Global Outlook for Mold Manufacturing

Tool and die/precision machining industry trends are amazingly uniform worldwide. Business is tough almost everywhere, but getting better.


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The tool and die industry conditions in most of the developed and developing countries are surprisingly similar to those in the U.S. and Canada. At the ISTMA (International Special Tooling & Machining Association) 2005 Board Meeting, held in Melbourne, Australia this past June, each country reported the status of its market, focusing primarily on tool and die, and secondarily on precision machining.

The consistent message from almost all of the developed countries and many of the developing countries was:

  • Manufacturing is not appreciated.
  • A shortage of skilled workers.
  • Volume had fallen off and has recovered the last one to two years.
  • Profits are down.
  • Competition from China.

(Separate reports from China also show some similarities, with skilled labor shortages, margin shrinkage and a need to increase prices to cover rising costs.)

As an example of the commonality of market conditions, see the report on Hungary. Except for the reference to Germany, the reported conditions are almost identical to what is being said in the U.S., even though wages in Hungary are approximately 35 percent of the U.S. level.

This pattern is positive. We know that our industry is essential and will survive and, in fact, continue to grow as the world economy grows. Almost all countries face similar problems. Since all will not collapse, there will be economic adjustments, such as in product pricing, currencies, etc., so that the industry will survive and prosper. Far better to know that we are all in the same boat than to find that the U.S. and Canada are in a uniquely difficult position.



Specific reports from the represented countries in North and South America, Europe and Asia follow.

North America


  • Pretty busy
  • Margin off
  • Trend 2005 versus 2004:
    • Tool & Die +8%
    • Molds +8%
    • Special Machines +15%
    • Precision Machining +13%
    • Aerospace +14%



  • 80% located in southern Ontario
  • Impacted by strong Canadian dollar and globalization
  • Western provinces expanding with aerospace, oil, gas and mining
  • Shortage of highly skilled people
  • Ontario announced corporate tax credit of $15,000 per apprentice over three years


South America


  • Busy



  • Output +60% in 10 years, versus +20% for overall industry
  • Last two years a total 3 to 4% decline
  • Dependent on the automotive industry
  • 2004 exporting to:
    • 1st Switzerland
    • 2nd USA
    • 3rd Czech Republic
    • 9th China
  • 2004 production
    1. Dies 4.2 billion Euro
    2. Injection molds 1.6 billion Euro
    3. Die cast dies 0.2 billion Euro


  • Similar to Germany
  • Slowdown started 1Q05
  • Capacity utilization = 87.9%
  • Turnover equals 459.6 million Euro
  • Export ratio: 78.2%
  • Exports to the U.S.: up 4.3%
  • Number of companies: 510
  • Margins down


  • Business conditions generally rated good
  • Losing business due to large companies shifting to Eastern Europe and Far East
  • Keen price competition from China

Great Britain

  • Output and orders slow
  • Margins under pressure
  • Domestic market for dies and molds equals 450 million 52.9 million export
  • Insufficient number of apprentices
  • Fighting for better government support


  • Mold industry margins eroding
  • 11% of production is consumed domestically
  • Exported 335 million Euro, up slightly
  • French market up, U.S. market down from 3rd to 5th
  • Competitive in niche markets for highly complex molds


  • Mold production = 1 billion Euro
  • Employees 9,000
  • 1/3 Exports, 1/3 Imports
  • Business better the last six months


  • OEMs moving to emerging countries
  • Trading companies offering tools from emerging countries
  • Exports: dies off, molds steady
  • Imports: dies up 69%


  • Year-to-date: +20%
  • Backlog: two to three months
  • Russia: market strong/becoming the major trading partner
  • Hard to be profitable
  • Mainly selling to domestic customers
  • Skilled labor available but not in the needed locations

Czech Republic

  • Dependent on automotive sector
  • Generally reduced interest in technical jobs. Most recently moderate improvements due to ease of finding jobs and high average earnings


  • Sales equals 121 million Euro
  • Export = 72 million Euro


  • Lack of understanding of our industry. Concerned about: tax, regulations, energy costs, etc.
  • Currently healthy, but expecting slow-down due to stagnation in Germany, especially in the auto industry
  • Cost going up and increasingly tough competition from China
  • Companies that are busy are typically specialists/experts in the field
  • Severe reduction in the number of apprentices
  • Loss of skilled workers due to retirement
  • Need government incentives to invest and train


  • Going quite well
  • All companies rating business conditions good or at least fair
  • Average order backlog 11 weeks
  • Sales up 10% versus '04



  • Production down over the last several years, but up 20% in the last year
  • Auto and electrical up
  • Expect continued improvement


  • Auto industry up
  • Electronics off
  • Profits up


  • 650 member companies
  • #8 in the world by value
  • Tool and mold production = 56 billion Taiwanese Dollars (approx. 1.8 billion US$)


  • Tooling strong
  • Auto parts export booming
  • Organization of the industry 
  • Captive toolrooms in larger companies 600+
  • Captive toolrooms in smaller companies 6,500+
  • Independent commercial toolrooms, well organized 770+
  • Training/educational institutes 50+
  • Strategic partnerships with European and North American companies
  • Increased aeronautical industry
  • 2004/05 Production

Category $BUS
Dies $2.0
Molds $2.3
Die Cast Dies $1.0
Forging Dies $0.9


  • Toolmaker shortage due to fewer apprenticeships. Recruiting overseas.


“The organization was originally founded to provide an international networking mechanism for the tooling industry and to provide a forum for discussion of industry concerns and challenges,” notes ISTMA General Manager Tom Garcia, who manages and oversees ISTMA activities. “ISTMA provides an opportunity for member associations and their member countries to meet, network and potentially develop collaborative marketing relationships to help them compete in the global marketplace. The vision of the association is to evolve into a center of knowledge for the global tooling and machining industry.”