Innovation Key to Machine Tool Market Growth

Machine tool builders who are focused on innovation and manufacturing process optimization will be able to retain their competitive edge as the market shifts from only being able to compete on precision, speed and application suitability, according to ARC Advisory Group analysts who attended The International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) in early September.

Although IMTS is still one of the largest shows in North America, the attendance of over 90,000 for the eight day show, is slightly down from a decade ago, when it was held for 10 days. The show will be held for only six days when it returns in 2008.

At IMTS 2006, machine tool builders who wanted to differentiate themselves from their competition focused on manufacturing process optimization through modular, scalable, adaptable and intelligent machining metalworking machinery, as noted in ARC's "Field Report on Manufacturing Trends Observed at IMTS 2006." 

As leading machine builders look to make significant changes in the actual machining process, they are enacting a paradigm shift in the machine tool market. 

ARC sees this as an important move for many of the machine builders in Europe, North America and Japan, since the market is on the threshold of seeing competition from the Chinese and Korean machine tool builders, whose focus is on commodity machines. 

The emphasis on process improvement was also reiterated by the large amount of robotics exhibitors, many debuting breakthrough technologies, which also augmented the process improvements sought at in the machining centers. 

This shift further confirms the continued emphasis on lean strategies in today's manufacturing environment, while addressing the declining skills of the machine tool operator. 

Due to the lack of skilled labor on a global basis, the embedded intelligence in automation systems will help to alleviate the limited availability of skilled operators globally, the ARC analysts concluded.

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