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International News From the Field: Europe

Economic instability, uncertainties, and a new crisis surround European markets. While some shy away from risks, others navigate the storm and take advantage of opportunities. For more industry intel and other tidbits, read on.
Jan 16, 2024

Attacks on ships in the Red Sea by Houthi rebels continue to push ocean freight rates higher, triggering warnings of inflation and delayed goods. Shipping costs have been boosted by 170%, which has affected various sectors.

According to UCIMU, Italy’s Association representing manufacturing technology, the Italian industry had a record-breaking 2023, reporting its highest production with over $8.2 billion in sales of machine tools, robots, and automation systems. This marked a 3.8% increase from 2022, which is mainly due to the 10.3% increase in exports contributing to more than half of the total production. The domestic market, on the other hand, decreased by 2% and consumption by 3%, affecting both deliveries and imports.

This trend of Italian exports increasing by 6.4% while the domestic market decreases by 5.6% is expected to grow in 2024. Imports are also expected to decrease by 5.5%, and the ratio between export and production is expected to reach 53.6%

Over the last year, the industrial sector in France has rebounded. Last May, a $12-billion foreign investment was announced, and the French government plans to invest an additional $60 billion over the next three years to promote innovative technologies, ecological transition, and industry.

Industrial activity is expected to slow down in 2024. As indicated by the abrupt weakening of industrial opinions on order books in the coming months, the dimming outlook for activity will particularly affect the sector of equipment for the construction industry, which will decline 6% in revenue. The fluidic equipment sector will see modest revenue growth of around 2%, including 3% in the domestic market and only 1% in exports. Industrial equipment sector activity is expected to increase 1.7% in 2024, driven primarily by the export market.

In Germany, 2024 seems bright with a projected growth of 4% in the robotics and automation sectors, according to the VDMA Robotics and Automation Association. Sales of a record $18 billion are projected for the year. This will be a big step forward for the sector, since 2023 showed a decline compared to 2022, a phenomenon due to companies focusing more on researching and developing new techniques and less on production.

A few recently announced projects and investment news items are listed below.

  • ThyssenKrupp Steel is embarking on a significant venture to revitalize its facilities in Duisburg with a staggering investment of $875 million. This comprehensive initiative encompasses the construction of cutting-edge plants specifically designed for processing crude steel, with a strategic emphasis on handling thin steel sheets. A key facet of this endeavor involves replacing a two-decade-old casting-rolling plant with a state-of-the-art continuous casting facility.

  • Group Sener, a Basque aerospace engineering company, is set to invest $27 million in Zamudio's Technology Park in Spain. The initial phase involves the construction of a 16,000-square-meter research and development facility that is slated to be fully operational by the end of 2025. The primary focus of the facility will be on advancing electromechanical, robotic, and optometric components for defense, commercial, and scientific applications.

  • According to the government of the Republic of Serbia, the SHP Group (Slovak Hygienic Paper Group) is set to establish a $55 million factory in Bosnia and Herzegovina dedicated to the production of hygienic clothing. Concurrently, Czech-based investment holding company Eco-Investment is committed to injecting an additional $110 million. This investment will not only facilitate the expansion of SHP's operations in the country but also contribute to building the essential energy infrastructure for the facility.

  • GS Machine Factory Travnik, a Bosnian manufacturer, expanded its operations to Rama, where it inaugurated a new facility dedicated to the production of Liebherr excavators. Looking ahead, the company aims for further growth, developing new production lines to manufacture a broader range of Liebherr products.

  • GH, a leading French metal construction company under the Soprema group, is unveiling its state-of-the-art factory in Nantes, representing a significant investment of $30 million. As part of its forward-thinking initiatives, GH plans to establish a cutting-edge robotic, eco-designed workshop within the premises, aligning with the company's commitment to doubling production in an environmentally conscious manner.

  • K-Line, a prominent French aluminum manufacturing company, is poised to venture into the tertiary market with the establishment of a cutting-edge factory in Les Herbiers. This state-of-the-art facility represents a substantial investment of $35 million. With ambitious growth plans, K-Line envisions a significant uptick in production, targeting 1,700 pieces per week by the year 2027.

  • ABEE, a rapidly evolving player in the battery sector, has opened a state-of-the-art research and development center in Ninove, Belgium. With an investment of $30 million, the company aims to maximize the results of its most recent investment in a recycling plant capable of generating 3 GWh and recycle 20,000 tons annually. Over the next five years, ABEE will continue growing in the Flemish-Wallonian country with a projected investment of $140 million.

For more information, please contact Conchi Aranguren at caranguren@AMTonline.org.

Conchi Aranguren
AMT's Representative for Europe
Recent international News
Well known for small city cars, sports, and supercars, the Italian automotive industry shows strong innovation as it consolidates its position as a key driver of economic recovery in Europe. For more industry intel and other tidbits, read on.
Numerous investments and initiatives in Europe’s railway industry will sustain production for years to come. Spain’s automotive industry and the U.K.’s nuclear power sector see significant developments. For more industry intel and other tidbits, read on.
European defense initiatives and industrial expansion are booming and are now driving the economy of the old continent, especially in Poland. Spain sees big investments in automotive and aerospace. For more industry intel and other tidbits, read on.
Europe's manufacturing sector faces declining domestic orders, geopolitical tensions, increased exports, and opportunities in the battery market. A very dynamic scenario is ahead for the old continent. For more industry intel and other tidbits, read on.
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