Prepared for Ligna

12 April 2019

In February, the organisers of the world's largest woodworking show, Ligna, held a press preview meeting in Hannover, Germany. Mike Botting was there to bring this report

Representing the global wood industry's press, invited delegates from 25 countries including Japan, Australia, Brazil and Canada, to name but a few, attended a dinner and meeting in the exhibition grounds where Ligna will be held between the 27th and 31st of May 2019.

The themes of the exhibition were explained in a formal session and delegates then had plenty of time to visit the stands of over 30 exhibitors who were previewing what they will be showing at the exhibition. Of course, not all exhibitors were relevant to the wood based panel sector, but several were, covering machining to finishing of panel products.

Over 1500 companies, coming from more than 50 countries, have booked space in the Hannover fairgrounds for this major exhibition, which covers forestry to finished wood products – and everything in between!

For the formal part of the day, Dr Andreas Gruchow, a member of the managing board of Deutsche Messe AG, opened proceedings with an introduction to Ligna 2019.

"I keep hearing that the [traditional] trade show will be replaced by a digital process," he said. "This is not so. Shows are still held in a physical sense, globally, and, according to a recent survey, are still by far the most popular way of networking and learning about new products, trends, etc.

"Ligna is unique in the range covered when compared with other leading trade shows," he continued. "For instance, many machines will be in action and this is also a unique feature of Ligna. Also, the digitalisation of connecting machines [to each other] will be shown.

"There is also the matter of sustainability," said Dr Gruchow. "Imagine a potential buyer visits 10 different companies around the world to choose a product. Ligna offers everything in one place; and that is true sustainability. This is the only event covering the whole process chain from wood to furniture, for example."

With regard to the number of exhibitors, Dr Gruchow said that registrations were still coming in [in February] but that there would be 1500 exhibitors in 2019. He pointed out that there had been a large number of mergers and takeovers in the last two years, so to have the same number of exhibitors as in 2017 is a good achievement. The display area for this year has also been increased over 2017, to 130,000m3, net.

Exhibitors from Serbia, Malaysia and some other countries are also exhibiting this year for the first time.

Meanwhile, the layout of the whole exhibition was changed for 2017, to what Dr Gruchow called a "more logical" system and this will be mostly unchanged for 2019.

The wood based panel production machinery will be located in Hall 26, while Surface Technologies will be in Halls 16 and 17. That latter category has seen significant growth in recent years, said the speaker.

The Focus Topics for this year's show will be:

  • Integrated woodworking with customised Solutions
  • Smart Surface Technology
  • Access to Resources & Technology

In terms of visitors, 2017 saw 93,000, with 42,000 of those coming from outside Germany. "Thus Ligna is a truly international event," said Dr Gruchow, adding that only high-calibre people will travel long distances to exhibitions.

The next speaker was Pekka Paasivaara, chairman of the VDMA, the German Woodworking Machinery Association. He is also chairman of woodworking machinery group Homag Group AG and a member of the board of Dürr AG.

Mr Paasivaara said that he expected a moderate slowdown in GDP in the main global markets this year, while India becomes more and more industrialised.

He said that primary woodworking machinery includes wood based panels and sawmills and has a €4.5bn global market volume.

Secondary woodworking machinery, such as that for the furniture industry, wooden components industry, and carpenters and joiners, has a global market volume of some €8.5bn, he said.

Mr Paasivaara went on to say: "The German woodworking machinery sector is globally active, with a strong home market and a production of €3.4bn. Exports amount to €2.4bn, representing a global market share of 28%. The industry hit a record year in 2018 and is seeing stable demand for 2019. There may be scope for growth in exports to Italy," said the speaker.

"Meanwhile, we have seen simultaneous record export growth to China and the USA and the USA [market] is still growing.

"Looking at trends for the machinery industry, we see consolidation and cooperation in the industry continuing, while the demand for customised machines is increasing. Digitalisation is driving demand for IT/software employees and there are more and more business-to-business platforms and MES/ERP [Manufacturing execution Systems/Enterprise Resource Planning systems].

"The challenge comes from incompatible interfaces and the solution to that is OPC UA, or Open Platform Communications - Unified Architecture," concluded Mr Paasivaara. Dr Sebastian Bächer, ceo of Bächer Bergmann GmbH talked about "digitalisation in practice" and bridging the gap between tradition and modernity. Mr Bächer began his working life as an apprentice in woodworking, then moved on to computerisation of manufacturing, giving him a good insight into this bridging philosophy.

"Digitalisation is unstoppable and is fundamentally transforming the woodworking trades," he said. "Business owners now need to confront the question of what this development means for their operations.

"Joiners, in particular, feel challenged by the digital transformation and many struggle with the introduction of digital technologies into work environments that are steeped in tradition.

"Dealing with this dilemma requires a new mindset. Ideally, joiners will come to accept the PC not as competition, but as just another tool at their disposal."

It would seem that this advice does not just apply to the traditional handworking trades.

The Wood Industry Summit will take place at Ligna for the third time. It will be staged in Hall 26 and themed "Access to resources and technology".

Organised by Deutsche Messe, the organiser of Ligna, and the German Forestry Council (KWF), it will comprise a forum, lounge and exhibition area.

The Ligna.Forum will be a presentation forum in Hall 11 to provide in-depth coverage of the key Ligna focus themes, as well as topical issues relevant to the secondary processing sector.

This article gives you an idea of what to expect at Ligna 2019, but, of course, the only way to really appreciate this world-class exhibition is to be there in person. Just bring a comfortable pair of walking shoes – and an open mind.

Entrance to the Ligna Preview Press Conference
Andreas Gruchow
Anja Brokjans
Sebastian B├Ącher
Pekka Paasivaara
A red carpet welcome for the world's press!
The press meets some of the exhibitors