Building Material Plant Day participants measure global market’s mixed signals

Sources: German Engineering Federation (VDMA), Frankfurt

German manufacturers of concrete and other building material plants are expecting a broadly based boost this year, carrying momentum from a year-over-year spike most sectors saw at the end of 2016. “This should translate into sales growth over the next few months,” said Sebastian Popp, economic expert on machinery and equipment at Building Material Plants Day, an annual VDMA gathering in Frankfurt for companies serving concrete, dry mortar, aggregate, cement, lime and gypsum producers.

After several years of decline without any real impetus, German manufacturers recorded 8 percent and 20 percent increases in 2016 sales and orders compared with the previous year, totaling $5.1 billion. The United States continues to be the biggest market for building material machines from Germany, followed by China and Russia. Although last year’s figures were somewhat skewed by larger orders, VDMA notes that the industry is optimistic about 2017. Europe’s construction industry, led by Germany and U.K., should develop robustly, growing by an estimated 2 percent. Good market opportunities are also discernible in the United States and some emerging economies.

VDMA Concrete Technology Section members report mixed signals from markets across the world. In 2016, they logged good business in Germany but saw a sharp decline in orders elsewhere. “In 2016 we more or less lived on the money we’d earned in 2015,” says Section Chairman Hermann Weckenmann. During the first four months of 2017, however, the order situation has improved on the strength of business in Europe and the United States.

Building material plant equipment manufacturers lack confidence in any medium- or long-term stable, positive development, owing to what VDMA members see as a “general global framework not what it should be.” Developments and business are less predictable than they were a few years ago, and manufacturers are concerned about the current trend for nation states to withdraw to their own spheres, raising the prospect of new trade barriers and sealed-off markets. Manufacturers see the market potential for concrete technology as considerable, but too few producers willing to invest in capital equipment.