AMT: 2021 Was Best Year Ever for Machine Tool Orders

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MCLEAN, VA — Orders of manufacturing technology surpassed $5.9 billion in 2021, marking the best year ever, according to the latest U.S. Manufacturing Technology Orders Report published by the Association For Manufacturing Technology (AMT). December 2021 orders were just shy of the $600 million mark, a 6.5 percent decrease from November 2021 and a 33 percent increase over December 2020. August to December 2021 was the first five-month stretch of orders exceeding $500 million, which helped to end the year 55 percent above the 2020 annual total of $3.8 billion.

“After five straight months of historically high orders, it is difficult to describe 2021 as anything other than exceptional,” said Douglas K. Woods, president of AMT. “Since 1998 one-quarter of all months exceeding $500 million are now in 2021.”

“Throughout 2021, industries and products that were not typically industry drivers saw renewed activity,” said Woods. Residential housing starts reached levels not seen since prior to the 2008 financial crisis, and increased consumer demand for durable goods required additional capacity throughout the manufacturing industry. Grinding machines, which are required to manufacture drill bits and other tools needed in construction and manufacturing, saw outsized demand through 2021. 

“In addition to demand from changing consumer behavior, reshoring and supply-chain diversification drove demand for manufacturing technology orders in December,” said Woods. “Products that were typically manufactured overseas were often subjected to shipping delays, crowded ports, or factory-wide shutdowns to prevent the spread of COVID-19.” In addition to mold and die manufacturers, increased orders from metal valve manufacturers as well as hardware, spring, and wire manufacturers can be attributed to the need to overcome supply-chain hurdles and domestic capacity constraints.

December 2021 saw particularly large demand from engine, turbine, and power transmission manufacturers. This demand stemmed from renewed interest in smaller generators, possibly in response to the power disruptions experienced throughout the year, as well as larger natural gas generators to add general capacity to the grid.

“While forecasts still call for optimism in 2022, we do expect to see some pullback in the first few months of the year,” said Woods. “Expanded backlogs, shortages of key components, and unfilled positions will hamper our strong growth rates of late 2021 but will smooth as the year progresses. Economists and industry analysts are anticipating a modest, single-digit increase in orders for 2022, barring any major geopolitical turmoil.”

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