The mechanical and plant engineering sector makes a major contribution to maintaining and expanding the competitiveness and efficiency of its customers and of North Rhine-Westphalia as an industrial location overall. It provides impetus and at the same time is an enabler for many other branches of industry. It plays a key role in driving forward the digitalization of user industries. In this way, the companies in the sector are a decisive pioneer for constant progress – especially when it comes to social issues. The focus is particularly on the conservation and efficient use of resources and energy, climate protection, nutrition and environmentally compatible mobility.
With about 190,000 employees in around 1,600 companies, mechanical engineering in North Rhine-Westphalia is the largest industrial employer in the state and generated sales of 46.6 billion euros in 2022, which corresponds to a real sales increase of 0.9 percent. The typical SME structure of the sector stands for a culture of independence and is emblematic of independent, free and creative entrepreneurship in Germany. Around 70 percent of companies in North Rhine-Westphalia employ fewer than 100 people, and 90 percent fewer than 250.
North Rhine-Westphalia is home to major world-class industrial companies as well as dozens of smaller “hidden champions” that are leaders in their fields of business.
NRW mechanical engineering sets standards worldwide
One in five German machines is produced in North Rhine-Westphalia, with drive technology and fittings among the specialist sectors with the largest production values. North Rhine-Westphalia’s share of German production of metallurgical and rolling mill equipment, foundry machinery, woodworking machinery and fittings is particularly strong.
The global leadership position, for example in drive technology, coupled with the many years of experience and inventive spirit, make North Rhine-Westphalia attractive for new settlements and investments in mechanical engineering. It is not only German companies that choose North Rhine-Westphalia as the No. 1 location for their global operations as an innovative federal state. Numerous international companies, especially from Japan and China, are also investing in North Rhine-Westphalia to take advantage of its strengths and qualities.
Exports in mechanical engineering
Mechanical engineering continues to be successful on the world markets. One in five German machines is produced in North Rhine-Westphalia and mechanical engineering is the most export-intensive sector in North Rhine-Westphalia. Around 70 percent of the machinery and equipment produced here is exported. In 2021, companies exported machinery and equipment worth €30.4 billion, down from €28.1 billion in 2020.
Traditionally, deliveries to the European market are in first place when it comes to exports, accounting for 57 percent of total machinery exports from North Rhine-Westphalia; this is followed by the regions of Asia with over 23.2 percent and America with 16 percent. The most important sales market for North Rhine-Westphalia’s mechanical engineering sector in 2021 was once again the Chinese market. Exports there amounted to €3.4 billion (-0.8 percent). Exports to the United States increased by +9 percent last year to 3.3 billion euros. France followed in third to sixth place with 1.7 billion euros (+12.2 percent), the Netherlands with 1.3 billion euros (4.9 percent) and Poland with 1.3 billion euros (+16.6 percent) and Austria with 1.2 billion euros (+14 percent).