First-quarter 2017 reports for machine tool new orders in Europe suggest growing manufacturing demand, complementing the recent evidence of improving conditions in the U.S. manufacturing technology sector. Trade groups representing German and Italian machine tool builders, two of the largest domestic industries in that industrial sector, show that manufacturing activity is increasing in year-over-year in both countries.

According to VDW, the German Machine Tool Builders' Association, new orders for machine tools during Q1 2017 rose 6% over the comparable period of 2016. Domestic (i.e., German) manufacturers’ orders rose 2% versus Q1 2016, while demand from foreign buyers were up 8%.

"Orders received by the German machine tool industry have therefore been stronger than expected," commented Dr. Wilfried Schäfer, executive director of the VDW. Within the European Union, German machine tool manufacturers recorded a 23% increase in new orders, while orders from China rose 20%, mainly due to automotive industry demand in that country.

VDW noted its members’ orders for metal-forming equipment rose 13% during Q1, year/year, while orders for machining equipment orders rose by just 3% over that period. The primary source of the growth was overseas demand, VDW noted, while domestic (i.e., German) demand fell 4% year/year.

"The German machine tool industry continues to perform stably and at a high level, undeterred by the many crises and uncertainties affecting different parts of the world," VDW’s executive director Schäfer stated.

UCIMU-Sistemi per Produrre, the Italian association of machine tool and automation designers and manufacturers, reported that its members’ Q1 orders increased 5.1% year/year. These results were attributed mainly to domestic (Italian) demand, which Ucimu credited to Italy’s national Industry 4.0 program.

“The choice of the government authorities to give our country a solid industrial policy, aiming at fostering the enterprises' technological and organizational development, has surely been forward-looking, not only with regard to the provisions included in the Plan, but also considering the current economic situation,” commented Massimo Carboniero, president of Ucimu.

The association noted that Italian manufacturers’ Q1 orders increased 22.2% year/year, while overseas demand rose 0.3% during that same period.

For comparison, AMT – the Assn. for Manufacturing Technology, which reports a monthly summary of U.S. machine tool new orders, this week reported a second-consecutive monthly increase in demand. While new orders totaled $407.53 million during March, up 34.8% over February and 3.3% above the March 2016 result, the January-March total remains 1.4% lower than the Q1 total for 2016.