VDMA Glass Machinery: 2010 going better than expected

2010 is another difficult year for German glass machinery and plant manufacturers. Speaking at the glasstec/solarpeq press conference in Dsseldorf, Dr. Bernd-Holger Zippe, Chairman of the VDMA Forum G…

2010 is another difficult year for German glass machinery and plant manufacturers. Speaking at the glasstec/solarpeq press conference in Dsseldorf, Dr. Bernd-Holger Zippe, Chairman of the VDMA Forum Glass Technology, said: However, things are going better for us than expected at the beginning of the year – we seem to have successfully managed the turnaround after the crisis. Companies are receiving significantly more orders again while sales, however, are still closing with a deficit. Over the first seven months of the year the orders received by German glass machinery builders were up 13% over the same period last year in price adjusted terms. With a delay this will also favourably impact trends in turnover. Towards the end of 2010 the sector expects sales to total EUR 600 to EUR 650. This roughly corresponds to 2009 results. But there is no reason for euphoria, said Zippe adding that companies were still miles away from the turnover levels achieved by the industry in 2008. German manufacturers generate about two thirds of their turnover abroad. The orders received from there are fuelling the slight upswing. After foreign orders dramatically plunged by up to 70% in 2009 they are now back on a promising track. From January to July 2010 they were up by 57% against the same period last year. Domestic orders are lagging behind and are still lower than in 2009. The sector registers particularly high demand from the Near- and Middle East, from India, China and South America. Brazil, in particular, is booming with its construction industry now growing again and its population who are keen to consume. India will also post tremendous demand for glass over the next few decades holding great potential for machine builders. China is still going well for the companies already on site although low-price Chinese supplies make it increasingly difficult to assert themselves on the market. We are trying to avoid cut-throat price competition by scoring on quality and service. These are our strengths, said Zippe. However, the principal sales markets for the high-tech sector will also continue to be focused in Europe in the future. For 2011 the sector is more positive. According to a current VDMA business survey among German companies over half those polled expect their business situation to clearly improve while none expect further deterioration. This is why companies also want to hold on to their employees beyond 2010; one fourth of those people surveyed even plan to create additional jobs in the medium term. Zippe stressed that machinery and plant construction was the driving force and key industry for energy efficiency in the manufacturing industry and in energy conversion. Glass serves a double function here. On the one hand, German glass machinery builders and their innovations ensure that energy-efficient quality products can be manufactured – for instance, glass for photovoltaic applications, multi-functional faade glass that generates power while protecting against solar radiation or vacuum insulation glass which insulates just as well as an outside wall despite its light weight and thin structure. On the other, they also provide the manufacturing industry with energy-efficient manufacturing technology. Over the past 80 years average energy consumption for producing one ton of glass has been cut by 75% from about 6,000 to approximately 1,500 kWh. This, says Zippe, has been enabled by new technologies, optimised processes, optimum material and raw material use, system control and engineering. Zippe says that there is still some energy-saving potential but that this is markedly higher in the solar glass sector than in conventional glass applications. A promising way of reducing energy input here significantly is the improved use of waste heat from melting units to prepare the raw material for making glass. Innovations in this area promise to generate energy savings of as much as 10% to 17% and will only be ready for the market very slowly. They will be on display at glasstec. In view of the highly ambitious climate protection targets set by policy makers the energy efficiency theme opens up excellent growth perspectives for glass machinery exporters. Our competence makes for a pivotal USP in competition, Zippe added going on to say that energy efficiency was a triple-win business at the end of the day: giving machinery builders competitive edge, customers lower energy costs and society a massive reduction in CO2 emissions. A mega trend in the German glass machinery industry at present is the connection of glass and solar systems. There are many synergies in terms of production, quality, cost savings and logistics. Over the past few years this has opened up a promising market for companies in the dynamic growth area of the solar systems industry. There are now even specialised solar glass production lines because the demand for solar glass has soared. These lines are characterized, in particular, by the downstream processing step and a host of improvements of the semi-finished product versus standard glass. They are perfectly tuned to the requirements and needs of the solar industry. This means PV-module and collector producers now for the first time have at their disposal low-iron, highly light-admitting glass within specifications and at affordable prices. This gives them cost savings of as much as 30% also benefiting those purchasing the finished product, i.e. the solar module or collector. There is plenty of optimization and development potential in cooperation with the solar systems industry, said Zippe. A mega trend for classic glass machinery construction originates from the container glass industry and is consumer-driven. This trend is towards the production of lighter and yet robust glass bottles. The product itself will not be on display at glasstec but the manufacturing technology will.