The two-way interaction between construction, buildings and society is inseparable from our daily lives and the architecture of our cities, and has converged in recent years with rising cross-industrial trends. Founded in 1959, the Committee for European Construction Equipment (CECE) is a Europe-wide federation and the voice of construction equipment manufacturers to EU policy makers. Through its national member associations, it speaks on behalf of an industry made up of 1,200 companies, employing 300,000 people and creating a value of 40 billion euros annually.
The organisation's advocacy work addresses a broad spectrum of policies impacting the manufacturing and construction industries, committed to building the Europe of tomorrow and ensuring a globally competitive European construction equipment industry. To address issues such as environmental impacts, digitalisation and talent recruitment, we spoke with general secretary Riccardo Viaggi, and event manager Roma Guziak.
1) How is your sector and the construction industry doing after the pandemic? Are there already signs of recovery in the industry?
Riccardo Viaggi (pictured on the right): There have always been positive signs of resilience and vitality in the construction equipment sector, since the recovery at the end of 2020. The resilience of our industry – backed by stable business situation in most customer sectors – was notable in 2021 and 2022, when we got to absolute record number sales. This is also reflected by robust industry sentiment: the climate index surveyed by the CECE’s Business Barometer went down moderately over 2022, as the economic fallout of the war in Ukraine unfolded but bounced back in November after the bauma trade fair, the largest professional exhibition for construction equipment in the world. 2023 is expected to have a strong start, as a result of the high order backlog. However, the outlook for the rest of the year is uncertain – the rise in interest rates will weigh heavily on the building construction industry's prospects.
2) What are the 2023 guidelines for sustainable business growth and development in the sector?
RV: As an integrated industry across Europe and as a manufacturing powerhouse, the industry that CECE represents needs a stable regulatory framework within the Single Market and open trade with our global partners. On regulation, 2023 will be the year of publication and implementation of the newly revised Machinery Regulation. This new text will bring some changes to the way our member companies manufacture and certify the construction equipment, and it will need huge efforts in implementation, drafting of supporting standards and interpreting guidelines.
Lastly, at the beginning of 2023 we will finally see the long-awaited EU legislation to harmonise the road-circulation requirements for our machinery. With national regulation still applicable, there is no EU Single Market for heavy machinery going on the road, and this is a problem that we have long been wanting to solve with the European Commission. On the global stage, the key actions in 2023 concern the possible ratification of the EU-Mercosur trade agreement, the continued effort to lower any barrier to trade that still exist between the EU and the US, and the ratification of a new international protocol simplifying the selling and financing conditions of high-value equipment like ours.
3) How are you guiding your environmental legislative framework and a citizen-oriented economy within sustainability objectives for the coming years?
RV: Our member companies have long been investing in lowering the environmental impact of construction machinery. This has been pushed by regulations in certain cases, but mostly by market pressures and dialogues between suppliers and users of construction equipment. This is exactly what is happening now in the decarbonisation and emissions-reduction dynamics. Indeed, there is no single regulatory obligation to decarbonise machinery, but the market has initiated a visible wave of design and engineering to develop heavy equipment that functions with alternative energies. This was particularly evident at the recent bauma trade fair, where CECE member companies premiered several new machines that operate on batteries or hydrogen and onboard technologies, sensors and tools to minimise their impact and maximise their efficiency. This was of great impact to the EU officials that we have hosted for few days at the fairgrounds and were able to see first-hand the sustainability journey of our sector.
4) "It's time to embrace the changing society" was the motto that opened the last CECE Congress 2023 with a special focus on the topics of DE&I, recruitment and talent attraction. What forward-looking management solutions should you apply to keep your workforce standards in line with CSR policies?
Roma Guziak (pictured on the right): During the CECE Congress 2023, our panellists addressed the pain-points of a slow process towards including more women in construction, shared tips on talent recruitment strategies and showcased the appropriate approach towards the inevitable intercultural and intergenerational differences in the day-to-day business. One of our main goals is to point out the attractiveness of our industry, often wrongly perceived as the ‘dirty’, noisy and archetypal. This could not be further from the truth. The machinery that is produced by our members is equipped with state-of-the-art technologies and the career opportunities that the sector offers are immense. Forward looking employers should be able to value true talent, regardless of age or gender, treating potential candidates as clients, not self-sellers.
The ongoing discussion in our industry concerning the lack of women in the workforce needs to be addressed by cultivating a company culture based on diversity and inclusivity. A smart business leader, by appreciating different points of view, understands that only diverse teams lead to success. Employers of the future need to foster an ethical and professional workplace and be mindful of the economic and environmental impacts of what they do as a business.
5) What are your thoughts on the EU Data Act and its impact on the EU open market?
RV: At CECE we share the belief that data sharing is certainly economically and industrially important in creating the conditions that allow for improved workflow and efficiencies. It should help lower the negative environmental impact of machines, project costs and the cost of running machines, as just few examples. The proposed Data Act may cause unforeseen impacts on EU businesses and have possible unintended economic consequences across data value chains. The joint statement, that CECE co-signed, aimed to warn legislators about industries’ concerns on the risks related to progressing on this important piece of legislation at such speed. We call on the EU policymakers to create a legislation that ensures effective safeguards to prevent data misuse and unfair competition, guarantees legal certainty on the information to be shared, warrants longer transition period of at least 36 months and ensures international data flows, among others.
6) Like every other industry in 2023, also the construction equipment industry is looking at the digital era as a new goalpost with a stronger focus than ever on technology leadership and customer needs in this transition of services and production. How can technology help to decarbonise the built environment?
RV: CECE member companies have undertaken a structured approach to digital and green transitions by investing heavily in the recent decade in green technologies, in order to increase efficiency and workers’ safety, and to reduce emissions. Our members are embracing digitalisation with smart machines creating connected jobsites, and in parallel, are leading the conversation on the role of construction equipment in decarbonising Europe. The interaction between machines, processes and the operator of a machine is being optimised. CECE’s four-pillar approach – an approach based on a combination of the use of alternative energy sources and new driving concepts – has a lot of potential efficiency gains for the future. This will reduce the demand for fuel and the environmental impact much more effectively than with isolated measures for machines and components.
Our high-level expert groups on technical and environmental subjects advise us with regards to strategic considerations on sector priorities regarding those crucial subjects. Together with the adequate EU institutions representatives, the groups identify the steps for the co-creation of roadmaps towards the green, digital and resilient transitions of the EU construction industry. The goal is to produce strategies that can give policy makers practical and pragmatic routes to a more sustainable future, in line with the EU Green Deal goals. By its involvement in relevant EU funded projects like InfraROB, CECE contributes to identifying pathways for increased performance and safety of the road infrastructure through autonomous robotised solutions.
7) Finally, what are the big institutional events you are preparing at the moment.
RG: The big event of 2023 will be our Summit which will take place on 26 October in Brussels. CECE organises this biennial event in Brussels, heart of the EU political arena, to facilitate a dialogue between our industry and the relevant politicians, decision makers and other stakeholders of the so called "Brussels bubble". The CECE Summit is a unique occasion that gathers a blend of business leaders, EU decision-makers, partner organisations and journalists to discuss fundamental challenges and opportunities for the construction equipment industry. The overall theme of this year’s event is cyber security, one of the priority topics for our members. The highlight of the Summit will be an inspirational intervention by Greg van der Gaast, infamous hacker turned undercover FBI operative, who will inspire our audience to think differently about organisations’ cyber security measures. Moreover, 2023 will be filled with events organised online. This events’ model turned out to be very successful for us in the past years.
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