The gap between global demand and the production of woodworking machines is widening. In the first quarter of 2022 and even in March, which was already overshadowed by the Ukraine crisis, companies experienced another double-digit demand boost at record levels. At the same time, sales grew by only 4 percent, given the manifold problems in the industry, not a surprising result.
“We don’t have enough components and material, and what is available is becoming more and more expensive. The skyrocketing purchase prices are a major problem for manufacturers whose order calculations for larger projects now turn out to be far too low, explains Markus Hüllmann, Chairman of the VDMA Woodworking Machines, at the 2022 General Assembly in Weimar. “This hits some companies hard. And it is added that some machines are not finished at all due to missing components, or that delivery to customers is then stuck due to various logistics problems.”
Good Year 2021
Nevertheless, the trade association is satisfied with the past year. In 2021, the declines of the weak first corona year 2020 could more than be compensated. Production increased by 17 percent to 3.4 billion euros. Exports grew by 8 percent to 2.3 billion euros, significantly outperformed by the growth of the domestic market, which exceeded the billion threshold for the first time. As a result, the export quota fell to 68 percent.
In terms of exports, the two top markets China and USA are equal to around 260 million euros, after China decreased 18 percent less German woodworking machines compared to the previous year, while the USA lost 28 percent more. Austria (+24 percent), Poland (+3 percent) and France (+9 percent) follow in places 3 to 5.
Exports to the crisis region of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus have accounted for around 5 percent of total exports in recent years. The foreseeable loss of a significant share in this group of countries will be easy to cope with for the majority of German manufacturers; however, a few are affected above average here – especially suppliers of the primary processing stage. The current corona lockdown in Shanghai and other regions of the People’s Republic of China, where a whole series of manufacturers operate production facilities, is likely to slow down this important market and also exacerbate the bottleneck in the supply of electronic components. In exports, there are therefore some question marks behind important countries, for which, at least partially, replacements can be found in other regions.
The uncertain overall situation in mechanical engineering hardly allows solid forecasts at the moment. The order books are still well filled, but the problems mentioned on the purchasing side are serious and are expected to significantly hinder the industry until next year. However, growth in sales and exports for 2022 should be possible due to the high order backlog.
Prospects basically good
The reasons for the enormous willingness to invest globally in the wood processing industries are manifold. Wood processing benefits from a worldwide trend towards sustainable products and resource-saving construction. The manufacturers of woodworking machines have solutions for a more efficient use of wood as well as for the serious shortage of skilled workers in many markets. The new possibilities of digitization and automation of machines and plants are far from exhausted in the wood and furniture industry. The industry is therefore optimistic about the future, even if the current problems complicate everyday life in companies in a hitherto unknown way.