Toolmaking

Austria/Switzerland: Driven by exports

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The Austrian economy and industry

Austria is, in terms of its gross domestic product, one of the mid to large-sized economies in Europe. With a GDP per capita of €45,726, the country occupies the third place within the surveyed countries of the study “World of Tooling”. Austria could only briefly recover from the economic crisis in 2008 and 2009. The rate of unemployment rose between mid-2011 and the end of 2014 mainly because of lower domestic demand. Nevertheless, the economy has grown by 1.1% per year for the last 4 years. However, the outlook for 2015 and 2016 is on a low but positive level and beneath the EU average. Economic experts feel that the public and private investments are too low.

Worldwide, Austria is the 29th and 26th largest export and import nation respectively. The country exported goods worth €126bn in 2013. The three largest exports were automobiles, machines and chemistry products. The country also has a large amount of different natural resources. The wage level with an average of €37,666 in 2013 was significantly above the average of all industrial nations. On an average, the Austrians work 1,673 hours every year, which is 4% lower than in the other industrial nations. The importance of tourism amounts to 5.5% of the GDP and is underlined by 131.9m overnight stays every year. Not only tourists, but also Austrians are satisfied with their country and the public services offered according to international surveys.

Swiss toolmaking industry

The image of Swiss precision in watch manufacturing holds true for the producing tool and die industry as well. Swiss tool and die manufacturers have a strong understanding of complex machine technology and highly precise workmanship. Due to high labor costs, which can be partially compensated by long working hours and smaller employer contributions, the Swiss tool and die manufacturers have to focus on upmarket tools. In 2013, tools and dies worth €422.93m were exported, of which €318.26m were for injection moulds, €87.06m for solid and sheetmetal forming tools and €17.62m for die casting moulds. Switzerland registered a total value of €283.9m, apportioned among €198.61m for injection moulds, €69.45m for solid and sheetmetal forming tools and €15.83m for die casting moulds.

The Swiss trade of tools with foreign markets for 2014 is illustrated in Figure 4. The largest trade partners for importing injection moulds are Germany, Italy and Austria. The value of German goods is nearly four times larger than that of Italy.

Injection moulds are mostly exported to Germany, Austria and USA. The largest trade partners for importing sheetmetal and massive forming tools are Germany, Italy (the value of German goods is more than six times larger than that of Italy) and Austria, while they are exported mainly to Germany, Austria and France. Many tool and die making companies use their diverse process knowledge to increase the productivity of their tools and dies for their customers.

The technological comprehension, together with the precise production of tools and dies, points to highly developed competences in Switzerland. Measured in absolute production numbers, Switzerland takes a mid-position compared to other tool and die markets. The relatively low number of companies is well suited for production and export of tools largely due to their know-how.

The appreciation of the Swiss franc and the subsequently increasing difficulties of an industry dependent on exports results in a low development rating for Switzerland as shown in the study “World of Tooling”. Switzerland in general has a high tool and die competence for a mid-market size.

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