Although exports from the European machine tool industry were 3% lower in 2016, CECIMO members were outperforming internationally as the global MT trade decreased around 7%.
The global machine tool consumption contracted 6-8% in 2016. CECIMO countries exported machine tools worth around 18.3 billion euro in 2016, accounting for the clear majority (96%) of the European exports in the sector and for almost one of every two machine tools sold in the foreign markets. It is difficult to make a forecast for 2017, as plans for international trade barriers seem to emerge. Though, if the business climate remains unchanged, CECIM0 exports are likely to grow to a level of 19 billion euro. Amongst the reasons of this positive trend, Dr Frank Brinken, Chairman of the CECIMO Economic Committee and Vice-Chairman of Starrag Holding AG, points out that “digitization and future proven high quality standards increase the attractiveness of the European MT portfolio in foreign markets”.
On the domestic European side, modernization of production equipment and previously postponed investments for capital goods will likely contribute to a rise in machine tool sales. The European consumption is expected to pass 18 billion euro in 2017 and to retain a solid market share in global MT consumption above 26%. Such increment relates to an annual market expansion of nearly 3.5 percent.
Finally, the levels of investment, necessary to modernize manufacturing with digital ready equipment, are still insufficient. However, the growing acceptance and speed of the digitization of our industry support the economic recovery in Europe, while political stimuli and the positive sentiment among European businesses should drive investment in the MT sector upwards.
European machine tool builders favour data-driven business models
Data is one of the most important production factors and European machine tool builders favour data-driven solutions that improve machine performance, maintenance and environmental efficiency. Nevertheless, the industry is still at the early phases of understanding the full scope of data-driven solutions, and we need a future-proof public policy to underpin the growth of European machine tool builders.
“We are glad to see that European policymakers put connectivity in industrial context at the forefront, and that they foresee a dialogue with trade associations for a EU framework on machine-generated data. Yet, we remind policy-makers that industrial data mirrors processes, products and systems, so it’s context-sensitive and often contains trade secrets. The goal is not to implement new premature rules, but rather, to increase our companies’ technical and organizational capacity. Together with policy-makers we should generate a common understanding fit for the digital era” says Mr Filip Geerts, CECIMO Director General.
So, MT industry does not favour strict regulations on access rights to data with a top-down approach, which might hamper legal certainty and trust in data economy. Access to data generated by machines is defined by bilateral contracts between businesses, which seems to work sufficiently well for now. “To build a thriving data economy in Europe, the complex manufacturing sector needs the European institutions to be cautious in designing policies on data rights. Any strict regulation might be perceived as an intervention in the market and block investment in data-driven solutions. Businesses should negotiate and decide freely the extent of the industrial data to be shared” adds Mr Luigi Galdabini, CECIMO President. Policy-makers should rather provide long-term certainty, raise awareness on new business models, and support highspeed internet across Europe, with a focus on SMEs.
Lastly, the machine tool sector is becoming increasingly global, trading within and beyond Europe. As data economy cannot be built at national level, the EU should increase its efforts on free flow of data across the EU and on data exchange with third countries.