VDMA Photovoltaic Equipment: Business Climate Gives Mixed Picture

VDMA Photovoltaic Equipment: Business Climate Gives Mixed Picture

Turnover forecast for 2014 positive despite current market weakness

The order situation for the manufacturers of components, machinery and equipment for photovoltaics in Germany continues to send positive signals at the end of the third quarter of 2014. According to the current business climate survey of the German Engineering Federation (VDMA) 52 percent of the companies report an improvement in their order situation compared to the same period last year. Approximately 46 percent report a similar level of incoming orders. Nevertheless the economic drive for photovoltaics machinery has significantly slowed down compared to the situation in spring. Accordingly the participating companies report an increase in turnover of only 17 percent for the current year. In spring the expectations had amounted to 27 percent.

“We had a great start into 2014. Turnover and incoming orders rose by 30 percent compared to last year. The tightening of anti-dumping levies on Chinese and Taiwanese solar products, however, has considerably slowed down the economic recovery of the industry,” explains Dr. Peter Fath, managing director of RCT Solutions GmbH and Chairman of VDMA Photovoltaic Equipment. However, positive signals come from the market of photovoltaic installations. Leading market researchers forecast PV installations of up to 50 GW this year and expect the announcement of investment in new fabs and production lines soon. “VDMA assumes that the gap between supply and demand will be closed by the end of 2014. This means increasing investment in modern equipment and technology at the beginning of 2015. From our point of view, the German PV machinery industry is optimally prepared for the emerging investment cycle,” explains Dr. Florian Wessendorf, managing director of VDMA Photovoltaik Equipment. Accordingly, the participating representatives of the industry expect an increase in turnover of more than 16 percent for the coming year.

Capacity utilization below plan, adjustments regarding the workforce

In addition to the low capacity utilization adjustments regarding the workforce are a consequence of the current market weakness. Thus, 53 percent of the companies report utilization below average. 43 of the reporting companies intend to reduce their personnel in the future. According to the companies’ reports Orders on hand settle at a level of 4.4 months at the end of the third quarter of 2014 – in comparison: the entire machinery industry in Germany could reach 5.7 months in the same period of time. In order to support their revenues the PV manufacturers focus on efficiency increase in production, logistics and personnel as well as on an increase of their own market share. Long-term investments to increase the competitiveness are made especially in research and development and in an increase in efficiency. “Although we feel a cooling of the market environment at the moment, we remain optimistic with regard to the future. All indicators suggest that the German PV machinery industry will keep its position as a driver for innovation and provider of solutions in photovoltaic production,” stresses Fath.  

Currently, approximately 100 VDMA member companies are active in the photovoltaic sector. The topic started in 2007 as a co-operation between the following VDMA divisions: Electronics Production (Productronics), Glass Technology, Energy, Organic Electronics, Robotics and Automation, Laser and Photonics, Surface Treatment, Vacuum Technology and Displays. With the foundation of the enlarged platform Photovoltaic Equipment on March 30, 2010, activities for members have been extended and the visibility of the industry has been increased.

The German Engineering Federation (VDMA) represents more than 3,100 companies in the engineering industry, many of which are small and medium sized enterprises. With about 1.001.000 employees (June 2014 ) all over Germany and a sales turnover of 205 billion Euros (2013) the industry is the biggest employer and one of the leading sectors of the German industry as a whole.

VDMA release
October 13, 2014

The Grid
December 15, 2014