Solid Bookings Buoy Europes Machine Tool Builders

German, Italian producers see a return to pre-crisis levels of demand

The second quarter of 2011 proved to be an impressive one for European machine tool builders. The German Machine Tool Builders’ Association (VDW) reports that its members recorded an 83% increase in orders from April through June, and a doubling in overall demand for the first half of this year versus 2010.

The American Machine Tool Distributors Assn. and the Association for Manufacturing Technology will release their monthly United States Manufacturing Technology Orders (USMTO) report for June later this month.

The global machine tool industry suffered a significant decline in demand from late 2008 through 2009 and into the start of 2010. However, by mid 2010 an increase in orders began to be recorded, with varying levels of improvement from month to month up until now.

“The continuingly buoyant level of demand has ensured a magnificent mid-year result,” stated Gerhard Hein, head of Economics and Statistics for VDW. He said the 2011 growth improves on the progress made by the industry during 2010.

VDW indicated that its members’ domestic orders for new machine tools increased by 72% in the second quarter, while export orders rose 88%. Through the first half of 2011, domestic (German) customers’ machine tool orders increased 96% than in the first half of 2010, and foreign customers’ orders increased 107%. The manufacturers’ volume of orders was 8% above the level recorded during the first six months of 2008, a record-setting year for the industry.

In Italy, the Italian machine tool builders’ association UCIMU reported its members second-quarter orders increased 13% over the like period of 2010, with the value of orders approaching “pre-crisis levels” according to the association’s index thanks to very strong international demand. While foreign orders increased 44.5% in the second quarter of this year (versus April-June 2010), orders from the Italian domestic market fell 33.8%.

Over the first six months of 2011, Italian machine tool builders recorded a 16.3% increase in orders, versus January-June 2010, thanks to a 37.4% increase in foreign orders, even as their domestic orders fell by 19.5%.

“The quarterly survey, which extends the positive streak recorded from the start of 2010,” observed UCIMU president Giancarlo Losma, “is certainly comforting. Our factories have now begun to return to productivity levels close to those reached previous to the crisis.”

VDW said the sustained increase in new orders ensures a high level of capacity utilization for its members, which as of July is at 94.7% compared to 76.3% in July 2010. Their order backlog, at 9.7 months, is at its highest for several years, the group stated.

However, machine tool industry remains cautious when it comes to expanding its capacity, for reasons that include continuing financial uncertainty in Europe and the U.S. “The shock from 2008/2009 is still deeply ingrained,” said Hein.

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