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Machine Tool Orders Start 2018 With Mixed Results

Bill Koenig
By Bill Koenig Senior Editor, SME Media

Machine tool orders began 2018 with mixed results, dropping from December but posting a surge on a year-over-year basis, the Association for Manufacturing Technology (McLean, VA) said in a monthly report.

Orders totaled $371.62 million in January. That was down 20% from a revised $463.29 million the month before. But the January order total increased 44% from the  $258.01 million in January 2017.

The figures for machine tool orders are based on information from companies participating in AMT’s US Manufacturing Technology Orders (USMTO) program.

December order figures normally benefit from end-of-the year business. AMT said the first month of 2018 represented the second-best January recorded by USMTO.

“The large volumes ordered in January were on par with expectations and indicative of the capacity expansion we expect US manufacturers to pursue throughout 2018 and well into the next year,” Douglas K. Woods, president of AMT, said in a  statement.

AMT has said it expects improvements in orders at least through 2018’s first quarter.

‘Nearly Unprecedented’

Woods, in the statement, said global “market expansion is nearly unprecedented.” At the same time, he said, “growth has its challenges, and this tremendous increase in demand is creating shortages in components worldwide.”

The machine tool industry saw a sustained recovery begin in March 2017 after orders began to slide in mid-2014 because of falling oil prices.

One wild card for this year is whether President Donald Trump’s new tariffs on imported steel and aluminum slow down manufacturing. Trump last week implemented tariffs of 25% on steel and 10% on aluminum. Canada and Mexico have been initially exempted, depending on negotiations to revamp the North American Free Trade Agreement.

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