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Forming industry: facing up to hard times

"Only those who have positioned themselves favourably will emerge strengthened from the crisis“

Crisis, order setbacks and cautious optimism - from an economic standpoint, the past eighteen months have been like a roller coaster ride with signs of a rapid downward slide over the long-run. Are there now signs of an upward trend? Franz Saliger, member of the management board and director of the massive forming department at BRANKAMP, talks about the world economic crisis and its consequences for the forming industry.

What is the current state of the forming industry?

Following the dramatic drop in orders at the end of last year and the beginning of this year, the production situation has recovered significantly at most companies. It can be said that, on average, production levels are about 20 percent lower capacity utilization than in 2008. Because of measures introduced at an early stage, however, such as the cancellation of temporary work contracts, taking advantage of reduced working hour laws, streamlining of production processes, etc., the industry is now cautiously optimistic about the future.

What has the crisis affected so far and what will be its long-term effects?

Up until the third quarter of 2008, most companies were configured for continued rapid growth with regard to available production capacity. Following this unparalleled world economic downturn, there was and still is an over-capacity of production resources. From this point in time, only those investments were approved that were directly related to the production of existing outstanding orders. For months, many machines were processing orders only sporadically or not at all. The machine construction industry is suffering to this day from that situation. In my estimation and based on generally available industry information, nobody really believes there will be a short-term recovery. Those levels achieved prior to the economic crisis will not be reached in the coming years. And, in the long-run, there will certainly be a purging of the supplier market. Only those who have positioned themselves favourably prior to and during the crisis will emerge strengthened from it. Surely, the „order pie“ will be sliced differently in the future.

How does the future look now after this difficult year, and which industry trends do you see on the way?

The future for suppliers in the forming industry will be significantly more difficult in the coming years. At present, nobody will dare give a long-term prognosis. The industry is preparing itself for hard times while the competition from within is steadily increasing. Naturally, this also has an effect on redeemable margins that will shrink further and further. The need to set itself apart from the international competition through innovative and technologically high-quality product ideas applies more than ever to the German forming industry. I know this from the many on-site visits I've made. I had given the impression that the majority of companies have a first-rate, high-quality product mix, allowing them to supply growth industries, such as solar and wind power, in the near-term with innovative connecting parts. BRANKAMP, as well, took the necessary steps early on to adapt to the crisis. As it is well known that every crisis also conceals an opportunity, we took advantage of it to reorganize our sales and marketing activities. In so doing, we were able to cushion ourselves against a large portion of the crisis and can now look optimistically into the future.

Which significance does the WIRE have for the industry and what will BRANKAMP be presenting there?

The WIRE, held every two years in Duesseldorf, is the most important trade fair in the industry. Visitors can obtain information about the latest supplier developments and trends in just one hall. BRANKAMP will use it once again as an opportunity to present our guests with a number of new, innovative, future-oriented developments. This applies to developments in both hardware and software. We will introduce a series of newly developed process monitoring equipment models, which have been developed according to a completely new - and what could be called revolutionary - operating concept. Besides this, it is particularly noteworthy to mention the developments surrounding the subject of FactoryNet. In my opinion, production networking is a must for compiling objective data as a foundation to the operation-related decision process. This applies in particular to the current difficult economic environment.


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