Industry Market Trends

Machine Tech Demand Drops in June

Aug 14, 2012

Manufacturing technology orders decreased in most major U.S. regions in June, with overall demand for machine tools and related equipment falling on a month-to-month and year-over-year basis.

The total value of machine tools and related equipment consumption by manufacturers in the United States decreased to $462.95 million in June, down 0.6 percent from May, according to the U.S. Manufacturing Technology Orders Report (USMTO) released this week. Apart from the monthly decline, the June total was also 1.8 percent lower than the figure for the same month last year.

However, with a year-to-date total of $2.68 billion, the value of manufacturing technology orders for the first six months of 2012 stands 8.8 percent higher than the total for the same period last year.

Based on data provided by member companies of the Association for Manufacturing Technology (AMT), the USMTO report provides regional and national consumption data for manufacturing tools and related equipment. The information is collected primarily from machine tool builders and distributors.

June machine tool consumption fell in three of the five major U.S. regions tracked by the USMTO on both a month-to-month and year-over-year basis.

The largest declines were in the Western region, where manufacturing tech orders dropped to $39.31 million, 15.8 percent less than the total for May and 23.7 percent below the June 2011 figure. However, so far this year, consumption in the Western region has totaled $257.23 million, up 3.8 percent from the same period in 2011.

At $136.07 million, June machine tech demand in the Midwest was down 9.8 percent from May and 13.6 percent from June 2011. Despite these losses, the region's year-to-date total of $869.07 million was 3.3 percent higher than the total for the first half of last year.

Machine tool orders in the Northeast edged down to $63.23 million, a 0.3 percent drop from May and 11 percent below the total for June 2011. However, demand for the first six months of 2012 totaled $377.27 million, slightly more than the $377.08 million total for the same period last year.

Despite the overall downward trend, two regions experienced growth in machine tech demand in June, including the South, where orders grew to $87.59 million, a 11.6 percent increase over May and a 32.3 percent gain over June 2011. The South's year-to-date total of $381.28 million is 18.1 percent above the figure for the first six months of 2011.

In the Central region, manufacturing tech orders grew to $136.75 million in June, up 8.5 percent from May and 9.2 percent from June 2011. Year-to-date demand totaled $797.52 million, 18 percent more than the comparable period last year.

"Suppliers to technology builders are experiencing a backlog two to three times above normal levels, and consequently growth in manufacturing technology orders has slowed," AMT President Douglas K. Woods said. However, "[a]long with monthly gains in industrial production, manufacturing payrolls also saw gains for the second consecutive month - an indicator that companies are both confident and optimistic that demand will increase."

Beyond just machine tools, according to the latest data from the U.S. Department of Commerce, the overall value of machinery orders in the U.S. fell from $32.3 billion in May to $31.7 billion in June, a 2.1 percent decrease, led by a 4.1 percent drop in material handling equipment. So far this year, machinery orders have totaled $197.3 billion, up 1.4 percent from the prior-year level.

However, machinery shipments rose from $31.9 billion in May to $32.9 billion in June, a 3 percent increase, largely due to a 7.1 percent surge in construction equipment shipments and a 5.2 percent gain in industrial machinery. So far this year, machinery shipments have totaled $193.2 billion, up 11.2 percent from the prior-year level.

"U.S. machinery companies may be facing a tough road ahead because of slowing business overseas and moderating demand [in] the U.S.," the Associated Press reports. Further declines may be driven by "softer demand in Europe and some developing markets. And the sluggish U.S. economy and a hot, dry summer in the country's crop belt could hinder demand for companies that do business there."