Final figures confirm good year 2018
2018 was a good year for Italian machine manufacturers in the woodworking sector. The final data from the statistics office of the Acimall umbrella association confirm a result even better than the first forecast in March: the year 2018 ended with a total turnover of 2,514 million euros - an increase of 10.6 percent compared to the previous year. This is the best result of the last ten years, even adjusted for inflation. The first, very positive half-year made a particularly positive contribution, with the second half of 2018 also being pleasing.
Exports reached a value of 1,721 million euros (over 8.2 percent more than in 2017). The main markets, at around 70 percent, were within Europe, but North America and the USA were also important.
The Italian domestic market recorded an excellent development, reaching the 800 million euro mark and thus an increase of 16.4 percent compared to the previous year. In this case, too, it is the best result of the last ten years. Compared to the data from 2012, the result was even doubled: after a period of stagnation during the crisis years, many Italian manufacturers finally invested again comprehensively; furniture "made in Italy" was again in greater demand and, of course, the Italian government's economic package of measures to promote industry 4.0 in the country also took effect.
Imports of woodworking machinery amounted to 242 million euros in 2018: the top suppliers were Germany, China and Austria, but imports from India, Poland and Turkey also increased. Italy was therefore also an interesting market for foreign suppliers, and one that gave us great pleasure.
The trade balance, i.e. the difference between exports and imports, was 1,479 million euros. This corresponds to an increase of 5.5 percent compared to 2017.
Germany, Italy and China essentially "fought" in 2018 for the leading position in the manufacture and sale of woodworking machinery. Compared to 2017, the German mechanical engineers were able to buy machines worth 2.4 billion euros abroad (+ 2%), while the Italians are in second place with export sales of 1.6 billion euros - each including toolmaking. With a turnover of 1,532 million and an increase of 11.7 percent, China is catching up with "Made in Europe".
Machines for the first processing of wood also play an important role for German exports: if one considers, for example, the sales figures of presses for the production of chipboard and MDF boards, Germany with 400 million euros is far ahead of Italy with 157 million euros and China with 77 million euros.
It is interesting to note that German exports are mainly concentrated on five markets: The United States, China, Poland, Austria and France account for 50 percent of total exports. By comparison, Italians generate sales in a large number of different markets.
Taiwan and Austria rank fourth and fifth respectively in the international export ranking of the most important woodworking machinery manufacturing countries. In 2018, Taiwan exported woodworking machinery for 586 million euros. This is a slight decline compared to the previous year, especially to the USA and nearby China. Austria closed 2018 with an export volume of 505 million euros, an increase of 7.4 percent.
The United States and Canada are in sixth and seventh place and closed 2018 with 304 and 253 million euros respectively, followed by Poland (203 million euros), Finland (171 million euros) and Japan (132 million euros).
Three other countries are worth mentioning which have shown an interesting development over the last five years: the Czech Republic climbed from 85 to 125 million in the last financial year, while Slovenia exceeded 100 million, having only reached 58 million in 2014. Turkey has also developed very positively despite the political tensions in the country: The export quota for woodworking machinery recently amounted to over 90 million euros.
And what will happen so far in 2019? The Acimall statistics office's results list shows a general decline in orders in the first quarter of 2019, although this is considered to be "organic" after the boom in 2017 and the further increase last year. At least all programs currently initiated by the government should ensure stability on the domestic market, even if things do not continue to be equally bombastic abroad.
Acimall's usual quarterly survey shows that the woodworking machinery industry has slowed somewhat in the first three months of 2019, with orders down 11 percent year-on-year. Orders from abroad fell by 10.2 percent, while Italian demand fell by 14.5 percent.
The order range is 3.7 months, and prices have risen by 0.5 percent since the beginning of the year. The sales results show a countertrend in comparison to the orders and increase by 10.3 percent.
Of course, Acimall contacted its members regarding their forecast: seven percent believe in a positive production trend, 60 percent think it will remain unchanged and 33 percent fear a decline.
The employment figures remained unchanged for 67 percent of all respondents, an increase of 13 percent and a decrease only for the remaining 20 percent. Stable inventory levels were reported by 73 percent, an increase of 20 percent and a decrease of seven percent.
Unfortunately, the forecast shows a certain mistrust on the part of industry representatives, both for the domestic market and for international markets. Unfortunately, this is also confirmed by the relevant macroeconomic indicators. They show that the slight increase in production in February and March is mainly due to a renewal of inventories. Added to this is the official forecast for the Italian gross domestic product, which, with an expected growth rate of 0.2 percent, does not provide any real certainty.
The results of the survey show it: with regard to the domestic market, only seven percent of those surveyed expect growth, 60 percent expect stability, but at least 33 percent expect a decline. Exports are in a somewhat more positive light: 13 percent of those surveyed believe in an increase in orders from abroad, 60 expect stability; 27 forecast a decline.