New orders for machine tools and related products dropped slightly from April to May, down 2.6% to $388.27 million, according to the American Machine Tool Distributors Assn. and AMT - the Association for Manufacturing Technology in their monthly United States Manufacturing Technology Orders (USMTO) report.

The USMTO was until recently known as the U.S. Manufacturing Technology Consumption (USMTC) report, though it continues to be compiled from actual data reported by participating companies. The change was made to reflect more clearly the monthly progress of orders for domestic and imported machine tools and related equipment.

“It is our belief that orders are the most forward-looking way to determine the state of the manufacturing technology market,” stated AMT vice president-Strategic Information & Research Pat McGibbon. “There had been some confusion that USMTC actually tracked manufacturing technology shipments, but we wanted to make clear that the report tracks orders.”

May represents was the fourth month out of five in 2011 for declining orders; only the March report showed increased domestic sales of machine tools, tooling, and related equipment. However, the results continue to demonstrate a solid increase over the 2010 order volume. May 2011 orders are up 121.3% versus May 2010 ($388.27 million, versus $175.46 million), and the 2011 year-to-date total now stands at $1,984.87 million, up 108.0% compared with 2010.

“The May order numbers confirm our members’ reports of continued strong project levels by manufacturing companies to improve productivity in their factories,” stated AMTDA president Peter Borden. “The 2,000 unit-per-month level signifies a very healthy demand still in place as we head toward the close of the second quarter.”

The USMTO report tracks regional orders for manufacturing technology, too. May orders for machine tools and related equipment in the Northeast rose 8.4% from April, from $59.33 million to $64.30 million, and up 88.4% from the May 2010 order total. The region’s year-to-date orders total $305.87 million, up 92.4% versus the total for January-May 2010.

In the South, May manufacturing technology orders totaled $54.15 million, a rise of 5.1% versus the April total of $51.52 million, and an 86.4% improvement over the May 2010 total. The five-month total for manufacturing technology orders in the Southern region is $239.30 million, up 56.9% over the comparable period of 2010.

The May total for manufacturing technology orders in the Midwest is $137.62 million, an improvement of 10.9% from the April total of $124.14 million, and up 232.6% versus May 2010. The Midwest’s 2011 year-to-date total for orders is $691.81 million, a 168.5% improvement over the region’s 2010 five-month total.

In the Central region, manufacturing technology orders declined 21.6% in May, to $95.18 million from April’s $121.36 million. However, the current figure is an improvement of 83.8% over the May 2010 total, and the region’s year-to-date orders amount to $551.71 million, which is 106.6% better than the January-May 2010 total.

In the West, May 2011 manufacturing technology orders declined 12.1%, to $37.02 million from $42.11 million in April. That new total is still 93.9% higher than the May 2010 total, and the Western region’s $196.18 million year-to-date total is a 66.3% improvement over the comparable total for the first five months of 2010.