European machine tool shipments grew 6% in value during 2012 over the previous year, increasing to €22.2 billion. However, the region’s machine tool builders continued to rely heavily on exports for growth, as “business confidence” deteriorated in the European market.
The information was released by CECIMO, the European Association of the Machine Tool Industries, which also forecast that global demand would drive a 15% increase in new machine tool orders this year, to €22.5 billion (or $29.5 billion).
CECIMO is a consortium of 15 national associations of machine tool builders, representing approximately 1,500 industrial enterprises in the E.U., European Free Trade Assn. (EFTA), and Turkey, and covers more than 97% of total machine tool production in Europe and more than 33% worldwide.
Of the total 2012 shipments, exports amounted to €18.8 billion ($24.6 billion) during 2012, or about 85% of the total shipments. That was a 9% increase over 2008, a record-setting year for CECIMO’s machine tool shipments.
By contrast, European machine tool consumption contracted about 2% during 2012 versus 2011. “The sluggish consumption in Europe is becoming a worrying trend for European machine tool builders, despite the market success that they enjoy in emerging markets,” CECIMO stated.
The group noted that since the economic crisis in 2008-2009, machine tool manufacturers in the region had suffered from tightening credit availability and increasingly restricted access to financial resources.
“The economic uncertainty suppresses investment activity of companies and, at the same time, the financial institutions apply lending criteria that exclude small and medium-sized machine tool enterprises from their portfolios, because of the highly cyclical nature of their performance,” it stated.
Limited Credit Restrains Demand
“The seriously limited access to credit plays an important role in contracting domestic demand,” the statement continued. “It places machine tool sector under high pressure.”
Relying so heavily on exports for growth raises operating costs for machine builders, the group noted.
“A dull domestic market leads to the rupture of vital links between suppliers and their traditional customers, disrupting the innovation cycle,” opined CECIMO president Martin Kapp. “Innovation in the machine tool industry thrives in a strong eco-system in which producers interact closely with customers.”
He added that small- and midsized enterprises drive innovation in the industry, and rely heavily on demand from European customers — and thus are disproportionately affected by weak EU demand. “Therefore, restoring growth in domestic consumption will be vital for securing that future innovations continue to come out of Europe.”
CECIMO welcomed a recent European Commission statement on Industrial policy, which identified “advanced manufacturing technologies for clean production” among six priorities areas for driving economic growth in Europe.
“In the manufacturing industry, the most straightforward way to cope with fierce global competition is to facilitate the promotion and diffusion of new production technologies towards industrial users,” opined CECIMO director general Filip Geerts. He predicted that gains in productivity, and greater efficiencies in resources and energy management by machine tool builders, would help to reduce carbon emissions in Europe.