Don't Be Turned Off: EMO Is Approaching

 Maybe it is early to start talking about the EMO—the international machine tool show taking place in Hanover, Germany, beginning September 12. But if you are prepared to ignore the hype about "foot-and-mouth" disease and come to the EMO, you will be in for a big surprise. Our main concern is not the infected critt

 Maybe it is early to start talking about the EMO—the international machine tool show taking place in Hanover, Germany, beginning September 12. But if you are prepared to ignore the hype about "foot-and-mouth" disease and come to the EMO, you will be in for a big surprise. Our main concern is not the infected critters, but when will users decide they have enough CNC lathes? And when will the company mergers slow down? There is no sign yet of any slackening in the pace of mergers and acquisitions.

Tornos Bechler in Moutier, Switzerland, which was part of the German Rothenberger group, has been independent for a couple of years. Rothenberger, part of the Pittler Group, had teamed up Tornos Bechler with Wirth & Gruffat and other builders of CNC automatics, CNC sliding head automatics, front-loading chuckers and multi-spindle automatics. Now, there are very few machine tool interests left with the Rothenberger family.

Tornos Bechler renamed itself "Tornos" this year and went public. Trading began on the main board of the SWX Swiss exchange on March 13, 2001. The Swiss company has enjoyed an average growth increase of 23 percent over the last 4 years. Two-thirds of its machines' output is being bought by the electronics and automotive industries. It appears to be the "bells-and-whistles" markets (airbags, connectors for mobile phones and so on) that are generating demand for CNC automatics.

Tornos' sales went up from $170 million to $218 million during 2000. The company gained employees and raised average sales per employee.

Pittler, which builds vertical turning lathes (VTLs) and pick-up spindle VTLs, is now part-owned by a European industrialist believed to have interests in CNC lathe builder Emco-Maier.

Meanwhile, the DMG (Deckel Maho Gildemeister) Group has re-acquired GITAL—or Gildemeister Italiana. The acquisition made a significant impact on the DMG Group's fortunes, as GITAL had achieved considerable market success with its latest CNC production lathe designs.

The acquisition lifted the DMG Group into one of the world's top five machine tool producers. The group, with the re-acquisition of GITAL, shipped 5,613 CNC turning, milling and laser-working machines (up by 41 percent over 1999) from January to December 2000. Forecast for 2001 is for more than 6,700 units. Orders for 2000 were up 56 percent from 1999 at $1.2 billion. Profit stood at around $43 million. The group projects a turnover of $1.9 billion for 2001. Particularly strong demand for CNC turning was reported from Europe's automotive industry suppliers.

There is an interesting production turning development that parallels the market trends in machining centers. The automotive and aerospace OEMs have been continually turning the screw on sub-assembly, "module" and component prices. Contract machine shops and machining divisions of the Tier 1-Tier 3 automotive suppliers in Europe eagerly grasped the opportunity to buy low-cost and sometimes-questionable-quality CNC machining centers to shorten factory lead times.

Over the last 20 years, as intensive shift-operation developed, these machines were required to run 7 days a week for two or three shifts, and they began to wear out. So did the second round of machine tool purchases. At the same time, hard turning came in. Hard turning—which can eliminate cylindrical grinding—requires a tough machine, tougher chucks and collets and a well-designed main spindle and turret. The machines must be able to absorb vibration if grinding-quality surface finishes are desired.

Consequently, job shop market preferences are shifting over to the higher quality production lathes, which Citizen, Gildemeister, Index-Werke, Mori Seiki, Okuma, Tornos, Traub and other high-quality machine builders make.

So, don't believe all you hear about Europe. Come to the EMO. You will be surprised.