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DÜSSELDORF, GERMANY (Nov. 13, 4:25 p.m. EST) — Times are good for the European plastics and rubber machinery industry, led by Germany, where the machinery sector should grow 7 percent this year and could reach that level again in 2008, according to trade association leaders.
Bernhard Merki, Euromap president, credited strong economies in the countries of Europe. “Western Europe was really strong in 2007,” he said at an Oct. 28 news conference at K 2007 in Dusseldorf.
A growing manufacturing business in Europe helped K 2007 reach a 4.8 percent gain in attendance from the previous K in 2004. About 242,000 people poured through the turnstiles at Messe Dusseldorf for the world's largest plastics show.
Euromap — the European Committee of Machinery Manufacturers for the Plastics and Rubber Industries — reported the industry's output grew 6.4 percent in 2006, rebounding after a decline in 2005. Exports, which accounted for about 68 percent of business, jumped 9.2 percent to hit a record level. Through the first half of 2007, nearly two-thirds of the trade group's 3,400 members reported sales were good.
Orders are still strong, Merki said: “Even through the beginning of 2008, I think the pipeline is looking very good.”
Merki said business is so good that many Euromap members report shortages of some key components, like castings and motors.
“Due to these very high volumes we have on our books, we have problems with our supplier base. This is, in many cases, limiting us. It goes to our lead times,” he said.
Merki said timing plays a role in the parts-supply issue.
“The plastics machinery industry, we were growing later than the other major industries, with our pickup. We have in our industry a certain delay of about a year and a half. So that means all other industries were already booming and the boom in our industry started later,” he said. “So when we want to increase capacity, we are not in a favorable position.
“Some of my colleagues told me they have machines waiting on just one single part, and then they are able to ship,” said Merki, who is president and chief executive officer of injection press maker Netstal-Maschinen AG in NÃ¤fels, Switzerland.
Machinery manufacturers also are having a hard time finding skilled workers.
Meanwhile in Germany — which Merki called the “locomotive” of Europe — the VDMA trade association in September doubled its growth forecast for 2007, from 3.5 percent to a robust 7 percent.
VDMA, which includes the German Plastics and Rubber Machinery Association, reports statistics in the euro value of the machines.
“We are really in a very good shape right now,” said Thorsten Kuhmann, managing director of the German association and secretary general of Euromap. “We can see that, not only by the comments here at the K show, but the incoming orders were very strong at the beginning of 2007. We can really see that the year 2008 will definitely also look good, in [the] range of what we have achieved this year.”
The United States is back on top as the No. 1 export market for German plastics and rubber equipment. China had surpassed the United States for the top spot in 2003, but fell back to second place when the Chinese government acted to cool down China's economy.
Russia has rocketed to the No. 3 export market, with a leap of more than 50 percent.
German exports to the United States grew 10 percent in 2006, even as the euro began to strengthen against the U.S. dollar, making German-made machinery more expensive in the U.S.
Now the dollar is hitting record lows, with 1 euro buying more than 1.45 dollars. German exports to the United States have gone down in 2007, although Kuhmann did not have specific figures.
Even so, Kuhmann said the U.S. market will still be the largest for German machinery makers this year.
“It's dropping now, but still we are on a very high level. It's quite impressive that still, we seem to be in very good shape on exports to the U.S.,” he said.
Euromap and VDMA are both based in Frankfurt, Germany.