-- Joe Chang
CHAIRMAN OF TAIWAN WOODWORKING MACHINERY ASSOCIATION
I would like to extend my gratitude to the members, directors, and supervisors for their love and support, which have aided me in the chairman post. With the selfless dedication of Chairman Michael Chang, the association has laid a solid foundation. The association has also reached a higher ground with broadened horizons unlike any in the past.
COVID-19 in 2020 and 2021 has upended all normal routines in our lives on a global scale. On top of it, there was the U.S.-China trade war, and the United States began imposing a 25% tariff from 2018. Benefitting from the “Stay-At-Home Economy”, Taiwan’s woodworking machinery industry, Taiwan’s exports grew by 21.49% in 2020 compared to 2019, even reaching 26.8% growth in 2021. The export value reached USD903 million (equivalent to NTD25 billion), a record high.
That said, Taiwan’s woodworking machinery industry still faces great challenges, as follows:
China’s woodworking machinery has continued to strengthen and expand its equipment and market optimization. In addition, the major manufacturers in China are moving towards group-based operations with stronger global layouts, which have squeezed Taiwan woodworking machinery’s space required for survival. In 2008, China’s exports surpassed Taiwan to rank third; in 2020, China even surpassed Germany to become the world’s number one.
Export market ratios are heavily dependent on the United States: The weight accounted for 40% in 2015 and sharply rose to 63% in 2021, with DIY estimated at about two thirds, giving rise to hidden worries.
Regarding third-generation succession: the majority of Taiwan’s woodworking machinery manufacturers are small family businesses, with the X generation (1964~1980) comprised of the second generation. With the first generation’s dedicated efforts, succession has been less of an issue. On the other hand, the third generation comprised of the Y generation (1980~1990) or the Z generation (1990~2010) shows lack of interest in the manufacturing industry. In 2006, there were still 282 member companies under the association; by 2022, the number has decreased to 239, a pretty worrying figure.
The production equipment consists of mostly single machines, which generally lack the smart machinery element: It is a future trend to move towards smart machinery, smart lines, and smart factories. If manufacturers do not start deploying the layout and take part in it, they will eventually be limited or even eliminated by the market.
As a well-known Jurassic Park quote puts it, “Life finds a way”. Most woodworking machinery proprietors have the gene of “perseverance and fearlessness against adversity” in their blood. The members are also willing to help each other and share their experiences, which is an unprecedented rarity in other associations.
In the future, I will work closely with the directors and supervisors, render selfless service, and overcome problems with the members. The association’s future goals are clear: “industrial niche and value-added innovation”, “smart digital development and application”, “local talent selection and cultivation”, and “mutual support in industry-government-academia research collaboration”. Let Taiwan’s woodworking machinery industry continue to shine on the global stage!