
In USA politics, this is called "carpet bagging": I will move away as soon as possible as will never accept to join a tribe, and unless there is a systemic shared interested I see no reason to just be a support to those "parachuted"- I work by mission, since 2012.
Anyway, would be interesting to see those extracting value by their temporary or long-term association with my birthplace to actually re-invest locally what they extract.
Mind that, at least in my case, it is funny: as I wrote above, routinely (not just since 2012- also since I first started helping elsewhere in Italy something bigger and therefore became visible to some) I was asked from the early 1990s to help develop or reposition something local- praise all around, prize then to the "anointed ones".
Anyway, when it was interesting, I took that as an opportunity to have a "test market" to structure something that I had developed elsewhere or was working on.
In some cases, it is even more curious to read about those self-referential expectations, and, when the results are not the expected, locally still it is presented as "the" location and not "one of the X" (in Italy, not in Europe).
Now, I wrote already at the beginning of the negotiations to find an industrial partner, Renault first then PSA, and the first real announces simply confirmed what was within the numbers.
Instead of seeing a convergence of efforts to work on a transition (it is not just the shift from combustion engines to electrical, it is also a matter of volumes and economies of scale, and different structure of the supply chain and associated services), apparently some still believe that dumping more money to keep afloat would make sense.
So far, seizing the day worked: inject some seed money, attract events, build a service economy around that, use the benefit of being in a location where centuries ago there was a massive investment in architectural development of Turin as a capital (in that case, for real), and you can actually have events that extract value from visitors (value generated elsewhere: in Italy and abroad).
Yes, Turin is beatiful (from an architectural standpoint) and worth visiting- but everytime somebody from outside came here, I saw that it was still touch-and-go on adopting a tourist-attraction mindset, e.g. integrating services, instead of trying to squeeze the last dime from anything by "unbundling" every service.
If we were to shift into "sustainable development mode"- i.e. reinvesting to build something that would survive also if other locations were to become attractive, it would be better.
I will not discuss figures- having no access to certified information, if I were to rely to what media reports...
... and the latter keeps fluctuating.
The only figure I still have to see in any form and shape is how much of their profits those extracting value from events held in Turin are actually reinvesting on the town.
Instead, I keep getting news items stating how much locals would like to receive from elsewhere to finance yet another new initiative.
Now, time to shift to the "more" part.
Converting an issue and a need into an opportunity
So far, this long article / mini-book outline has been a collection of pointers, almost a digest of what happened in the past.
Not just in the last decade, when I was a "locally born, at times resident foreigner"- a curious personal moveable feast (to quote somebody else in Paris) flipping the "thinking globally acting locally" mantra sometimes the other way around.
For many, it seems as if the proverbial mountain (gigafactories announces) delivered a small mouse (the research centre).
Ditto for the new "circular economy hub".
As hinted above, and also online in my posts about these events, I beg to differ- as I will show within this closing section.
The keyword within Stellantis announce, in my view, is "upskilling"- keep that word in mind while reading from now on.
Many years ago, remember reading on The International Herald Tribune, during one of my travels, an article about how the Chinese automotive industry was underestimated.
It was the same approach that I had heard from others in Italy while supporting startups: some of their colleagues had externalized whole production lines, assuming that the Chinese would not be able to do more than execution (the same kind of business racism that in the 1960 was against the Japanese- as a kid in the early 1970s, remember being still told that "Japanese" was equivalent to low quality- then the Walkman and portable CD player changed that).
The specific case in that article was a truck production line from Renault: the Chinese side remove robots and put people in their place, and Westerners assumed that this proved how backward was China.
Then, instead, discovered that eventually the Chinese side added again robots, explaining the rationale: what they had received required too much maintenance, so they put people to study and improve processes, and then designed robots that were based on the improved processes.
If you read Italian, have a look at the articles I linked above: it is interesting to see how both companies and Trades Unions focus on "keeping the flame alive" at whatever cost- as if you were able to build a bubble.
