They fill a small, fine niche - the manufacturers of woodworking machines. Because wood remains in trend. Last year, according to the statistics, the production of woodworking machinery experienced a record with sales of 3.6 billion euros. And even though a decline in orders is expected for the current year, companies are optimistic about the future.

According to the experts, it was not least the Corona pandemic that ensured that many people did not go on holiday and instead invested in their kitchens at home, for example - to the delight of the furniture industry and also the manufacturers of corresponding machines. Another driver for the good development is the increasing construction of wooden houses. One person who knows and observes the market closely is Dominik Wolfschütz, a consultant in the woodworking machinery division of the German Engineering Federation (VDMA). "In the effort to decarbonize, it has been recognized that wood can be part of the solution. That, in turn, brings new market opportunities for mechanical engineering."

In the meantime, he said, advancing technology has ensured that customized solutions have long been available even for prefabricated houses. "In the past, they all looked the same. Today, it is possible to work according to individual wishes with architectural freedom," says Wolfschütz. In addition, he is convinced that the general shortage of skilled workers has become another driver of development. "The situation has advantages and disadvantages," says Dominik Wolfschütz. "By having fewer and fewer people available, automation is definitely being driven forward." He adds that rising energy costs are also a decisive factor in resource efficiency becoming more of a focus.

"Machines are becoming more and more flexible," said the VDMA market analyst. Exoskeletons are also an important topic for the industry in this context, he said. In view of demographic population trends, demand will continue to develop significantly, he added. "Such devices naturally also help people conserve their strength and work for longer periods of time," Wolfschütz says. "Also, I don't think we can even imagine yet how artificial intelligence and machine learning will transform manufacturing in general, and the leaps in productivity we'll see in the coming years."

At the moment, the industry is experiencing a decline in orders due to the war in Ukraine and increased costs. In the medium term, however, he is certain that the outlook is positive due to the decarbonization megatrend. However, he says, policymakers must also be prepared to continue providing wood as a raw material. The dilemma, he says, is that forests should be protected on the one hand, while wood use should be strengthened on the other.

Dominik Wolfschütz sees LIGNA 2023 as a welcome opportunity to discuss the multifaceted issues with each other and to find out about the trends. "After the industry get-together could only take place digitally last time because of Corona, people are now looking forward to finally coming together again," he emphasizes. "Digital is just not everything. People want to cultivate personal exchange again." And with wood in particular, he says, the haptic aspects are important. People want to touch wood, he says, and they want to smell it when it's freshly cut. "The carpenter, for example, wants to touch a freshly sanded wooden panel with his hand," the expert is sure.