Technology Showcase in the European Market
The German machine tool industry is currently on a very firm economic footing, but sees itself confronted by challenges in 2016. Ahead of the Metav, we spoke to Martin Kapp, chairman of the organiser VDW and executive partner of the company group Kapp, about the new orientation of the Metav, technological trend topics, Russian sanctions and bureaucratic hindrances.
A year ago, you presented a new orientation for the Metav. To what extent have exhibitors already taken note of this?
Kapp: So far, we have succeeded well with the new orientation. It has become optimally established with exhibitors. The new slogan "Power your Business" finds resonance. We have also succeeded in raising registrations. To date, there are already 10% more exhibitors registered than at the same point before the Metav 2014.
“Power your Business” is an extremely self-confident slogan. How will the Metav live up to it?
Kapp: The Metav is internationally recognised and, alongside the EMO in Milan, the leading technology showcase in the German and especially in the north-west European markets for production technology. Many who did not travel to Milan will come to the Metav in order to gather information here personally and also to place orders. It is of course always important to be able to look at things properly on site. We therefore anticipate strong visitor interest. We are furthermore displaying the entire value creation chain, not only partial sections. I believe this will be of great interest to visitors.
The stated aim of the Metav is to take the entire value creation chain in production technology into account. Is this a curse or a blessing?
This is more of a blessing. It shows how complex production technology is, and that one must never look at only certain partial sections, but always at the entire production chain, particularly as far as costs are concerned. To this extent, a comprehensive overview is of much more interest to most fair visitors than an examination of only partial sections.
Do you see the Areas as the start of a new era for the Metav, or simply as a logical consequence which was inevitable anyway?
Kapp: Production technology must always be concerned with new challenges. To this extent, additive processes are, for example, extremely interesting, not only for medical technology but also in tool and mould construction, or also in the aerospace industry – and thus for production generally. I think it is right for us to take topics like this on board at an exhibition such as the Metav.
To what extent are topics such as mould construction, additive manufacture or medical technology foreign bodies at this new fair? How will you manage to integrate these cross-sectional themes?
Kapp: These are not foreign bodies, but fields in which production technologies are used and are therefore drawing together with production technology or supplementing existing processes. If I mill an artificial hip joint or manufacture dental implants additively – these are processes which I need equally urgently in the aerospace or machine tool industries. We are drawing an arc stretching over the individual user groups and are thus, of course, positioned on a very wide base. Visitors therefore have the opportunity of gaining numerous ideas for their own production. It will certainly be interesting for exhibitors and visitors to look at the wider context.
What was to be said against a classical subdivision of the fair halls?
Kapp: That is always a difficult question. We wanted to try out the new concept of the Areas and so far this has been very well received by our exhibitors. I therefore think that it will be very well received by the visitors as well.
Digitalised, networked production has reached the firms. Will concrete applications be on view here?
Kapp: There will certainly be concrete applications on display. That is, after all, a topic of central importance for the German and European machine tool industry. To that extent we must show all the things we are proposing. We will, for example, present numerous future projects – firms who have introduced Industry 4.0 comprehensively are of course still rare. From that point of view, this is an interesting topic for us, one in which we can introduce a variety of individual solutions which have already been realised. But then we would also like to show how these can be combined intelligently so that Industry 4.0 really gets under way.
One trending topic is the use of hybrid machines. To what extent will the Metav be concerned with this?
This is a highly important topic for us. Hybrid machine tools are precisely the important solutions with which we can score points on the world market. I also believe that here we are in a leading position worldwide. If we are able to show something of this in concentrated form at the Metav, this is sure to be very interesting for visitors.
The present economic situation makes a turbulent impression. Expectations for exports are falling, order placements are stagnating over long periods in the year. Where does the machine tool industry stand at the moment?
On the whole, we are moving on a relatively high level. In the third quarter of 2015, order placements were down by 1 % compared to the previous year. Orders on the domestic market, however, rose by 9 %, while demand on foreign markets, on the other hand, weakened. In the current worldwide political situation, there are however many uncertainties. We think that demand, especially in Western Europe, will remain strong. South America, of course, is currently extremely weak due to the political situation. The USA and North America, however, continue on a good path. In Asia, we have ups and downs, with a minus in China and good business in other countries.
What effect are the Russian sanctions having?
Kapp:In total, the sector is certainly severely affected. We hope that these sanctions will be relaxed or removed sometime. That would help us immensely. We do not of course wish other exporting countries, such as Taiwan and China, to push forward into this market, establishing themselves and weakening our market position there in the long term.
What are your expectations for the export-oriented sector in 2016?
At the moment, we are looking into the crystal ball. I think that in 2016 we will continue at a level of 2015. That, of course, with a high level of uncertainty. It is difficult to make a sensible prognosis at this time. New political situations are rising in a form unknown in the past. The effects of this are extremely difficult to predict.
What are the greatest economic challenges for the machine tool industry?
We are of course battling with cost structures, we are battling with regulations. The topic of bureaucratisation continues to be omnipresent: if you look at documentation requirements and the like, which are being extended continuously, these are certainly matters which burden us heavily. Globalisation is naturally another difficult topic, because you really have to be underway worldwide today and can no longer limit yourself to certain regions.
Although the Metav 2018 is still a long way away, do you already see potential for topics which did not find a platform in 2016?
Kapp:The topics which we have taken up now, such as tool and mould construction, additive production and Industry 4.0, will gain in strength. My hope is that, precisely with the topic Industry 4.0, we will be able to address exhibitors which are also active as component suppliers for us. Here I am very confident that we will be able to attract smaller firms which may not yet have looked at the Metav closely in this way.