Interview with Dr. Wilfried Schäfer, Executive Director of VDW
Q:Can you please introduce the German Machine Tool Builders’ Association (VDW)?
A:The VDW, headquartered in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, speaks for the German machine tool industry. Together with the Sector Association Machine Tools and Manufacturing Systems within the VDMA (German Engineering Federation) the VDW comprises some 300 predominantly mid-tier companies. They account for approximately 90 per cent of the sector’s total turnover, which almost reached 12.7 billion euros in 2021.
With its Shanghai Representative Office (SRO), the VDW shows strong presence on the world’s biggest market for machine tools. The SRO supports VDW’s members in setting up their business in China, provides information on current developments in the Chinese machine tool industry, and represents the German machine tool industry in China.
Q:Can you please introduce the market situation and current trends of German machine tools in China?
A:In 2021, German manufacturers sold a good fifth of their exported machine tools to China. Despite increasing competition from Japan, Germany remains the second top supplier for the Chinese machine tool market. From January to May 2022 exports from Germany to China increased by 6 per cent. The most important machine types sold to China include machining centers, gear cutting machines and eroding machines.
In the first quarter of the current year, orders from China exceeded the previous year’s level by an impressive 75 per cent. However, after the cancellation of important trade shows and other COVID-related disruptions in the first half of the year it is time for acquiring new customers and filling-up the order books again.
Q:How do German machine tool companies evaluate the South China market and what are the key customer industries for your members？
A:The South China market is one of the regions with the most active economic development in China. As its economic development center, Shenzhen's GDP in the first half of 2022 exceeded 1.5 trillion yuan, a year-on-year increase of 3%, ranking third after Beijing and Shanghai.
Important factors behind this are the good investment environment and innovative measures, which enable some emerging industries and innovative technologies to form important industrial chains here, for example, new energy vehicles, wind power, 3C industry, etc. This is exactly what German vendors are happy to see and is also their area of expertise
Q:In a world where total solutions are increasingly emphasized, machine tool manufacturers need to work with robotics and automation companies to provide personalized solutions for their end customers. Can you tell us what the relevant cooperating trends in the industry are?
A:Automation is a constant trend in the last years to increase flexibility and productivity in production. Therefore it is a logic set up to position both aspects with this cooperation of FuMaTech & IRACE at the DMP show.
Q:What are your expectations and visions for FuMaTech & IRACE?
A:FuMaTech & IRACE add new perspectives to the DMP show. We therefore expect a good response from the customers side.
Q:Can you please tell us more about umati and the umati-related activities at the show?
A:umati (universal machine technology interface) is a community of the machine-building industries and their customers for the promotion and adoption of open, standardized interfaces based on OPC UA. umati facilitates the data exchange between machines, components and installations and their integration into customer- and user-specific IT ecosystems easily, seamlessly, and securely.
Currently, over 220 umati partners worldwide have joined this initiative and are involved in this leading project. umati partners are expanding to a wide range of sectors, such as woodworking, robotics, automation, and surface treatment technology. 53 sub-working groups have been set up under the VDMA for setting up their companion specification. More and more sectors and companies are aware of the importance of OPC UA.
During the upcoming FuMaTech show, an umati booth will be set up at the German Pavilion in Hall 11. Machines of umati partners can be connected to the dashboard on-site or remotely from worldwide to prove its extensive connectivity.
At the same time, we will also try to add equipment other than machine tools to this demonstration. Based on the release of companion specifications, robots may join the demonstration at FuMaTech.
We will also take this opportunity to conduct a joint demonstration with our partner CMTBA to verify the interconnectivity of umati and the Chinese interface NC-Link.
We welcome visitors to the umati booth and the German Pavilion to experience the inspiration of future manufacturing.