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Europe must tailor wood processing kit to customer needs says Eumabois chief

Europe must tailor wood processing kit to customer needs says Eumabois chief Franz-Josef Buetfering, president of Eumabois the non-profit making group of European timber processing manufacturing associations says that it is crucial to deliver the right products in difficult times.

Fortunately, some manufacturers are already doing this such as thin kerf technology pioneer Wood-Mizer. At Xylexpo, the firm struck a chord by deliberately demonstrating new or enhanced kit that presented an awareness of customers' financial constraints without price increases.

It worked! The company sold 600 000 euros-worth of wood processing equipment off the stand.

Interviewed by a German journalist, Herr Buetfering said that there is no denying the industry has endured a major crisis. Turnover collapsed and is still low in many companies. Such difficulties will probably endure but there are also clear signs that a way has been found out of 'this valley of tears'. More and more indicators show the curve turning upwards.

Recent timber trade fairs have indeed enhanced the trading climate as well as new business, supporting any optimism. For example, investments in German-speaking markets have held up relatively well, providing a good base for the future. The Holz-Handwerk/Fensterbau in Nuremberg attracted 1 273 exhibitors from 35 countries and 100 000 visitors, 16 500 from outside Germany, reaching 2008 levels.

Generally, Europe is holding together. Although Eastern Europe's collapse was dramatic it shows better recovery than the West.

Property markets have not recovered yet, causing some caution amongst our customers.

There will need to be increased workload for the wood and furniture industry before a significant rally. For the time being, demand is mainly represented by replacement of old machinery or of manufacturing systems adaptation.

Poland's wood processing industries demonstrated a healthy trend but suffered two emergencies: a volcanic cloud stranded visitors and a tragic aeroplane crash killed the president and many of the country's dignitaries. Nevertheless, Polish spirit prevailed and visitors to the Drema trade fair in Poznan increased sixteen per cent.

In Italy, Europe's second biggest woodworking machinery producer, two major trade fairs took place at almost the same time! This obviously affected the main event, Xylexpo which was attended by fewer visitors who numbered around 50 000. Herr Buetfering believes the two almost coinciding events confused both exhibitors' and visitors' decisions. Such lack of planning causes confusion and uncertainty. For the record, Eumabois is committed to providing clearly defined trade fair schedules for visitors and exhibitors.

In Russia, the economic crisis has purged the trade fair calendar, concentrating that country's potential. Despite some problems, Herr Buetfering considers it as having some of the best opportunities for woodworking machinery manufacturers.

Generally in Eastern Europe, markets remain weak as customers struggle to cope with the debt crisis. The 2008/2009 decline harmed several companies in these markets which are collectively one of the biggest in the world. Actually, considerable interest is apparent there but few customers have access to suitable finance. This fact is likely to delay Russia reaching full potential.

Beyond Europe, Herr Buetfering notes that China has demonstrated its potential for European manufacturers. South-East Asia offers good opportunities for some sectors and Vietnam particularly is considered to be full of eastern promise. Even so, Asian competitors are not to be underestimated.

India is an interesting growth market although volumes are still low.

South American markets' resources are driving interest in that region. There are raw materials a-plenty but import duties curb competition. Nevertheless, there is an increased demand for quality and hence European machinery.

Generally, European manufacturers are reacting well to these challenges. Companies were well positioned prior to the crisis, evidenced by only a few declaring themselves bankrupt despite big cuts in turnover. They are not only competitive in product terms but as leaders in their fields. Sixty per cent market share confirms this. Even in the depths of recession businesses have continued to be run properly. Despite painful cuts they have focused on innovation. Research and development departments have pushed down on the accelerator and now can approach market with enhanced products.

With all this in mind Herr Buetfering reminds members that the markets continually change

At Ligna 2009 it was already clear that energy efficiency and sustainable exploitation of resources would be future issues. In Hannover, big news and innovations reflected such issues and will keep the sector busy for.

Relentless globalisation will be another factor which companies will need to manage. Sales organisations will become even more international in order to venture into foreign markets. From South America to Russia and to China many opportunities are available after the crisis. The big challenge is to tailor individual products to individual customers' wishes in each market.

Eumabois says it assists members with such challenges. In Europe the woodworking industry has all but vanished in some nations, such as Great Britain. This complicates matters.

On the other hand, political changes in former Eastern bloc states have opened new pathways to the East. Eumabois has supported companies penetrating Russia, the Ukraine, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Actually, such commercial trans-migration has changed firms' vision since these countries are dominated by small enterprises. This strategy is an important signal for Eumabois members and is closely linked to quality standards. Such an approach is based on the industry's standards and regulations, like the EC standards which protect products and their manufacture from bad competition.

Indeed, in terms of counterfeiting other members' products Eumabois has informed end customers of the importance of purchasing original machines and components. Such an approach seems more effective than a direct fight against counterfeiting. Eumabois has launched a 'Choose the Original – Choose Success' campaign to increase customers’ awareness of the value of original technology. Counterfeiting is unacceptable. It threatens both manufacturers and customers. The benefits of original technology are evident. To prosper in Asian markets, European manufacturers must coordinate their actions to protect themselves.

More news on this topic:
14.10.2014Wood-Mizer Customer Day in Teteven, Bulgaria, 24 October 2014
08.10.2014Wood-Mizer customer day in Estonia, 29 October 2014
22.08.2014Wood-Mizer Customer Days, Kolo, Poland, 28-29 August 2014
12.06.2014Wood-Mizer announces “Supplier of the Year” Awards
28.04.2014EXPOWOOD show, Brasov, Romania, 28-31 May 2014
14.02.2014WMF 2014, Beijing, China, February 25-28, 2014
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