The CECIMO General Assembly, which took place in Brussels on 22 November, announced that CECIMO machine tool production is expected to register a 2% annual growth in 2017 and reach 24.4 billion euro, rebounding from the last year’s drop slightly below 24 billion. While the world production volume dropped by ‐2.4%, CECIMO based companies kept the sales downturn at ‐1.7% in 2016, coping better with the geopolitical distress and maintaining our global market share at a strong 35.6%. On the policy side, CECIMO will step up its engagement with the EU decision makers and other industry stakeholders to address the challenges of artificial intelligence (AI), and to develop together the right framework conditions for an increased deployment of AI and machine learning by machine tool builders in the coming years.
Economic situation and outlook
The industrial economy is strengthening, boosted by the trade upsurge. The global GDP projections reveal robust growth rates of 2.9% and 3% in 2017 and 2018. Based on the preliminary data, our machine tool builders are expecting to reach a production volume of 24.4 billion euro in 2017, equivalent to a 1.9% annual increase compared to 2016. Last year’s production numbers were capped by more moderate output of many important machine tool producing countries. In the context of a global drop of production from 67.9 to 67.2 billion euro, CECIMO countries showed resilience. As a result, CECIMO machine tool producers have kept their global market share slightly above 35% for the last 3 years. Moreover, our members expect to increase their production levels in 2018. Germany stands firmly in its MT producer leadership position, securing 46.4% of the CECIMO MT production, followed by Italy and Switzerland, with 21% and 11%, respectively.
Last year, CECIMO based companies exported 18.3 billion euro worth machine tools, mainly to China (14.9%) and US (10.5%), although, the trade within CECIMO countries remains the most important – 41.5% of our exports are directed to CECIMO countries. In 2017, the export figures are expected to reach 19 billion euro, regardless the uncertainties around the US protectionist trade policies. Likewise, the 2018 indications for MT exports are positive.
The Continent’s machine tool consumption is expected to raise at 16.9 billion euro in 2017, slightly above last year’s levels (16.3 billion being attributed to CECIMO countries). It would mark an important increase of 5.6% compared to 2016, in line with the upward world consumption trend. Chinese consumption, on the other hand, is likely to moderately increase from 25 billion euro in 2016 to 25.3 billion in 2017, as the Chinese growth acceleration is fading out. the consumption forecasts for 2018 equally suggest an increase of MT demand, notably a 4.1% raise for Europe and 3.6% for Asia and the world. Investments in modern machine tools are fuelled by investment tax incentives in certain countries and the trend towards digital manufacturing, which requires a state‐of‐the‐art machine population. According to Dr Frank Brinken, Chairman of the Economic Committee, “the EU policy‐makers, in their turn, should deliver on the ambitious EU Trade Agenda and secure a competitive stance for the European machine tools in the global economy”.
The potential of artificial intelligence to lead to a new wave of digital disruption is undeniable. “Given that the enhancement of production efficiency on a continuous basis has been an everlasting commitment for both our industry and our customers, artificial intelligence and machine learning offer a tremendous opportunity for automation, increased engineering efficiency and reduced costs” said Mr Luigi Galdabini, CECIMO President. In line with CECIMO President, Mr Reinhard Bütikofer stated that “advanced manufacturing, digitisation and resource efficiency are three major, transformative challenges for European manufacturing industry. We must deal with them on the basis of a comprehensive integrated European strategy. That’s the context in which AI plays a crucial role”. Ms Elżbieta Bieńkowska, Commissioner for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, who participated in the parallel events to the CECIMO GA, has a clear view on the issue: “By putting a favourable and stable business environment in place, Europe can compete globally on both the development and uptake of AI solutions”. At the same time, she warned how “we need to avoid unnecessary anxiety based on far‐fetched AI take‐over scenarios that could distort public perception of AI”. Representing the Machine Tools Industry’s interest, Tomas Hedenborg, CEO of FASTEMS, stated that “European machine tool builders have been constantly integrating digital technologies and artificial intelligence into advanced manufacturing from the factory floor to networked factories. Nevertheless, we need to address some pressing issues related to technical, ethical, legal, regulatory and investment barriers.” CECIMO identified the following issues:
Artificial intelligence framework
CECIMO advocates an enhanced cooperation across the public and private sectors at European level for the development, deployment and use of artificial intelligence. The adoption of EU policy on artificial intelligence could be a step in the right direction and could provide more certainty, especially on liability issues. CECIMO also underlines the need for increased investments to stimulate the adoption of artificial intelligence by industry and to develop the European capacity in this sector.
European Data Economy
CECIMO favours data driven solutions for process optimisation. We welcome the European Commission’s 2nd Data Package, which aims to remove barriers to data sharing and data mobility, and proposes self‐regulatory codes of conduct for data portability. Indeed, CECIMO strongly supports that access to data generated by machines should be defined by bilateral contracts between suppliers and users and by industry‐led initiatives, which can ensure the necessary flexibility, openness and trust.
Industrial security and trust
Artificial intelligence and machine learning could be a critical catalyst for major manufacturing challenges linked to security concerns, providing adequate cyber security response in real time. CECIMO believes that a voluntary European certification and labelling scheme, as it will be developed by ENISA, could create the right framework conditions for increased security in the IoT era.