Survey: China Is Top Machine Tool Consumer

Five years ago, China moved from fourth to first place in annual consumption of machine tools. The country has retained that position ever since, and even strengthened it, leading the other principal users Japan, Germany, and the United States. According to the most recent annual survey of production and trade in that class of equipment, the World Machine Tool Output & Consumption Survey issued by the industrial publisher Gardner Publications Inc., Chinese factories installed an estimated $15.4 billion worth of machine tools in 2007, again out-investing their competitors.

Chinese consumption grew 17% in a year that saw many other industrialized nations also increasing their investments in machine tools. Increases in several European countries were magnified by the changing value of the US dollar. Japan slipped 2% in new installations, but it is still the second-largest market for machine tools, ahead of Germany. Once the leading purchase of machine tools, the United States, now in fourth place, dipped 3% from 2006 to 2007.

In the survey, which is presented in a special edition of Metalworking Insiders’ Report, a semimonthly newsletter for machine tool executives, and will appear in several other Gardner publications, each country’s consumption is calculated as its domestic output plus its imports and minus its exports.

The survey for 2007 shows that countries with substantial machine tool–producing industries created $71 billion worth of equipment last year, a 17.9% increase from the amount those countries shipped in 2006. Japan continued to lead in 2007, with total shipments of $14.4 billion. Germany followed with $12.7 billion. These countries have been one-two since 1991.

China made further substantial gains in production in 2007, and now rests securely in third place, ahead of Italy and South Korea. The top ten is rounded out by Taiwan, the USA, Switzerland, Spain, and Brazil.

Editors of the annual survey, which began in 1965, assemble figures from trade associations, government agencies, and major machine tool producers in the 29 countries that account for an estimated 94% of total world shipments. Results of the 2008 study, including tables of rankings in imports, exports, trade balance, and per capita consumption, are available on-line.

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