U.S. machine shops and other manufacturers ordered new equipment and related technologies worth $371.97 million during August, an increase of nearly 5% over the July total, yet falling well short of the year-ago result. In August 2012, new orders totaled $454.19 million, meaning the latest month is 18.1% off the pace.

The data is contained in the U.S. Manufacturing Technology Orders report, a monthly study by AMT – the Association for Manufacturing Technology. The information is based on actual data reported by participating companies. The information includes figures for metal cutting products as well as metal forming and fabricating products, and the figures are tabulated for six geographic regions as well as the nationwide U.S. totals.

The 2013 year-to-date results offer more perspective on the slower demand in manufacturing technology. For the January-August 2013 period, U.S. buyers have ordered $3.1 billion of new equipment and related technologies, which is 18.1% less than the eight-month totals for 2012. That pace will be hard to reverse, as the September 2012 total represented a recent high for new machine tool orders.

The increase for August versus July shows greater demand for metal cutting equipment (5.0%) than for metal forming/fabricating equipment (1.9%), though the year-to-date results also indicate a greater disparity for metal cutting equipment (-18.4%) than for metal forming equipment (-7.1%).

Even so, the USMTO’s authors noted some positive readings of the information:“We’re finding many reasons for optimism within the manufacturing economy,” stated AMT president Douglas K. Woods, AMT President. “In addition to the monthly gain for USMTO, the latest Purchasing Managers Index was at 56.2, its highest reading in more than two years.

“Because of manufacturing’s international connectivity, we also welcome the improvements seen in the global markets in Europe and Asia,” Woods continued. “These gains are expected to continue for U.S. manufacturing as we head toward 2014, but all of this hinges on avoiding a government-induced economic derailment.”