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Machine Tool Orders Up 12% Over 2020

March 9, 2021
An anticipated drop in January from end-of-year increases does not offset the double-digit rise over the year-ago total, signaling a steady recovering in manufacturing demand.

U.S. machine shops and other manufacturers ordered new capital equipment worth $322.5 million during January, a -28.9% drop from the December order volume in the U.S. Manufacturing Technology Orders report issued by AMT – the Assn. for Manufacturing Technology. However, the new figure is 11.6% higher than the January 2020 total, supporting the case that a manufacturing recovery is in progress.

“It is encouraging to see that January was the third straight month of year-over-year gains in manufacturing technology orders,” stated AMT president Douglas K. Woods. “The decline from December 2020 was expected, given the unusual strength of that month’s orders. January orders were buoyed by the largest capital equipment investments in forming technology since May 2019.”

AMT’s USMTO report is a forward-looking index to manufacturing activity, tracking manufacturers’ capital investments in anticipation of future work orders. It contains actual figures for new orders of metal-cutting and metal-forming and -fabricating equipment, nationwide and in six geographic sectors, based on information supplied by participating producers and distributors of that equipment.

While the monthly decline in metal-cutting orders was consistent across all six regions of new-order activity reported by AMT, the year-over-year improvement was notable in the Southeast (+30.6% over January 2020 for all manufacturing technology orders) and North Central-East (+29.6%), as well as the Northeast (+14.9%) and South Central (+13.2%) regions. The West region’s total new orders were up +3.7% year over year.

Significant increases were reported for metal-forming/fabricating orders, up +161.5% year-over-year nationwide, with even more remarkable increases in the North Central-East (+392.1% year/year) and West (+111.1%) regions.

“The automotive sector was particularly active, as U.S. auto manufacturers are planning external body styling changes in 2021 that were postponed in 2020 due to the pandemic,” according to Woods. “The high number of January automotive orders for forming not only reflected orders planned for 2021, but also included orders planned for 2020 that were delayed until 2021.”

Woods also identified strong order volumes from mold-and-die manufacturers, which he indicated has been adding production capacity steadily since May 2020. He attributed that trend to “supply chain shifts to domestic producers.”

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