The Precision Mechanics Association (PMA) "cluster" has a broad scope, relying on aerospace for 60% of its business and competing for precision engineering work in the industrial, automotive, railway and military sectors. The group of five companies took on its current, informal, form in 2002, having previously existed as a registered company. But two of its five members were reluctant to bear the costs this entailed, says president Luigi Pegolo, director of lead company Studio Progettazioni Industriali.

The cluster now is more flexible and lean. "I was convinced that to be useful to potential customers a consortium had to be completely autonomous, and that PMA would have to be able to take orders itself," says Pegolo. While a good idea from an idealistic point of view, bureaucracy, difficulties in reaching consensus among the companies and elevated costs took their toll, he says. Although the consortium was not successful in its initial form, a looser structure has allowed it to "maintain the agility of a small business", Pegolo says.

The broad scope and international focus of PMA - the consortium is hoping imminently to sign a deal with a France-based customer - fits with the strategy of precision machining specialist Data F, one of its member companies. Data F, which was founded in 1952, and its sister companies Datel and Elmi together posted a turnover of around €15 million ($19 million) in 2005 and employ 120 people. "It is part of our strategy to enter foreign markets," says Elisabetta Data, who is responsible for administration.

Euren, which specialises in gear manufacture and has a turnover of €5 million a year, is also keen to expand its reach, and the PMA consortium is a strong tool, says production manager Massimiliano Colucci. "PMA is a partner that allows us to enter markets where we could not go alone." For the customer, working with a team that can "provide the complete cycle and one point of contact is an enormous advantage," he adds. Initiatives like PMA are in tune with a wider rejuvenation of the industry, he says. "There was a downturn in the 1990s and in the last few years we have seen a resurgence, a renewed appreciation of precision mechanics."

Source: Flight International