VDMA posts record year, concerned about skills shortage

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The German plastics & rubber machinery industry has posted a record year with a 5% year-on-year growth in sales in the year 2017, and looks set for another  strong performance this year.

According to the German plastics and rubber machinery association, VDMA, the increase was above the 4% level estimated for the year, and marked the eighth year of continued growth for the industry.

“Since the economic crisis… this has been the eighth year of growth in a row. The current boom has been lasting unusually long,” said Ulrich Reifenhäuser VDM chairman.

At €5.34bn, German machinery exports rose 7.7% compared to 2016, according to VDMA figures.

The US led the export market with a 10.1% growth at nearly €850m, followed by China which registered a 14.3% year-on-year growth at €717m.

China, said the VDMA, was the “the most important total market”, with German manufacturers producing another €500m worth of machinery in China, mainly for the local market.

Italy moved from sixth to fourth place, with €250m worth of machinery delivered to the country, marking a 32.1% jump in sales.

Particularly, said VDMA, the Italian government’s focus on “Industry 4.0” was reflected in purchases.

Photo by VDMA

A reversal in the negative trend in Russia was also witnessed in 2017, with the country posting a 34.1% increase in machinery orders from Germany.

However, the high growth rate, according to VDMA was more the result of “the stimulation of” the local packaging sector, rather reflecting any nationwide recovery of the market.

In total, €114m worth of German plastics and rubber machinery were exported to Russia.

VDMA also noted that in Brazil, “the longest and strongest recession has come to an end”.

Yet despite a 35.4% growth to €75m, VDMA said the Brazilian market needed more time to fully recover.

“Investments, for example, only are picking up slowly, which is mainly due to the fact that there is a lot of uncertainty in the market ahead of this year’s presidential election,” it noted.

For 2018, VDMA is predicting 3% growth for the German rubber and plastics machinery sector with full order books for the year.

“This should, however, not hide the fact that the climate is starting to change,” warned Thorsten Kühmann, managing director of VDMA plastics and rubber machinery.

“We are currently in a very long boom phase which is already exceeding its usual length. Due to this, the delivery times of the machinery manufacturers as well as those of the suppliers are unusually long,” he noted.

Additionally, Kühmann warned of the “massive problems” companies are currently facing to find qualified skilled workers.

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