By Mike Wilson

Franz-Josef Bütfering, president of Eumabois, discusses the depreciation of the dollar, emerging industry hubs and the effect of the green movement on machinery offerings.

The global woodworking market is shifting, with Euros outpacing U.S. dollars and new building projects driving demand in emerging national economies. Shortages of raw materials and energy in some regions, due to increased consumption, and advancements in machine technology are also pushing changes for woodworkers involved in both domestic and international trade.

These factors are forcing manufacturers of woodworking equipment, tooling and components to develop technology to meet changing client needs. One of the biggest organizations of these companies is Eumabois, which represents about 800 companies within 12 European associations that manufacture 56 percent of the world’s woodworking equipment, according to its Web site. Companies within the federation include manufacturers of equipment for primary and secondary wood processing, as well as tool, component and numerical control manufacturers.

Franz-Josef Bütfering of the German association VDMA was named president of Eumabois for the 2007-2010 triennial. ISWonline recently caught up with Bütfering to ask him about how the exchange rate is affecting European machinery sales and the effect of globalization on the industry as a whole. He also discussed emerging woodworking industry hubs and the green movement’s effect on European machinery offerings.

ISWonline: As the Euro continues to outpace the American dollar, is U.S. demand for European machinery dropping due to dollar devaluation? What actions are Eumabois and its members taking to respond to the current Dollar/Euro ratio?

Bütfering: Without a doubt, the depreciation of the dollar against the Euro will lead to fewer exports to dollar-area countries. Some of these countries, however, are being driven by strong economic growth and we will see the effects of this shortly.

Wood technology is needed for infrastructure, for furniture, for homes, and it is fundamental for tourism development. If these markets become stagnant, countries would face substantial economic paralysis. In short, our machinery is needed as an economic stimulus. It will therefore be one of the last commodities to be affected.

Moreover, we can also rely on the great technology of European companies. If you want to equip your business with a safe, modern, best price / performance ratio, highly professional piece of machinery, you will inevitably have to turn to European technology.

All of our members who are exporting to the United States work hard on different programs to assist their U.S. importers and to help their U.S. customers.

ISWonline: Eumabois recently added to its list of sponsored trade shows and now includes events in Brazil, Mexico, Dubai and India. Is this in response to sales growth in those countries? How quickly are the woodworking industries in these areas growing, and where are you seeing the steepest increases in machinery demand?

Bütfering: The calendar of trade fairs supported by Eumabois is continually growing and now includes countries that have undergone recent expansion in which wood technology has a role to play.

Central and South America, Mexico and Brazil are importing more and more in our field, and consequently planning the trade fair calendar becomes increasingly important. In Brazil we are steering exhibitors and visitors towards the largest sector trade fairs in Sao Paolo and Bento Goncalves, while in Mexico we have chosen the oldest and best known trade fair (ExpoPromueble).

India, which now has double digit GDP growth, deserves an event in the north to bring technology to the craftsmen and the industry in that area. The South already has Indiawood, a well-established trade fair, which at the end of February once again doubled the number of exhibitors and visitors attending, so Delhiwood will be launched in February 2009.

The eyes of the world are on spectacular Dubai with its ultramodern buildings and futuristic developments, and here we have the Woodshow in Dubai. As these countries continue to grow, Eumabois must be flexible in what it does and follow their evolution.

ISWonline: What is driving demand in these markets? Do you anticipate growth for woodworking industries in any other geographic areas worldwide?

Bütfering: Demand is driven by the building industry boom that implicates the need for wood for construction, doors, windows and flooring. Homes and hotels must also be furnished, and here furniture, together with the machines and technology needed to produce it, comes into play.

Regarding the European companies there is also a big focus on East Europe, parts of Africa and especially Asia besides China and India other countries like Vietnam, where we notice strong    demand for European technology.

ISWonline: Is the green movement increasing requests for machines that reduce waste and improve energy efficiency? What kinds of innovations do you see down the road that will improve these capabilities?

Bütfering: Due to increasing wood shortage in some regions and rising energy costs, energy saving, wood yield optimization and waste reduction are subjects that all industries must tackle. Research into wood technology also should be able to provide results in this field. Competition will depend on whether the technology offered provides these possibilities or not, although cost will obviously always be an important factor.

Besides that, we as Eumabois try to bring the matter “wood” more and more in the public’s view. Forests are, besides oceans, the biggest carbon sinks in the world; deforestation or natural catastrophes lead to emission of CO2. We need more sustainable forest management schemes in the emerging markets and generally, we need to use more wood instead of materials, whose production needs more ending energy. Our customers work with one of the most beautiful materials of the world, which – if we do it right – helps to reduce the emission of carbon dioxide.

ISWonline: What are other innovations in European machinery that you expect to have a major impact on the U.S. woodworking industry?

Bütfering: At the last shows at Ligna and in Las Vegas, European companies showed a lot of innovations for the U.S. woodworking industry. Innovations for solid wood, finishing, many ideas for the U.S. home building industry… the innovations affect almost every part of the business.

ISWonline: What are some of the biggest changes you have seen during your time in the woodworking industry? Do you foresee any major changes on the horizon for the industry worldwide?

Bütfering: I’ve been in the business since 1988 and I have noticed a lot of changes in that time. One of the biggest changes is globalization and its effect toward our overall business.

Years ago a journey to China or India was a big trip and an unknown adventure. Nowadays I’ll meet some of my colleagues every second week in Dubai or Bangalore, the next day I’ll be in Milan and then I’ll go to Moscow. Globalization was a big profit for the European woodworking machinery manufacturers in the last few years – and it will be the big challenge for our industry in the future.

ISWonline: What major goals do you have for Eumabois?

Bütfering: Eumabois has many goals for the future in many fields, from technical to marketing to purely commercial. We must make European companies more coherent and identify things that can be done to benefit everyone. Harmonizing safety regulations can only be of help, just as common research in the various technical sectors will help the European industry improve further.

We do not yet see competition from Asian countries as a real threat for our exports, but it may well be in the future. Our aim is to always stay one step ahead, in research, in technology and in after-sales services for users.

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