Where are the World's Machine Tools Made?

Most machine tools are made in the Far East. The latest global survey shows Asian builders, led by China, top the list of producing countries.


As machine tool builders in the major producing countries continue to climb out of the 2008-2009 depression, shifts in relative rankings show up.

Most notable is the growth of the Chinese industry. Five years ago it was a soft No. 3 in output and 8 years ago was in fifth place. Now it’s No. 1 by far, with an estimated $27.7 billion in total output last year—way ahead of second place Japan with $18.4 billion.

The numbers come from the most recent annual World Machine Tool Output & Consumption Survey. According to the study, shipments from machine tool plants in China accounted for a whopping 30 percent of the $92.7 billion total produced by 28 countries around the globe. Some of the expansion comes from the growth of Chinese-owned companies; Shenyang Group and Dalian Machine Tool are now ranked in the top five among the world’s builders by sales volume.

Even more growth comes from transplants from Japanese, Taiwanese, American and European builders. Today, most major factory-equipment producers ranging from Mazak to MAG operate factories in China. The reason is simple: local demand. China has been the world’s biggest consumer of machine tools for a decade. Back in 2002 though, China fed that voracious appetite with machines from abroad—more than half of consumption was fueled by imported equipment.

These days, that percentage has moderated to about one-third as domestic factories have grown.
China’s production growth has spurred the Asian bloc of machine tool building countries to claim an aggregate output of $57.3 billion last year. By comparison, the 15 countries in the Western European consortium called CECIMO shipped $29.3 billion. Five years ago the two groups were about equal.

The World Machine Tool Output & Consumption Survey, conducted by the research department of Gardner Business Media Inc., puts a perspective on other aspects of the industry. One is the sector’s bounce-back from the recent crash. Total output from the surveyed nations in 2009 fell a full one-third from its peak of $82.8 billion the year before. It was even more dramatic among most countries, given that China’s production didn’t fall at all, which moderated the statistical plunge. Now, with global shipments totaling $92.7 billion in 2011, it appears the depression is history.

The survey, available online (see Learn More) in its entirety, gathers data on domestic production and trade from the major machine tool producing countries. The output table shown here lists the biggest producers of metalcutting machine tools and their total dollar volume (including metalforming machines).

Consumption—calculated as local production, less exports and plus imports—depicts which nations are buying and installing the most new machines. China leads in consumption with $39.0 billion last year, up 33 percent from 2010. Next comes Japan, which had a 41 percent increase in consumption, followed by Germany with a similar percentage increase. The United States is fourth among the world’s machine tool consumers, with a 53-percent 2010-to-2011 growth surge.
An interesting take on national consumption of metalworking equipment is a look at consumption per capita: Divide the total value of machines installed in a given year by that country’s population. By that measure, relatively low-population Switzerland leads with an expenditure of $163 per resident. South Korea comes next with $106 spent per capita, and Germany follows with around $85. The United States spends around $22 per American on machine tools, about the same level as Belgium, Finland, the Netherlands and France. Hugely populous China, which used to be at the bottom of the list with per-capita expenditures of less than $5, is now squarely in the middle of the pack with around $30 invested per Chinese resident.