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Auto, Other Manufacturers Push Rising Machine Tool Orders

April 10, 2023
YTD figures show demand for new machine tools is being driven by OEMs and industry-specific suppliers, notably in automotive, fabricated metal, railroad, shipping, and other transportation sectors.

Machine shops and other manufacturers ordered $467.8 million worth of machine tools during February 2023, improving on the January new-order value by 33.0%, but still trailing last year’s comparable total by -1.3%. Interestingly, although the overall month-to-month improvement is considerable, the 1,628 machines sold during February was -3.0% lower than the total number of units (1,679) sold during January.

According to AMT – the Assn. for Manufacturing Technology, which compiles the new-order data for its monthly U.S. Manufacturing Technology Report, “Job shops, which typically represent the largest share of orders in a given month, maintained their orders at nearly the same level as January 2023, but their overall activity is down compared to this time last year.

“Both January and February 2023 data has shown that an increasing share of orders for manufacturing technology goes to OEMs and industry-specific suppliers,” according to AMT’s statement. The trade association highlighted a significant increase in orders from manufacturing firms in the automotive sector, fabricated metal products manufacturers, and railroad, ship, and other transportation manufacturers during February.

"This was the third-best February for manufacturing technology orders ever recorded, nearly 50% above the average value for February orders," stated AMT president Douglas K. Woods. "Although many had anticipated a recession to take hold at the beginning of 2023, we are not yet seeing that in the data, and while declining somewhat manufacturing technology orders remain at a historically elevated level."

Woods also offer a positive view of the data expected in the next order summary, claiming “surveys of manufacturers show a broadly positive outlook for business conditions over the next 12 months."

The monthly USMTO report summarizes nationwide and regional demand for metal-cutting and metal-forming and -fabricating machinery. It is a forward-looking indicator of overall manufacturing activity, as machine shops and other manufacturers make capital investments in preparation for demand expected in the weeks and months ahead.

The February report’s regional data confirms the strong demand for new capital equipment in the automotive sector, with a 127.3% rise in new orders for metal-cutting machinery from the North Central-East region. The $182.48 million total for those orders is also 81.3% higher than the similar figure for February 2022, and it raises the regional year-to-date new order total to $267.76 million, a 17.7% improvement.

The North Central-West region also showed higher February demand with $91.96 million in new orders for metal-cutting equipment, 18.2% higher than January and 1.4% higher than February 2022. The regional YTD total for those machines is $169.74 million, a 2.7% improvement.

The Southeast region also improved its February total for metal-cutting equipment orders, up 8.4% from January to $35.77 million – though that figure is -46.4% lower than last February’s total and it puts the two-month total for 2023 at $68.76 million, down -50.0% from January-February 2022.

The West region’s February order total for metal-cutting equipment rose 2.7% from January to $48.06 million, which is -49.8% below last February’s total. It puts the YTD result at $98.84 million, down -45.0% from the comparable 2022 result.

The Northeast region’s February total for metal-cutting equipment orders was $63.32 million, essentially even (-0.8%) with January and -3.7% below the February 2022 total. Similarly, the January-February figure of $127.12 million is just -0.5% below the comparable 2022 figure.

The South Central region’s February orders for metal-cutting equipment totaled $48.06 million, -5.6% below January’s figure but nearly unchanged (-0.6%) from February 2022. The two-month total is $81.98 million, an 18.7% improvement over the January-February 2022 figure.

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