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Asia’s toolmakers are on the rise, but should you fear them?

Much has been said about the threat Asian tool and mould makers pose to European shops. Even though rising demands for quality are having an adverse effect on the region’s ability to compete with companies here, concerns still loom large.

When ‘Europe’ is not Europe, and ‘Asia’ not Asia

The German tool and mould making association VDWF said one needs to consider that different countries in Europe and Asia have different toolmaking industries and abilities. For example, Germany lacks the same level of tooling exports as other countries in Europe, such as Portugal, primarily due to its large domestic economy. While the size of its home market and the country’s legal and logistical systems offer advantages, the cosy environment may also be hampering shops from looking outward. “The question is: What do we have to do to gain a foothold on the world market, especially in Asia?”
The threat from Asia may not be critical at the moment, but it remains a serious concern. The VDWF said to compete, shops in Germany have to continue to improve and secure quality, increase their automation, improve processes and use networks to fill larger contracts because “customers don’t want to deal with a bunch of small companies, they just want the product”. In this light, allying shops in Germany has become vital for the industry’s future: “A co-operation among toolmakers will be increasingly important and, as a final consequence, existential.”
This idea of banding together extends well past German borders. When asked what European shops could do to secure their business futures, Janez Poje, the head of Istma Europe, said: “I think that a new decade has started, and many changes will follow. The need for networking and close co-operation will probably become more important, as will know-how development due to the fact that many new materials with new properties are being launched and need to be fabricated. I think companies should work and co-operate with academic institutions to engage ‘advanced’ solutions.


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