China keeps top tool spot

Two years ago China moved from fourth to first place in consumption of machine tools. It stayed there a year ago and again retains that top spot, further increasing its lead over other consuming countries.


According to the most recent annual survey of production and trade in machine tools, Chinese factories acquired an estimated $9.2-billon worth of machine tools in 2004, once again out-investing their competitors in Japan, Germany and the US.



Chinese consumption gained 37% in a year that saw most other industrial nations coming out of a protracted slump in investment in capital goods. When measured in dollars, Japan had a 44% gain, and Taiwan nearly doubled its installations of machine tools.



Other economies that showed a significant percentage increase in machine tool consumption last year include the UK and India.



American durable-goods factories boosted their installations by a very healthy 26% in 2004, and the country retained fourth place in world consumption. Throughout the 90’s, the US had been far and away the leading purchaser of machine tools.



However, the US saw a sharp decline in consumption during 2001, followed by another drop in 2002, and only started to regain some ground in 2003. Until the slump, America held the number one position in consumption every year since 1993.



In the survey, consumption is calculated as domestic production plus imports and minus exports.



On the output side of the study, the ‘World Machine Tool Output & Consumption Survey’ shows countries with substantial machine tool producing industries created $45.3-billion worth of equipment last year. That represents a 23% increase from the $36.8-billion those same 31 countries shipped in 2003.



Japan retains the lead in output for 2004 with total production of $10.5-billion, ahead of Germany with $9.2-billion. The two countries have run neck-and-neck for the title of the world’s leading producer since 1991 when East Germany and West Germany were combined.



Italian machine-tool builders ship $4.6-billion, followed by Chinese manufacturers, Taiwanese producers and a battered American industry. Others in the top ten ranked by production are Switzerland, South Korea, Spain, and the UK.



As a group, the 15 countries of the Western European alliance known as CECIMO produce $20.8 billion or about 45% of the world total. Asian producers led by Japan also account for 45% of 2004 world output, compared to 42% in 2003.



The statistics are cited in the 2005 World Machine Tool Output & Consumption Survey, the annual study released by industrial publisher Gardner Publications.



Editors of the annual survey, which began in 1965, assemble figures from trade associations, government agencies, or major producers in the 30 countries that account for an estimated 94% of the total world shipments.



The study includes analyses and supplementary tables on ranking by imports, exports, trade balance, and per capita consumption.