As wrote at the beginning of this article:
" The new life of the factory was announced while a factory that just a decade ago had been heralded as the next phase in the future of the company has been receiving a "for sale" sign.
Personally, for reasons that are actually part of the last two sections of this article, I disagree with both the scaremongers and the triumphalists, as it seems, to me, that both are balancing each other but focusing on today."
This article is already long enough, so I would like to list a series of points that I think will probably be worth expanding in the future in a mini-book:
_ risk of becoming a maquilladora
_ need to focus on converting an issue (what's going on outside Macondo) and need (to reposition Turin) into an opportunity
_ starting thinking systemically first, tribal later, and integrate across, not just think about the balance of distribution
_ conversion: make rounds to convert, not just attract production lines that are being phased out elsewhere (wrote about this in the past)
_ a transition that doesn't toss away implies doubling costs short-term, to retain while you adapt before you adopt / replace
_ each new hub and competence centre should be integrated within the University and Polytechnic as an opportunity to build skills of the future
_ also if all new vehicles by 2035 were to be electrical, there would still be maintenance and retrofitting
_ also dismantling allows to identify how to improve design and processes/tools to reduce cycle time- again, new high-demand IPR for future designers within automotive and generally mobility industry (including the future of aerospace- look at what Airbus proposed for flying city cabs)
_ also if future is ownership for high-value, and service/pay-per-use the others, plus historical, would need more durable vehicles- and having the hub could help to identify high points of wear and tear, and how to optimized the costs of improvements- not every part need to be durable
_ also the hubs could cover now FCA PSA OPEL etc (all Stellantis), but in the future might be opened to others too, as was for machine repair and sales, and actually generate an industry that, once the processes are set defined and shifted upstream into design, could be highly automated and high-value-added, as eventually current factory workers (even new hired in their 30s) will retire or shift to another working model
_ also need to redesign electronics: so, actually the hub could become a design and service centre to generate a new Bosch of the future- in Turin
_ Turin allowed experimenting automated vehicles hence could be again another part of intereste worldwide
_ Turin electrical charging stations have been recently reported to be massively underused (only in the richest areas used at least 15% of the time).
The last point is interesting, as coupled with the second-to-last (test area for self-driving vehicles) could allow interesting experiments.
From La Stampa on 2023-10-11:
" Le 637 stazioni di ricarica oggi esistenti lavorano al 5% del loro potenziale. Ma senza un aumento è difficile convincere gli automobilisti ad abbandonare il motore endotermico
Stazioni di ricarica usate al 5% della loro potenzialità
In media uno ogni 1500 abitanti. Anche se è più indicativo il rapporto con il parco elettrico circolante, secondo i dati del database Aci 2022: uno a sei, a fronte di 3475 veicoli immatricolati. Ed ecco spiegato come la postazione più utilizzata, sistemata in piena Crocetta, oggi funzioni a solo il 15% della sua capacità. Che è il triplo dell'utilizzo medio registrato in città, attorno al 5%. Facile quindi capire come il tempo di occupazione in carica sia appena del 2-3%. Una manciata di ore a settimana. "
So, while waiting to have enough to justify shifting from less than 4,000 vehicles to say 40,000 (in a town with the highest rate of vehicles in Italy: 63.7% end 2019, i.e. 554,000 on a population of 870,000), those underused stations could be allow to identify and experiment new models, e.g. starting with the "menu" proposed in a book that I quote often Mitchell - Reinventing the Automobile - ISBN 9780262013826.
Somebody would ask: but if your CV lists also so much in banking and controlling and other activities, why just automotive?
Because, as I wrote at the beginning, this article is about Turin.
And as a resident foreigner born locally I am, as many others, tired of hearing complaints, dreams that could interest only rentiers, and projects just made to consume resources and leave a mark on the town- not to help build sustainability.
Banking and logistics and other industries in Turin and surrounding areas, in my view, developed the way they did only because for a century there was an "industrial core" centered around FIAT, but which enabled sustainable costs and scalability also for other industries.
