According to the Machine Tool Technologies Association (MTTA), machine tool demand in the UK grew following the recession in the early 1990's until it reached its cyclical peak in 1998. The following year then saw a sharp decline in business, which was affected by the impact of the weak euro on profit margins and confidence levels of machine tool users in the UK. MTTA reports that UK production further dropped from £514 million in 1999 to an estimated £478 million in 2000.

The association says that this decline in production during 2000 was driven by a weakness in exports, since the home market showed a recovery based on the strength of demand in Europe and a slightly improved European Union (EU) exchange-rate. A 10% growth in the machine tool industry is expected for 2001, but the decline in world stock-markets including the U.S. in the first part of 2001 has prompted the MTTA to say, "while this may still be possible given that most of this growth was forecast for the second half of the year, the downside risks to the forecast are now significant."

Machine tool manufacturers are located all over the UK, but particularly in West Yorkshire and both the West and East Midlands. From MTTA estimates, the average employment figure for the machine tool industry in 2000 was 11,100. This compares with 12,300 in 1999 and 11,600 at the bottom of the previous business cycle in 1993.

In 2000, the UK machine tool industry was 11th in the world league for production. The UK remained the 7th largest exporter, fell one place to be the 8th largest importer and also fell one place to have the 12th largest domestic market.

UK exports of metalworking machine tools in 2000 were worth £463.9 million, 9% lower than in 1999; on the same basis, imports into the UK rose by 10.4% to £574.5 million. This leaves a trade deficit of £110.5 million, a significant increase on the £10.4-million deficit in 1999.

The fall in exports is close to the estimated value of two large 'one-off' shipments in 1999 to Mexico and the U.S., which also accounts for a fall in deliveries to these two markets. The increase in imports, while in part due to a couple of high-value items from Germany in 2000, also reflects a small increase in the underlying trend for imports compared to 1999.

During 2000, dispatches to the EU amounted to £240 million (52% of the total), an increase of 17%, although MTTA says this is affected by the change in the way the data is collected. Arrivals from the EU countries rose by 17% on the same comparison, to stand at £242.2 million (42% of total imports). This gives the UK machine tool industry a deficit on trade with the other countries of the European Union of £2.2 million.

Exports of CNC machine tools in 2000 were down 6.3% on the 1999 figure at £262.6 million (57% of total exports), while imports of CNC machine tools increased by 7.8%, to £333.3 million (58% of total imports); this gives a deficit for CNC machine tools of £70.7 million, compared to a deficit of £28.7 million in 1999.

While the U. S. remains the UK's largest single-country market, the European Union accounted for over half of all exports and showed an increase compared to 1999, despite the price effect of the weakness of the euro during much of the year. These increased exports to the EU show a general strength of demand from much of the region. A number of European Union countries saw strong growth in their economies during 2000, which was reflected in increased levels of investment; in turn, this fed through into sales of machine tools and is most notable in the data for shipments to the Irish Republic and Spain.

The rate of growth of imports from the European Union was also stronger than it was for total imports; again however, this can be explained by the arrival of the items from Germany. Excluding these "special items" from the 2000 data, EU imports grew by about 5%, with arrivals from Germany up by 3%, while total imports also increased by 5%.

MTTA qualifies all statistics with this disclaimer about a new system of collecting information: "Data on the production of machine tools is collected by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) under the PRODCOM system. This European system was introduced in 1993. It has meant an improvement of the estimation of business accounted for by small companies not covered by the survey, but has meant that we have had to re-estimate the data up to 1992, to be consistent with the new series. The high export/production ratio (and hence the high import/consumption ratio) in 1999 is affected by what appears to be under-recording of production in certain types of machine tools. These are being investigated, but the figures are the best we have, pending any revision to the data as published by the ONS."

