Germany’s woodworking machinery manufacturers had a record year in 2016, topping the all-time high of 2007. Provisional figures indicate that the industry surged past the forecast 5 percent mark to achieve double-digit sales growth. They also point to further, moderate, growth for 2017. "That puts our industry on track for record sales of around 3.4 billion euros, meaning it is set to significantly outperform Germany’s mechanical engineering industry as a whole," Wolfgang Pöschl, CEO of WEINIG AG and Chairman of the German Woodworking Machinery Manufacturers’ Association, told the international media at the LIGNA Preview in Hannover.

Digitalization moving ahead at pace

"One of the key drivers of this growth is digitalization, which is experiencing rapid uptake across all sectors," Pöschl added. In woodworking, the resulting increase in integration across all production steps is enabling firms of all sizes to meet market demand for maximum flexibility and individualization in terms both of product dimensions and design. This digital integration of functions encompasses all areas within and across company boundaries. Even small stand-alone machines can now be digitally integrated into the production flow, and large industrial plants are able to "learn" and continually self-optimize so as to reduce the consumption of wood and other resources.

No less importantly, machine tools are able to collect and share information with their machines right from the word go (Plug and Play). Servicing is also improving, with sensor-powered predictive maintenance increasing machine uptime. The ever-growing pools of data resulting from all of these digitalized processes (Big Data) are assets that can be used to optimize a whole range of parameters.

Moreover, these digitalization-powered innovations are not the exclusive preserve of highly industrialized nations. They are also being used in emerging markets, where they are facilitating modernization. The exhibitors at LIGNA 2017 will be showcasing these developments on an unprecedented scale.

2016 exports top 2015 levels

The value of the German woodworking machinery industry’s total exports for the first three quarters of 2016 increased to 1.45 billion euros, up a good two percent year on year. At 58 percent, the bulk of these exports went to other European countries. The value of the industry’s European exports fell two percent compared with the first three quarters of 2015, due in part to a shift in sales from Eastern to Western Europe. The biggest factor here was the weakness of the Russian market. By contrast, exports to North America performed particularly well, with the total value increasing by 11 percent. North America’s share of the industry’s total exports also increased – from 10 to 11 percent. Oceania likewise performed very well, with export values increasing by an impressive 42 percent. Exports to Asia also increased sharply, jumping by 18 percent in value and accounting for 20 percent of the German woodworking machinery industry’s total exports. This puts the Asian continent in second place behind Europe – and augurs very well for the fourth quarter. Southeast Asia and East Asia were among the key drivers of growth on this continent. This contrasts with negative growth in Latin America. Exports to that region – which are dominated by large-scale plant and machinery – fell by 20 percent.

Top three countries lead by a considerable margin

In terms of individual country performance, the USA came in at Number 1, with Germany exporting 148 million euros' worth of woodworking machinery there over the first three quarters of 2016. China (including Hong Kong) came in at second place with an increase of 11 percent, and Poland at third place with an increase of 24 percent. Together, these top three country markets accounted for about 27 percent of the German woodworking machinery industry’s total exports for the first three quarters of 2016. Next in the rankings – and a long way down from the top three – were Austria (+40%), France (-4%), Brazil (+19%), the UK (+8%) and Russia (-53%).

Double-digit growth in German market

In Germany, the investment climate will remain positive in 2017 (a LIGNA year), with both small-scale and industrial processors of wood ramping up production and generating double-digit growth in order volumes for suppliers of plant and machinery. The upswing is underpinned by a strong construction sector and record employment levels.

Outlook: LIGNA 2017 as a business barometer

In conclusion, the German woodworking machinery industry can look forward to a very favorable overall situation for the current year. In anticipation of rising sales to take shape at LIGNA, many companies are concentrating their tradeshow spending on the sector’s flagship fair. As a result, the show’s organizers are experiencing the first significant increase in leased exhibition space for several years. The upcoming LIGNA will thus offer visitors a wider scope, making it more important than ever before as a window on the future of woodworking and wood processing.

Your contact for further information:
Dr. Bernhard Dirr
German Woodworking Machinery Manufacturers’ Association
Phone: +49 (69) 66 03-1340
Fax: +49 (69) 66 03-1621
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