According to data recently released by the German Machine Tool Manufacturers Association, the German machine tool industry saw a 44% year-on-year increase in orders in the first quarter of 2022.
"In the first quarter, orders from the machine tool industry continued to pour in," said VDW Executive Director Dr. Wilfried Schäfer. "Orders were only 8 percent lower than the record 2018."
However, he said the impact of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict is expected to become more pronounced in the coming months, first in growth rates and second in supply chains. "Supply chain problems will continue to accompany us," said Dr. Schäfer, worried.
In the first quarter, the output of the German machine tool industry increased by only 6%, which is very low. As a result, VDW lowered its production growth forecast for this year to 8% from 14%.
"The machine tool companies have a large number of unfinished machines in their warehouses, many of which cannot be used due to a lack of parts," explains Schäfer. These machines are not counted in production data until they are shipped.
Like production, exports of German machine tools are currently hindered. There was a slight increase of 1% in the first quarter. Europe and the Americas edged down 2% and 1%, respectively. Asia grew by 8%, with growth in Central and South Asia and Southeast Asia much stronger than in East Asia.
At the beginning of the year, China, the largest export market for German machine tools, grew only modestly by 4 percent. The Chinese market accounts for 19% of German exports and the US market 13%. German exports to the U.S. fell 6 percent in the first quarter.
Italy ranks second among Germany's 10 most important export markets, with both a growth rate and a share of 6%. After a poor performance last year, German exports to Switzerland rebounded, rising 70% in the first quarter. This brings the country back to 4th place in the ranking.
German exports to Austria fell compared to the very strong first quarter of 2021. Exports to Poland also fell slightly from the previous year. Figures remain strong for the Netherlands, where the country bought 11% more machine tools in the first quarter than last year. France continued its slide, down 18%. Mexico and Turkey, the bottom two of the top 10, achieved growth rates of 27% and 26%, respectively.
Total German machine tool exports rose by 20 percent, driven by Switzerland, Japan and China.
“All in all, the economic uncertainty facing the future of the German industry remains high,” concluded Dr. Schäfer. “The protracted conflict between Russia and Ukraine, the further surge in energy, logistics and raw material prices, and the general embargo on Russian oil and gas supplies, However, this is being mitigated by the high level of orders currently on the books. Therefore, some of this year’s slowdown is likely to translate into sales figures in the coming year. Global machine tool consumption is expected to grow by 10% this year.”
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