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The sthrength of the district

An organisational model that generates excellence

The presence of a large number of companies in limited geographical areas is a characteristic feature of the Italian ceramic tile industry. The industrial ceramic districts (the most important of which is Sassuolo-Scandiano, but also Imola-Faenza, Impruneta, Vietri sul mare and the Veneto) have grown up due to a number of concurrent factors, first and foremost a long tradition in the use of clay to create tableware and floor and wall covering materials. Furthermore, since the early 1950s, the availability of a skilled workforce and capital together with burgeoning demand for products due to post-war reconstruction and the birth of the large suburban areas in the north of the country, has led to the development and consolidation of the modern-day districts.
The fact that the companies are located so close together promotes healthy competition, and the supply of new products and new furnishing solutions in turn spurs new investments in technological plant and product innovation. As a result, the Italian ceramic tile industry is able to develop new products well ahead of its international competitors. This is all a result of the integrated nature of the Emilia-Romagna region’s ceramic districts (which account for 90% of Italian production). Alongside the ceramic tile manufacturers themselves, the districts are also home to a broad array of partners, including suppliers of raw materials, product technologies and services, all of whom play an essential role in manufacturing activities.
The Italian district model has been extensively studied and widely imitated abroad. A particularly detailed analysis has been carried out by Professor Michael Porter of Harvard, who defines the Italian industrial ceramic district as a “cluster” that owes its success to the complexity of its interactions. According to Porter, districts are organised with a “diamond-like” structure in which the various components interact. Natural conditions such as ready availability of skilled workers and existing infrastructures, a strong propensity to use ceramic products, competitive cooperation between companies, and the presence of industries allied to ceramic tile production constitute the competitive success factors of this Italian industry.