Challenges and opportunities for European industry in 2024

Photo: Surplex

In 2023, the European economy was heavily impacted by external challenges such as high energy prices, inflation and the ongoing effects of global tensions. These factors led to general uncertainty and a reduced willingness to invest. The wood and metal market, central to many industries, was particularly affected by the price explosion.

Looking ahead to 2024, European industrial auction house Surplex predicts companies will continue to be confronted with the effects of global political tensions, which are reflected in economic uncertainties. The availability and cost of supplies and market stability will also suffer. Companies will be forced to adapt their strategies, with innovations in digitalisation and sustainability serving as the key to coping. This year will also present the industry with challenges but also exciting opportunities.

Global tensions mean supply shortages and market fluctuations

The shortage of supplies is particularly affecting important materials such as wood and metal, Surplex said. The limited availability of these resource materials is a direct consequence of strong demand from countries such as China and the US. Rising material costs are driving up production costs. Supply chains could also be interrupted or delayed, which could lead to bottlenecks in production and the fulfilment of customer orders.

This problem is further exacerbated by market volatility. Fluctuations in demand and pricing make planning and forecasting considerably more difficult for companies. This makes it difficult to develop and maintain long-term strategies.

Challenges lead to opportunities

Rising energy prices remain a significant concern for businesses of all sizes. This is because higher energy costs can lead to an increase in total cost of ownership, forcing companies to raise their prices, seek efficiencies or explore alternative energy sources.

At the same time, sustainability is becoming even more important. With stricter environmental requirements and regulations, companies are faced with the task of adapting their production processes. This can mean investing in cleaner technologies, switching to more environmentally friendly materials or implementing more efficient processes. Although these adjustments can be beneficial in the long term, they pose a challenge in the short term, particularly in terms of the associated costs and organisational changes.

Another significant challenge is the labour shortage. Qualified specialists could become scarce, particularly in specialised areas. In addition to investing in the training and further education of employees and improving working conditions, automation can also reduce the need for human labour, Surplex pointed out.

The company added that 2024 will also bring opportunities for companies in digitalisation, automation and AI-supported technology. This transformation will enable optimisation of operations and increased efficiency, from routine tasks to advanced data analysis. These technologies help to overcome labour shortages, increase productivity and reduce costs.

One step ahead with used machines

Companies will need to be not only reactive, but also proactive, Surplex said, adding that companies will to adapt quickly. A willingness to innovate and a strong commitment to sustainability will be crucial. Companies that place these at the centre of their strategy will not only be able to master the challenges ahead, but also open new opportunities for growth.

In 2024, in the face of multiple challenges, Surplex stressed that buying and selling used machinery is an effective strategy for businesses. Purchasing used machinery from outlets such as offers a cost-effective way to expand or renew production capacity without the high cost of buying new. Surplex said there are many high-quality, energy-efficient models on offer from sources such as insolvencies. Such machines, including advanced industrial robots, are suitable for automation projects and help companies optimise their production processes and reduce energy costs. Another key advantage of used machines is that they are available regardless of current supply bottlenecks for raw materials such as metal or electronic components.

At the same time, selling machines that are no longer needed via Surplex frees up capital that can be invested in other areas such as digitalisation or technological innovations. Surplex said it has a user-friendly platform and an international network so companies can reduce costs and increase their competitiveness in economically-challenging times.

Jim Cornall is editor of Deeptech Digest and publisher at Ayr Coastal Media. He is an award-winning writer, editor, photographer, broadcaster, designer and author. Contact Jim here.