The "small is beautiful" forgets that "small requires access to services and infrastructure and human capital".
So, consider the still existing strenghts:
_ University and Polytechnic, and their willingness to shift toward a competence centre model, not just "esamificio", i.e. churning out graduates with a piece of paper as if their were widgets
_ infrastructure (physical, financial, etc) still in place and still in working and workable conditions
_ a relatively large pool of talents that keeps attracting more potential talents from elsewhere (who then go elsewhere to develop, for now)
_ the quixotic but already in place investment in "empty boxes" that should attract investment (why here?)
_ yes, a beautiful, highly "walkable" town with still decent public transport
_ nearby (for European standards) tourism resorts (mountains, lakes, even the sea is not that far away)
The new various "hubs" (not just the aerospace city) could be integrated if tribes drop their tribal mindset and accept the old-but-still-useful concept: release control of your own small pie (drop that "rentiers first" attitude trying to focus just on highly visible events), and integrate into a larger pie that you will not control, but where could be a key element.
As I wrote already while still in Brussels: Italy sometimes pushed ideas of "competing with China".
While, instead, China attracted from us designers, university professors e.g. even in movie studies, engineers, etc.
Then, understood that for some specific "skills", you need to be embedded- paraphrasing what Philippe Daverio said (I think), if you are born surrounded by what past generations built in Italy, you are bound to be creative, innovative, design for use (and not just to show off).
So, I remember discussing even before 2012 with Italian colleagues in Milan how we Italians misunderstood our strengths, and outsourced whole production lines, while instead Chinese coming here as sub-sub-sub-contracts within the textile industry gradually move up through the supply chain, phasing out our own.
In Brussels, half-jokingly wrote that made more sense to see Italy potential as providing what is here "normal" to larger markets, but would require generations to be created locally elsewhere.
So far, we missed the opportunity.
As was told by some over a decades ago, when they asked in China why they were hiring young people at what was then the equivalent of 6,000EUR/month in terms of local purchasing power (and still decent here) to train and coach their own...
... we from the West did not understand that they were investing to develop and replace in a generation or two (actually it was faster).
Despite what local industrialists and local Trades Unions say, you cannot stop the tide of time- you would just create "Zombie companies", as was common parlance since e.g. the 2008 crisis and after the COVID first wave of subsidies, i.e. companies unable to payback what they received, but able to float by paying interests.
So, if the automotive market is shifting toward "rent/pay-per-use for the many, buy for the few", there will be less car needed, but as durable as an airplane.
Hence, again, the hubs about aerospace, batteries, circular economy, CIM/Industry 4.0, AI within automotive and mobility, and others, could actually be an engine to "seed" a different (and more value-added) future.
The alternative? Keep shrinking the town, level down whatever infrastructure will fade away, have a mass of underclass coming to serve the few in Turin plus the "tourism and events" industry, while routinely élites will beg for more funding from elsewhere to...
... subsidize their next dream, a dream from which, if converted into reality, they will extract benefits that will invest elsewhere.
To close on a lighter tone, at the beginning wrote:
" As will be discussed in the final section of this article, while preparing this article over the last few days, decided that actually the first progress report of one of my physical+digital projects was an example of that- hence, structured the "progress report video" accordingly. "
Yes, the concept of "issue-need-opportunity" is something that applied since few months ago to "converge" few experiments.
While I will while keep posting videos on change on youtube.com/@changerulebook, I will keep adding more "progress reports" (i.e. a kind of visual moving Post-It without audio showing phases) on youtube.com/@robertolofaro, a channel that created in 2014 for this purpose but never used so far.
For now, I do not plan other articles for this week- will be working on a couple of data projects.
Anyway, you can always reach me on Linkedin if you have commentary, suggestions, etc.
As usual: unless it is for a customer or employer, ask what you want, but my if I will decide to answer, my reply will be public, to share with other potential users.
Have a nice day!