After an excellent 2021, the first quarter of German woodworking machinery companies also continued in the plus sign, albeit with some inconsistencies that, in the long run, suggest several clouds on the horizon. Indeed, in the first quarter of 2022, and even in the month of March already overshadowed by the Ukrainian crisis, companies saw a new double-digit surge in demand to record levels. Yet sales grew only 4 percent, highlighting a clear gap between global demand and machine production.
“We don’t have enough components and material, and what is available is getting more expensive. Skyrocketing purchase prices are a major problem for manufacturers whose order calculations for larger projects are now proving to be much too low,” explained Markus Hüllmann, chairman of Vdma Woodworking Machinery, at the 2022 general meeting in Weimar. “This is hitting some companies hard. And it comes on top of the fact that some machines are not finished at all because of missing components, or that delivery to customers is then jammed because of various logistics problems“.
A complicated start to 2022 that comes, however, after a very good year. In 2021, in fact, declines in the first year of “Covid-19” 2020 were more than offset. Production increased by 17 percent to 3.4 billion. Exports grew by 8 percent to 2.3 billion euros (still significantly outpaced by growth in the domestic market, which crossed the billion euro threshold for the first time). As a result, the export share dropped to 68 percent.
In terms of exports, the two largest markets, China and the United States, are tied with about 260 million euros, after China bought 18 percent less German woodworking machinery than the previous year, while the United States bought 28 percent more. Austria (24 percent more), Poland (3 percent more) and France (9 percent more) followed in third and fifth place.
There are many reasons for the huge investment appetite observed globally in the woodworking industry. Woodworking is benefiting from a worldwide trend toward sustainable products and resource-saving construction. Woodworking machinery manufacturers have solutions for more efficient use of wood and for the severe shortage of skilled labor in many markets. The new possibilities offered by digitization and automation of machines and systems are far from exhausted in the wood and furniture industry. The industry is therefore quite optimistic about the future, even though current problems are complicating the daily life of companies in a way never seen before.