Exclusive interview

Spain: Machine tool industry recovers

| Author / Editor: Stéphane Itasse / Rosemarie Stahl

“Spain and particularly the Basque country have a very high reputation for high-precision and high-performance machines for large-part machining. “, says Antxon López Usoz, Chairman of the Spanish Machine Tool Association AFM.
“Spain and particularly the Basque country have a very high reputation for high-precision and high-performance machines for large-part machining. “, says Antxon López Usoz, Chairman of the Spanish Machine Tool Association AFM. (Bild: AFM/Sara Santos)

Along with the Spanish economy, the machine building is also recovering gradually from many years of recession. The Chairman of the Spanish Machine Tool Association AFM Antxon López Usoz, reveals the general situation at the industry in the exclusive interview with MM MaschinenMarkt.

What is the current situation of the Spanish machine tool manufacturers?

The world economy finds itself in the midst of an extremely turbulent situation and it has a direct effect on the industry and the machine tool industry. Nonetheless, we have managed well in 2015, in which the industry has increased its sales, retained exports and has got 13 % more orders. It is true that, vital markets for us like China, USA and Germany see a lower demand, particularly in case of China. It has an adverse effect on the global demand and with all its highs and lows, at present we are around 10 % below the figures of the previous year. However, we will have to examine more thoroughlywhat happens until summer, in order to know for sure how this yearshall take course.

A five year long crisis ended for the Spanish machine building in 2014. After all what were the driving forces for the recovery?

We are in a capital goods industry. Confidence is hence the decisive factor. Although not all problems are solved and new challenges are coming into sight,I believe that the world has gradually gained confidence from 2010, in the European Union from 2012. The improved confidence has facilitated access to loans and released liquidity for some of the most important industries.

How did the Spanish machine tool manufacturers manage to overcome the crisis until 2014?

As forour manufacturers, I can say that we had already learnt some lessons when the crisis began. Most of our relevant manufacturers’ balance sheets were robust. Although they had suffered a lot, they got through the crisis better than before. Apart from this, we have dealt with dramatic changes in the view of our offerings– with technically sound products, which have been customized according to the customer requirements. For this reason, we were better prepared internally than before, although no one was prepared for such a powerful and long lasting deep hit. If one considers the external factors, it was a major decline in our domestic market. On the other hand, some of our relevant customer industries and markets emerged better than expected, so we could overcome the crisis. This is particularly true for Germany and also for Chinatill 2013. The automobile industry, the oil and gas industry, the aerospace as well as the railway industry have also helped. Thereby, our export ratio has increased from 65 % of our production capacities to 90 % in 2014.

How do you expect the Spanish machine tool industry to develop in the next three to five years?

As is well known, projections are always difficult, especially if they concern the future. I believe that, we have a bright future before us, with good enterprises, excellent management and good products. We shall see how the markets emerge, but in any case, we should be able to maintain our position in the worldsince Spain and particularly the Basque country have a very high reputation for high-precision and high-performance machines for large-part machining, right from lathing to milling up to cutting.

How is the current demand for machine tools in Spain?

It has recovered strongly in the last few years and especially in 2015; the industrial production is increasing and the confidence of the manufacturing industry has improved. We have recovered half out of the dramatic decline of almost 75 % of the demand. We still have a long way to go in this respect.

How will the domestic market for the Spanish machine tool manufacturers emerge in the next three to five years?

Various industrial sectors must be invested, but it will grow step-by-step. There are several issues, which must be tackled in the Spanish economy. Although we are on the right track, much still remains to be done. If we manage that, then the demand will increase further, but like I said: step-by-step.

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