UK trade statistics for machine tools: Jan to Dec 2000 All values are shown in £ millions.
2000
1999
% Change
Metal cutting machine tools
Exports
378.902
417.618
-9.3%
Imports
442.692
405.276
+9.2%
Balance
-63.790
+12.342
Metal forming machine tools
Exports
85.031
92.419
-8.0%
Imports
131.761
115.168
+14.4%
Balance
-46.730
-22.748
All machine tools
Exports
463.933
510.038
-9.0%
Imports
574.453
520.444
+10.4%
Balance
-110.520
-10.406
of which numerically controlled machine tools (CNC)
Exports
262.576
280.344
-6.3%
Imports
333.286
309.073
+7.8%
Balance
-70.711
-28.730
UK machine tool exports and imports by product type in 2000 (in £ million)
Product type
Exports
Imports
Balance
2000
1999
2000
1999
2000
1999
Physico-chemical
54.158
61.062
81.697
55.522
-27.539
+5.540
Machining centers
122.052
108.562
72.066
71.388
+49.986
+37.174
Unit construction & transfer lines
12.724
46.956
39.662
34.576
-26.938
+12.380
CNC lathes
61.048
57.581
90.281
77.845
-29.233
-20.264
Non-CNC lathes
19.379
25.501
11.700
16.428
+7.678
+9.073
CNC drilling
2.074
6.310
5.262
5.381
-3.188
+0.929
Non-CNC drilling
8.931
5.762
4.962
7.259
+3.969
-1.497
CNC boring
1.700
4.892
12.127
8.197
-10.426
-3.305
Non-CNC boring
3.795
4.853
3.118
3.086
+0.677
+1.737
CNC milling
5.044
4.135
14.786
22.546
-9.742
-18.411
Non-CNC milling
9.740
9.439
17.996
13.237
-8.256
-3.798
CNC grinding
31.277
39.176
28.207
29.146
+3.070
+10.030
Non-CNC grinding
20.346
20.100
21.208
30.403
-0.862
-10.303
Gear cutting
2.582
3.420
6.823
5.759
-4.241
-2.339
Sawing
3.768
3.274
20.942
15.517
-17.174
-12.243
Other cutting
20.284
16.627
11.855
8.987
+8.429
+7.640
CNC bending
16.367
15.149
18.810
19.802
-2.443
-4.653
Non-CNC bending
9.875
15.684
18.160
12.952
-8.284
+2.733
Shearing
4.261
6.005
6.717
6.259
-2.456
-0.254
CNC punching
5.262
6.425
15.621
18.999
-10.358
-12.574
Non-CNC punching
8.575
7.378
4.648
4.047
+3.927
+3.331
CNC presses
3.145
5.209
33.873
14.352
-30.727
-9.144
Non-CNC presses
21.211
17.965
19.160
23.457
+2.051
-5.492
Other metal forming
16.334
18.605
14.773
15.301
+1.561
+3.304

Note: Some balances do not add correctly due to rounding of the figures.

UK technology on display

Organized by the Machine Tool Technologies Association (MTTA), MACH 2002 is the leading machine tool and manufacturing technology exhibition in the UK. The show, next held on April 29 through May 3, 2002, showcases the latest innovations, technologies, new products, and services. Approximately 400 companies will be exhibiting in Halls 4 and 5 of the National Exhibition Center in Birmingham, England.

Many technologies will be represented at the show, including metal cutting machine tools, accessories and equipment, flexible manufacturing systems, automated handling and storage, metrology, tooling and workholding, automated testing, CAD/CAM, EDM/ECM, lasers, software, and control systems.

Special features of the show include tooling, metrology, and CAD/CAM centers dedicated within the MACH 2002 halls, where visitors can easily locate companies from these specialist sectors. 'Manufacturing in Question' is a live debate where visitors and exhibitors have the opportunity to question a panel of industry and government experts on the crucial issues affecting the UK's manufacturing sector. Complementary Exhibitions include Metalworking, Subcon, Welding and Metal Fabrication, Engineering Lasers, and Automation and Robotics. All these exhibitions are taking place alongside MACH 2002 and entry is free with a MACH ticket.