The conference in China is a continuation of the successful LIGNA.Conference series that LIGNA's organizer, Deutsche Messe, launched in Hannover, Germany, back in 2016. The central theme of the LIGNA.Conference in China is "Integrated Woodworking – Customized Solutions", which anticipates one of the focus themes of the next LIGNA trade fair in Hannover, which will be held from 27 to 31 May 2019.

Held in the city of Guangzhou on 4 and 5 December, the conference will be followed immediately by the China Shunde International Woodworking Machinery Fair, which runs from 6 to 9 December at the Lunjiao Exhibition Hall, which is located in the city of Foshan, about 20 kilometers to the southwest of Guangzhou. The trade fair showcases machinery, applications and solutions for timber processing and woodworking and thus complements the conference perfectly. It has a long history as a meeting point for suppliers of machinery as well as buyers from the Chinese furniture manufacturing industry. "The China Shunde Woodworking Machinery Fair is one of China's leading wood-industry trade shows, so pairing it with the LIGNA.Conference is an ideal way to facilitate productive dialogue between machinery manufacturers and users," explained Christian Pfeiffer, Global Director LIGNA and Woodworking Events at Deutsche Messe. The China Shunde International Woodworking Machinery Fair premiered in1998 and has been a permanent fixture of China's tradeshow landscape ever since. The last time it was held, it attracted some 50,000 visitors.

The LIGNA.Conference will feature a series of lectures on integration, digitization and automation, plus presentations of applications and examples of current best practice. In addition, technology providers will be able to present their products, applications and solutions using tabletop displays. Alongside the lectures, there will be opportunities for the participating industry experts to talk at greater length with attendees about their ideas for and experience of digitization, its implementation in various production processes and its effects on the interfaces between development, production and sales.

Conference program

Day one of the conference will end with a special evening networking event. Day two will bring more expert lectures and presentations on digitization and automation. The conference organizers have already secured the support of several big-name manufacturers, including Biesse, HOMAG Group, Leuco Ledermann, SCM Group, Siempelkamp, Wemhöner Surface Technologies, Michael Weinig and the University of Applied Sciences Rosenheim. On the morning after the conference – 6 December – a shuttle service will be provided to take attendees the short distance to Foshan for the opening of the China Shunde International Woodworking Machinery Fair.

The conference is organized by Deutsche Messe, the owner and operator of LIGNA in Hannover, Germany, in partnership with its Chinese subsidiary Hannover Milano Fairs Shanghai Ltd and with support from Zhong Fu Ying Fair. Deutsche Messe will leverage its considerable know-how and expertise to help conference participants gain access to and expand their reach in the lucrative Chinese market.

China’s furniture industry

Heiner Wemhöner, managing partner in Wemhöner Surface Technologies GmbH & Co. KG Hertford, Germany: "China is a very large, very important market for us. That is why we set up a production facility there 11 years ago. It was a fairly bold decision at the time, so I'm pleased to say it has been vindicated by China's rise to preeminence over the intervening years as the world's leading furniture manufacturer. We see enormous potential for growth in China's furniture manufacturing industry over the next five to ten years. Needless to say, we've enjoyed considerable success in China over many years."

China is home to the world's biggest woodworking and furniture manufacturing industry. Figures published by the German Woodworking Machinery Manufacturers' Association show that exports of woodworking machinery to China have increased markedly as Chinese manufacturers invest in new equipment to keep pace with the booming local real estate market. As well as growing in terms of sheer volume, this market is becoming increasingly sensitive to quality and environmental considerations – factors that play into the hands of European machinery manufacturers in particular. Germany, for instance, grew its exports to China from 165.3 to 288.3 million euros over the period from 2016 to 2017. Italy, Austria and Switzerland likewise increased their exports to China over this period.

China has been the world's biggest exporter of furniture since 2004. According to a report published by Germany Trade & Invest (GTAI) in April 2017, China ranks second only to Poland as Germany's biggest supplier of furniture. The report anticipates that China's furniture exports will decline and that domestic demand will grow on the back of an increasingly affluent middle class. The bulk of this demand will, however, be met from Chinese-made products. Most of the German manufacturers of woodworking machinery interviewed by GTAI in Guangzhou in March 2017 indicated they were very happy with their order books. This pleasing state of affairs, the report says, is the result of the booming Chinese real-estate market and the country's burgeoning middle class. GTAI predicts this trend towards greater spending on furniture and furnishings will remain strong over the long term. It notes that China's middle class is already 250 million strong and that urbanization will continue its current rapid growth.

The first LIGNA.Conference was held in May of 2016 at the Hannover Exhibition Center in Germany and was a major success, attracting 140 participants from 10 nations. With its topical, engaging lineup of themes relating to digitally integrated wood processing and woodworking, the premiere was testimony to the cross-industry importance of integrated manufacturing. It was extremely well received by its participants. "The success of the premiere is what has prompted us to internationalize the LIGNA.Conference format. By staging the Chinese LIGNA.Conference in December 2018 in Guangzhou – and hence immediately prior to the China Shunde International Woodworking Machinery Fair – we are increasing its ability to attract Chinese visitors from the furniture, subcontracting, automation technology and furniture manufacturing industries," said Pfeiffer.