CONSTRUCTION & MINING EQUIPMENT
The U.S. construction and mining equipment industry is comprised of hundreds of firms, from small businesses to some of the world’s largest multinational corporations. Construction equipment is used for the construction of residential and nonresidential buildings, for surface and strip mining operations, for new power and manufacturing plants, for logging operations and for adding to or renovating infrastructure, such as sewage and water lines, roads, bridges and tunnels. Mining equipment firms produce machinery used in underground mining and minerals processing operations. Machines built by the construction equipment industry are usually classified into ten types: backhoes; bulldozers; construction and surface mining rock drill bits; construction tractors and attachments; off-highway trucks; pile-driving equipment; portable crushing, pulverizing, and screening machinery; powered post hole digging machinery; motor graders and paving machinery; and surface mining machinery.
Machines built by the mining equipment industry consist of coal breakers, cutters and pulverizers; underground mining core drills; minerals processing machinery; mining cars; stationary rock crushing machinery; excavating machinery; and conveyor systems. The construction equipment industry is classified under NAICS 33312 (Construction Machinery Manufacturing). The mining equipment industry is classified under NAICS 333131 (Mining Machinery and Equipment Manufacturing).
Industry Overview and Global Competitiveness
The construction and mining equipment industry is a very cyclical one, with high sales growth during boom years and reductions in output during economic slowdowns and downturns. The industry is affected particularly by such factors as housing starts, consumer confidence, prices for commodities, such as gold, silver copper, etc., and employment. Since residence and business construction is typically debt-financed, and since most of the industry’s products are big ticket items, interest rates and the availability of credit are important factors. In 2007, the industry’s shipments were valued at $26.9 billion, up 77 percent from the 2003 level of $15.2 billion. The industry’s upward trend reflects increased demand in construction markets—including manufacturing and residential construction. The mining industry has also been re-energized with the upward trend of commodity prices.
The majority of the over 1,200 construction and mining equipment manufacturers in the United States are small or medium-sized and employ some 105,000 people. The bulk of the industry’s sales, however, are dominated by several very large multinational companies. Over recent years, there has been a constant restructuring of the industry. Scores of companies are either being acquired by some of the larger firms that are diversifying their product lines or are going out of business.
The United States is the world’s largest producer of construction and mining equipment. American companies are recognized worldwide as producers of high quality, state-of-the-art products. In 2008, total U.S. exports were $23.67 billion—reflecting an increase of 21.3 percent. Imports dropped in 2008 to $14.8 billion from their 2007 level of $15.26 billion (3 percent). Both imports and exports of construction and mining equipment have increased in recent years, reflecting increased worldwide demand triggered by increased spending on infrastructure development as well as a rise in commodity prices in the mining sector.
Over recent years, Canada, Australia, Mexico, Brazil, and Chile have been markets for U.S. exports of construction and mining equipment. Key sources for U.S. imports have been Japan, Germany, France, Italy, and Korea. Today, China is probably the most important potential market for construction equipment. Many industry professionals refer to China as the “world’s largest construction site.” Competition for the China market will be fierce. Quality, price, competitive financing, and after-sales-service will continue to be important factors for American companies and will determine ultimate success in China as well as in the international marketplace as a whole.
Foreign competition for construction and mining equipment markets is abundant and determined. Since most of the products produced are quite expensive, sales rely heavily on the best financing packages available. Japan, Germany and other European countries also manufacture high quality construction and mining equipment and compete with U.S. manufacturers not only in the United States, but all over the world. In many foreign markets, U.S. manufacturers remain the dominant suppliers of construction equipment. Market share percentages vary from country to country. However, in most instances, U.S. market shares have been declining to Japanese, German, and recently, Korean competition.