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Printing and paper machine manufacturing closes 2018 with stable performance

The printing and paper machine manufacturing industry can look back on an overall satisfactory and stable performance in 2018. As in the previous year, overall exports totalled E4.6 billion. Strong demand in China and EU countries partially compensated for a significant fall in sales in North and South America, Russia, India and France.

With exports totalling E2.15 billion, Europe remained the most important region: 82 per cent of these exports went to customers in the 28 EU countries. The largest single market was China. There, the demand for German printing and paper technology rose by 8.2 per cent in comparison to 2017 and totalled a volume of E612 million. Sales in the United States, which topped the list in the previous year, lagged well behind at E576.5 million. Compared with the previous year, the value of exports to the USA dropped by 2.3 per cent. The third-largest single market in 2018 was Poland with German printing and paper technology imports totalling E241.9 million – over a quarter more than in 2017. This was closely followed by Italy with E238.4 million (+ 27.3 per cent).

A more differentiated look at the various segments in the printing and paper technology industry reveals a significantly more heterogeneous business trend. On the heels of the strong order intake in the previous year, manufacturers of:

Paper processing machines were able to increase their turnover in EU partner countries by a hefty 52 per cent. Their turnover also climbed in their domestic markets (+ 3 per cent) as well as their markets abroad (+ 5 per cent). However, a noticeable cooling-off can also be seen: in 2018, around 16 per cent fewer orders were placed than in the previous year. Order intake in the domestic market actually dropped by two thirds of the value from the previous year.

Printing press manufacturing reveals a mixed picture: Although turnover in 2018 was 7 per cent less than 2017 levels – the domestic market was even down by 22 per cent – orders from the home market actually rose by 8 per cent; fewer orders came from the Euro area and abroad. Order intake fell by a total of 2 per cent. This trend is specifically the result of a significant fall in demand in two key markets. Exports to the United States sank by around 15 per cent and in France demand fell by as much as 30 per cent. The downturn in the two largest export markets of the previous year could not be offset by the positive growth in markets such as Italy, Poland or Japan.

In contrast, manufacturers of Paper technology can look back on a very good year in 2018. Exports to China (+ 28 per cent), Spain (+ 150 per cent), UK (+ 125 per cent), Poland (+ 50 per cent) and Italy (+ 30 per cent) grew robustly. Exports to the United States also remained stable at E143 million in comparison to the previous year. This positive picture is clouded only by a significant drop in exports to Russia (- 30 per cent).

‘Even if the weak order intake is causing us some concern – and the global political situation offers little hope of rapid improvement – we as an industry can look back on an overall satisfactory year in 2018,’ summed up Dr. Markus Heering, Managing Director of the VDMA Printing and Paper Technology Association. The stable export volume of E4.6 billion attests that the printing industry throughout the world is modernising its machine base with printing and paper technology made in Germany. Made in Germany enables companies to meet the rising quality and productivity demands in the global world of print business – and achieve reasonable margins at the same time. Throughout the world, networked and automated solutions have become more rapidly a reality than ever anticipated a few years ago.

‘Print is a future-oriented market that continues to promise growth in segments such as packaging printing, printing on textiles, plastics, ceramics, metals and wood material as well as printing on functional surfaces,’ said Dr. Heering. Since workflows in the sector are today already digital, automated and highly networked – and many manufacturers are working with artificial intelligence (AI) and deep-learning methods to improve the levels of quality and productivity of their machines – the printing and paper machine manufacturing industry is searching for trainee engineers with IT, electronics and engineering skills. Especially since customers are completely networked themselves and their calls for digital cooperative and workflow solutions are becoming louder.

‘Anyone starting their career in our sector with its medium-sized companies works on the further development of solutions for the printing and packaging market – an exciting and challenging task,’ he said. In future, companies will be implementing new technical possibilities in digitisation to enable them to continue to sell innovative products. ‘Our sectors offer a mix of future technologies and global focus.’ The latest market data also reveals the sector’s international footprint. In 2018, German printing and paper machine manufacturers delivered their solutions to no fewer than 176 countries throughout the world, including the Fiji Islands and Aruba as well as Macao, Djibouti and the Polar regions.

The highest market growth was in Angola – around 150 times as much as in the previous year was exported to the country. West Africa was the strongest growth region with 141 per cent growth – albeit baseline levels were low from the start. In general, exports to Africa increased significantly. Printing and paper technology was sold in a total of 43 countries to the tune of E170 million. Africa therefore, overtook Central and Southern Asia, including India (- 28.3 per cent at E135 million) as well as the Near and Middle East (+ 17 per cent at E135.8 million). Exports to Central America (- 14.7 per cent at E109 million) and South America (- 13.1 per cent at E136 million) lagged behind.

‘Overall, it can be said that, on the basis of the latest market data, our broad-based market strategy is working,’ explained Dr. Heering. He also includes in this the regular global skill-acquisition activities and specialist conferences held by PrintPromotion GmbH. At present, preparations are already in full swing for the next World Tour in the run-up to drupa 2020. The tour is due to start in late summer 2019. ‘Due to the fast-paced progressive digitisation in our sectors, our agenda is full to brim,’ revealed Dr. Heering. ‘drupa 2020 promises to be a great trade event, showcasing the latest topics in the industry and the key future trends.’

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