“The demand for machine tools was disappointing last year,” comments Dr. Wilfried Schäfer, Executive Director of the VDW, Frankfurt am Main. A drop of more than one-fifth, he said, meant that order backlogs are melting away and capacities are running at just under 82 per cent utilisation. Even the more propitious final figure in December, which shows a plus of 2 per cent, cannot change this assessment. “It was predominantly the non-euro zone, which recorded a plus of 23 per cent,” says Dr. Schäfer. This, he continued is primarily attributable to project business in Asia and Eastern Europe, and should not be construed as a sign for an imminent upturn.

Overall, Dr. Schäfer is concerned, because the decline in order bookings is proceeding with similar severity in all markets. There are hardly any rays of hope discernible, an indication that the knotty problem of cyclical weakness in demand and politically caused, strategically motivated trade conflicts, plus the restructuring of the industrial sector due to climatological targets, has not yet been resolved.

“For 2020, the VDW is predicting a decline of 18 per cent in production output, and we are not anticipating any swift recovery,” says Dr. Schäfer. Rather, the machine tool industry expects order bookings to bottom out to a certain extent during the further course of the year, though this will presumptively not suffice for a turnaround. Production output will accordingly be slow to recover.