Challenging Conditions Productivity of tool and mould makers in Germany, Austria and Switzerland at a low level
Germany — With the Marktspiegel Werkzeugbau, tool, model and mould makers as well as series producers from German-speaking countries are analysed annually. According to the latest survey, productive machine running time still has a lot of room for improvement.
The tool, model and mould making industry is changing and continues to be under enormous pressure. Orders are scarce, payment is poor and liquidity problems are a common topic of concern in the market. The only question is how these precarious conditions affect the productivity of the companies. In order to ensure the competitiveness of German-speaking tool, model and mould makers as well as series manufacturers, Marktspiegel Werkzeugbau conducts an anonymous company comparison across the industry.
The latest evaluation from the year 2021 looks at the business year 2020, which is the first year in which the Covid pandemic has had a significant influence on the development of the industry. According to this company analysis, the average productive machine running time in the industry is currently only around 1,800 hours. Compared to the previous year, this is a decrease of ten percent. Jens Lüdtke is a board member and expert in the analysis field of production, organisation, processes and strategy at Marktspiegel Werkzeugbau. For him, the decline can be explained by the general market situation in connection with Corona. “There was simply less work on the market,” clarifies Lüdtke. “In total — and this also applies to the previous year — the value is much too low.” Because each machine is theoretically available for 8,760 hours a year, the key figure shows a machine utilisation of just 20 percent. Many machines are idle most of the time. The potential in the companies is therefore immense.
Low utilisation on too many machines
According to the expert's observation, a large part of the companies often use too many production machines. There is an urgent need for action here. “If you utilise fewer machines better, you can achieve higher effectiveness and productivity and earn lower machine hourly rates,” explains Lüdtke. “You have to be aware that the more machine capacities companies maintain, the more complex the processes in day-to-day business become.” Entrepreneurs should therefore ask themselves whether each of the available machines is actually needed. Or whether it might make more sense to reduce the machine park step by step and focus on achieving the highest possible productivity with as few machines as possible. “This creates so much clarity and so much transparency,” Lüdtke knows. “Many may not think that is possible.”
Still too few unmanned machine running times
The need for action is also evident in the unchanged high proportion of operators on the machines. This amounts to 75 percent among the MW member companies. For Lüdtke, this is a very high figure. “Conversely, in many companies in the industry, only 25 percent work unmanned,” explains the expert. “With a view to an increasingly higher number of automated machines and digitally integrated process chains, there is also enormous potential here. Certainly, this value is also a consequence of the fact that, on average, there is too much manufacturing equipment in the factories.”
Personnel expenditure has improved slightly
The next key figure that should be used to assess the productivity of a company is the average personnel expenditure to generate one spindle hour. This amounts to 1.3 hours in the market mirror. This looks at how much manpower must be spent on machine operation, programming and planning in order to generate a productive spindle hour. Compared to the previous year, the expenditure has dropped by about seven percent. For Lüdtke, this is a silver lining and certainly a consequence of advancing digitalisation. He says: “If companies now manage to improve their machine productivity and unmanned running times, this key figure will make a significant leap downwards.” Starting points besides productivity and unmanned times are the introduction or establishment of standards and automatisms in order to reduce the programming effort and to benefit from higher process reliability."
Degree of automation correlates with company success
Speaking of automation. They seem to be a central element in the strategy development of a successful and productive company. Because according to the Marktspiegel Werkzeugbau, the five best companies have a degree of automation that is around 58 percent higher than the MW industry average.
Digitalisation and automation are therefore important topics that entrepreneurs should continue to work on. For Lüdtke, however, many companies still lack the relevant basic processes. They have to be established in order to be able to automate and standardise in a meaningful way. “Under other market conditions, I would call for immediate action in digitalisation and automation,” the expert explains. However, because such investments are associated with costs and must fit with the company's development, Lüdtke rather advocates avoiding actionism. “Everything that happens should happen in a targeted and controlled manner. That's what matters, no matter what economic or political factors affect the industry.”
Low productivity as a result of poor order situation
Lüdtke sees the companies' continued very low level of productivity as a result of the difficult market situation in 2020. “Many companies were not working to capacity because there were hardly any orders. Consequently, the machines ran much less productively,” says the industry expert. There were liquidity bottlenecks and finally some companies were on the verge of insolvency. Lüdtke understands that entrepreneurs lack the time in such phases to work on basic issues, optimise processes and improve productivity. Nevertheless, one should be careful not to fall into a vicious circle. ´“An emergency situation is always a driver for change,” explains Lüdtke. “That's why we have to see the current situation as an opportunity. We should use the time and become active so that we can remain competitive and make the companies as a whole more fit for the future.”