Mechanical engineering is one of the largest industrial sectors in the EU economy in terms of number of enterprises, employment, production, and the generation of added value. The sector is characterised by relatively small family owned companies. The mechanical engineering industry is an excellent example of an EU sector that is performing well economically.
Importance of the mechanical engineering sector
- Some 3 million people are employed in the sector in the EU.
- Mechanical engineering is responsible for 9.5% of all the production in EU manufacturing industries.
- Europe is the world’s largest producer and exporter of machinery with an estimated 36% share of the world market.
- The European mechanical engineering sector is expected to grow at an annual average rate of 3.8% over the next 10 years.
Mechanical engineering firms are characterised by a relatively high manufacturing intensity. This is mainly explained by three factors:
- predominantly small-batch and single-item production
- high qualification requirements for staff in manufacturing departments
- large, relatively complex communication requirements between the manufacturing, engineering, and design departments.
Challenges faced by the sector
Due to increases in manufacturing capacities world-wide, improved innovation and research is vital to the competitiveness of the sector.
There is a strong demand from stakeholders for more effective market surveillance to protect businesses against unfair competition.
There is also a need for a stable, predictable, and coherent regulatory environment that embraces 'smart' principles and is as straightforward as possible. The 'New Approach' legislative technique (where legislation establishes essential requirements, with detailed technical solutions laid down in standards) is generally well-regarded, particularly in respect to innovation.
What the Commission is doing
The European Commission promotes the global and sustainable competitiveness of the mechanical engineering sector by taking the necessary actions to help it face challenges.
This includes the drafting of regulations regarding key aspects of the sector including Directives to harmonise standards in key areas such as:
- personal protective equipment (PPE)
- equipment for potentially explosive atmospheres (ATEX)
- cableway installations
- noise emissions from outdoor equipment
Supporting increased competitiveness
The competitiveness of the industry relies on excellent innovative products, and know-how and skills, as well as the ability to meet customer needs. The Commission’s activities aim to strengthen the competitiveness of the industry. This is important in order to maintain and expand the activities of these sectors, especially with regard to:
- the economic significance of the sector as a whole,
- the EU’s position compared to international competitors,
- the level of exports and the trade balance.
A study on the competitiveness of EU Mechanical Engineering, in 2012, contributed to the initiatives of the Commission in strengthening the performance of the sector by assessing any changes to its overall competitiveness.
The results of the study offer recommendations on organisation and industry structure; market regulation; financial and labour markets; the innovation environment; and access to third markets.
The Commission ensures that only safe and compliant products can be placed on the EU market. This is to protect consumers and professional users, and to guarantee a competitive single EU market.
To aid in this work, a conference on market surveillance and machinery was held in 2011. The event was attended by industry representatives, European national market surveillance and customs authorities, and others.
Links to other DGs
- Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion (EMPL)
- Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety (SANTE)
- Directorate-General for Energy (ENER)