By  Hubert Sawicki, AMT Central Europe Representative

The largest market for manufacturing technology in Eastern Europe, Russia, annually absorbs $1.5 - 1.8 billion in imports of machine tools and equipment. The political climate notwithstanding, trade with Russia has become more complicated in recent years for several other reasons. One is the decline in foreign investments in Russia, hampering technology investment. Another is that Russia attempts to encourage foreigners to manufacture in Russia, adding more bureaucracy into the already congested and financially restrained import procurement process.

Western Europe is well-served by the presence of local manufacturers and the market is highly competitive. However, in Central Europe, only the Czech Republic has a strong machine tool industry and, to a lesser extent, Poland and Bulgaria. Otherwise the region must depend on imported technology. Albeit fragmented, together with Turkey (strong in metal forming), Central Europe represents a market of $3.5 - $4 billion per year. U.S. suppliers have made some progress but there is more to gain.

Let’s discuss the most promising industries.

Aerospace
In Poland, there are nearly 120 manufacturers of subassemblies and intricate components such as pumps, gearboxes, undercarriage systems, and even complete engines. Most of these manufacturers form a multi-billion dollar aerospace cluster, represented by the Aviation Valley Association. There is a very strong U.S. presence in this Polish sector: large factories by Goodrich, Hamilton, Pratt and Whitney (several factories) for UTC, Sikorsky for Lockheed Martin (complete Black Hawk helicopters). Vital parts are made for Boeing, which also has a R&D center. 

There are also nearly 60 Czech aerospace manufacturers supporting Bell Helicopters, Boeing, and Sikorsky. GE Aviation has established a turboprop center of excellence and also makes engine parts, and Honeywell has a technology center and two manufacturing sites. Both countries produce light aircraft, and Poland makes helicopters. In Romania, there are several specialized factories, a few involved in subcontracting for Boeing, GE Aviation and Sikorsky as well. This sector needs high-technology machine tools, top-cutting tools, measuring instruments/machines, and advanced welding. The center of the Polish cluster, the city of Rzeszow, will hold an International Aerospace and Defense meeting, where these industries and their requirements will be discussed and reviewed.

Automotive
Most Central European countries have been involved in automotive manufacturing for many years with annual volume around three million vehicles, as well as automotive components. U.S. technology suppliers face a challenging market, as after the GM withdrawal from Europe, the only U.S. car producer in the region is Ford (in Poland, Romania, and Turkey). However, Central Europe, especially Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary, have hundreds of manufacturers of automotive components, cumulatively a multi-billion business for home and export. Many are from the United States, such as Delphi (eight manufacturing sites in Poland alone, as well as the Czech Republic and Slovakia). Other U.S. manufacturers include American Axle, Borg Warner, Federal Mogul, Eaton, Grammer, Hutchinson, Johnson Controls, Lear, Magna, Tenneco, and TRW. Procurement in the region looks for the best deal, irrespective of the country of origin.

Transport
All Central European countries have good railway networks, and some of them (Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary) manufacture very good railway systems. With rapidly improving road infrastructure, road transport is growing by the day. Consumer and commercial internet retail is on the rise and nearly everything can be home/office delivered. Airports have been modernized and are growing in numbers. All this, old and new, requires maintenance, and service depots are natural users of machine tools and other equipment. 

General and precision engineering
All countries of Central Europe are known for their engineering capabilities. The strongest in precision mechanical, electric, and electronic sectors are the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia. Romania and Bulgaria are known more for their agricultural products.

Job shops and contract machining
Because of the economic transformation (plant closures and relocations) over the last two decades, much of the skilled Central European industrial factory workforce moved to establish repair workshops, job shops, and small factories. Many of these businesses have survived and have become respectable parts manufacturers in need of modern manufacturing technology. 

Those are the main growth industry segments and, as you can see, there is tremendous opportunity for U.S. suppliers. AMT Europe is here to assist you in providing information on local sales leads, finding good local representation, and sourcing proper service support. 

Contact me about topics related to the Central and Eastern European markets at hsawicki@AMTonline.org.