Hardinge Grinding Vice President and Kellenberger Grinding Machines CEO Urs Baumgartner (left), Fives Machining Systems Inc. President and CEO Steven Thiry, Index Corp. President and CEO Tom Clark, DMG MORI Executive Board Member Björn Biermann, and Mitsui Seiki USA CEO Robb Hudson (right).

During the EMO Hannover 2017 trade show – an event that drew more than 2,200 manufacturing technology exhibitors and 130,000 attendees – Kennametal and GIE Media, parent company of Today’s Medical Developments, gathered leaders of machine tool companies to discuss 2018’s outlook and Industry 4.0.


What is the biggest challenge facing the global economy?


There’s a lot of turmoil in the world right now. Some of it creates opportunity. Some of it creates problems.

Trump is sometimes a little bit misunderstood.

We look at him a little more like a businessman than a politician. So, his bite is sometimes a little softer than his bark. And I think we’re coming to realize this. He’s added a lot of apprehension in the world that I don’t think has been good in the short term, but if we’re able to pass some of the legislation that he believes in – the tax cuts for instance – it could be very good for the U.S. economy and create quite a bit of stimulus.”

Mazak Corp. Chairman Brian Papke

What markets look good for 2018?

“We’re seeing a lot of growth in medical markets and the aerospace side, not only in overall production but in the need to increase productivity.

If you see confidence building to invest and make a long-term commitment, then one of the biggest challenges is uncertainty. When you look at our customers buying an expensive piece of machinery, they need to have confidence three and five years from now that they can fill that machine.

What we’ve seen over the last six months is a renewed confidence that there’s going to be a business-friendly climate going forward.”

— Index Corp. President and CEO Tom Clark

Has the outlook for Europe changed?

“Our expectation for Europe was that there were larger risks than what we are seeing currently. Because there have been so many elections like France, the Netherlands, and Germany, there was a risk that the European Union itself would break up, and this would have a negative impact for customer demand for the entire European Union. But currently, there’s no concern that the European Union market won’t be stable.

— DMG MORI Exec. Board Member Björn Biermann

What trends are shaping 2018 outlooks?

“I think we will see good business in terms of euros or dollars, but when we count the number of new spindles in the next few years, I think we will see a tremendous drop. We have all told the world that we sell flexible equipment, and with the product changes ahead of them and the uncertainty of what’s coming, they will reuse and redeploy existing spindles. There will be a lot of work in engineering and applications, but not for our companies to build new machines.”

— Heller Group COO Manfred Maier

Responding to Maier’s comments:

“Many of our machine tools that were put into the market 10 or 12 years ago, we are repurposing with newer technology to where their output is 15% to 20% more than when they were new. That’s a very different change in the industry compared to many years ago, when you rebuilt a piece of equipment, you brought it back to new. Today, we bring it back to beyond new because of new technologies.”

Fives Machining Systems Inc. President and CEO Steven Thiry

WFL Millturn Technologies Board of Management Member Guenter Mayr (left), Heller Group COO Manfred Maier, Starrag Group Vice Chairman Frank Brinken, and Mazak Corp. Chairman Brian Papke (right).

Industry 4.0

What are the challenges in connecting machines?

“First, you have to get your processes in order, then think about digitization. If you digitize a messy process, you get a bigger mess.

Will there be a worldwide standard? Or will it be like controls – a handful of large companies with their own systems?

If you have a big company and you have everything – milling, additive, turning, grinding – it’s fine. You might have a homogenous fleet of machines.

But customers want to have the optimum milling machine, the optimum grinding machine for the application, so they will have a mix of different machine tool builders on the shop floor. And then, you want to interconnect these machines? Good luck.

— Starrag Group Vice Chairman Frank Brinken

Responding to Brinken:

“Big, global, international companies are interested in data collection.

Small companies are not interested at all. Some of them have a certain fear that they may have to pass their data to their customers at the bigger companies.

As to standardization, we’re working with our biggest competitor, United Grinding, to design standards. That’s the way to develop an interface between the machine and the management information systems.”

— Hardinge Grinding Vice President & Kellenberger Grinding Machines CEO Urs Baumgartner

Whose responsibility is it to standardize equipment to ease connectivity?

“We have big companies that have started their own solutions, and we have a lot of smaller machine tool builders who will never develop their own solutions.

We need companies in the control business – Siemens and Fanuc – to drive this process.

It makes sense to collect the data. I worked for many years in the maintenance department, on the other side from the machine tool builders. With warranty claims, 90% of the claims were failures of workers. So, it makes sense for machine tool builders to collect this data, to understand where problems are coming from.

— WFL Millturn Technologies Board of Management Member Guenter Mayr

Responding to Myer:

“We’re all facing skills gaps, and we’re complicating the manufacturing processes by introducing a lot of this data collection. We’re facing fewer and fewer capable people at our customer sites who are able to act on the data they’re collecting and make sense of it.

It should fall more to the industrial control suppliers – Fanuc, Siemens – to help us standardize. Because if we rely upon our customers – with the skills gap that we’re facing – we’re going to end up creating some severe bottlenecks in manufacturing.

And instead of our customers enjoying increased spindle uptime and productivity, it’s going to drive it in the other direction.”

— Mitsui Seiki USA CEO Robb Hudson