In the wake of the worldwide economic recession that began in September 2008, Japanese machine tool industry underwent a sea change due to sudden cutbacks in capital investments by automotive and other manufacturers. In 2009 total machine tool orders plunged 68%, while imports of machine tools plunged by 52%. However, domestic capital investments have shown signs of a recovery in 2010, as evidenced by machinery orders and production forecasts. U.S. manufacturers are highly competitive in laser-operated machine tools and gear cutting machine tools, in addition to drying-etching machines and water-jet cutting technology. The potential for imported machine tools to make further inroads into the Japanese market may lie in seeking specialized niche segments where imported machine tools have advantages over currently available models and ensuring that companies are capable of offering post-sale maintenance and repair services.
U.S. suppliers of machine tools and related equipment are encouraged to consider partnering with either a Japanese manufacturer with complementary product lines or searching for a trading firm or distributor specializing in machinery import and sales. One way to review competitors and, at the same time, meet with potential partners is to schedule your visit to Japan during industry trade shows, such as Japan International Machine Tool Fair (JIMTOF), which is held biennially in October in Tokyo.
In the wake of the worldwide economic recession that began in September 2008, the Japanese machine tool industry underwent a sea change. Due to a sudden drop in capital investments in the automotive and other manufacturing industries, Japan’s machine tool producing industry suffered a decline of 59% (measured in yen) in 2009, dropping to third place among producers worldwide (whereas in recent decades it has usually topped the list). China, for years the world’s largest consumer of machine tools, became its number-one producer as well, as 2009 output from other major producing countries fell by double digits. The German sector experienced a 30% drop, landing in second place behind China. The U.S. remained in seventh place, after the aforementioned countries, plus Italy, South Korea, and Taiwan. (Gardner Publications)
According to the Japan Machine Tool Builders’ Association (JMTBA), machine tool orders bottomed out in the first quarter of 2009 and from there gradually increased again, thanks to export demand from the automotive, electrical and precision machinery sectors in Asian countries. The Japanese machine tool industry finished 2009 with total orders of $4,576 million (converted at 90 yen/USD throughout the text), down 68%, from 2008