Industry Market Trends

Machine Tool Orders Drop for Second Month

Sep 13, 2012

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

The total value of machine tools and related equipment consumption by United States manufacturers fell to $449.69 million in July, down 2.3 percent from June, according to the U.S. Manufacturing Technology Orders Report (USMTO) released this week. In addition to the monthly decline, July orders were also down 10.5 percent from the same month last year.

However, with a year-to-date total of $3.13 billion, the value of manufacturing technology orders for the first seven months of 2012 remains 5.4 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 figures for manufacturing tools and related equipment. The data is collected primarily from machine tool builders and distributors.

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

The largest declines were in the South, where manufacturing tech orders dropped to $63.87 million in July, 27.1 percent less than the total for June and 20.1 percent below the July 2012 total. However, consumption in the South has reached $450.89 million so far this year, up 12 percent from the first seven months of 2011.

At $113.43 million, July machine tech demand in the Central region was down 16.1 percent from June, but up 6.8 percent from July 2011. In addition, the region's year-to-date consumption total of $906.26 million is up 15.8 percent from the same period last year.

Machine tool orders in the Western region surged to $69.74 million in July, a 77.4 percent increase over June, but down 34.9 percent when compared with July 2011. The year-to-date total of $326.97 million is also 7.9 percent below the total for the comparable period in 2011.

In the Midwest, manufacturing technology orders increased to $138.64 million in July, up 2.7 percent from June, but down 7.8 percent from the July 2011 figure. With a year-to-date total of $1 billion, demand in the Midwest is 1.1 percent above the total for the same period last year.

Machine tool demand in the Northeast inched up to $64.01 million, a 1.2 percent gain over June and a 9.2 percent increase. At $441.46 million, the 2012 year-to-date total stands 1.3 percent higher than the comparable figure for 2011.

"It is typical for orders to slow during July and August. That slowdown is even more pronounced in summers ahead of IMTS (the International Manufacturing Technology Show, Sept. 10-15) as manufacturers attending the show wait to take their manufacturing technology 'shopping lists' with them to Chicago," Douglas K. Woods, AMT President, said in response to the latest monthly figures. "With more than 90,000 registrants for IMTS this year, we fully expect order activity to come back strong in the months after the show."

Apart from machine tools, the latest data from the U.S. Department of Commerce indicates that the overall value of machinery orders in the U.S. fell from $31.5 billion in June to $30.2 billion in July, a 4.1 percent decrease, led by a 32.2 percent drop in orders for mining, oil field and gas field machinery. So far this year, machinery orders have reached a total of $225.7 billion, down 0.5 percent from the prior-year level.

Meanwhile, machinery shipments fell from $33.3 billion in June to $33 billion in July, a 0.9 percent decline, largely due to a 19.3 percent drop in shipments of turbines, generators and other power transmission equipment. So far this year, machinery shipments have totaled $224.9 billion, 11.4 percent above the level for the same period in 2011.

"Demand for U.S. capital goods such as machinery and communications gear dropped more in July than previously estimated, a sign manufacturing will contribute less to the economic expansion," Bloomberg BusinessWeek reports.