RUSSIAN WELDING MARKET: NEW OPPORTUNITIES, GROWTH DRIVERS AND OPENNESS TO COOPERATION
Today, international manufacturers on the Russian market have wide prospects for fruitful cooperation and rapid development of their business
There is still a high demand for equipment and materials for welding, industrial work, metal cutting, quality control of welded joints, which cannot be satisfied without new players entering the Russian market.
In 2022, the welding industry in Russia has undergone major changes, which occurred due to a decrease in exports and capacity utilization at smelting enterprises, difficulties in the supply of components and equipment, as well as a decrease in steel production (according to the World Steel Association, the indicator in the Russian Federation amounted to 71.5 million tons in 2022, which is 7% less than in 2021).
At the same time, last year, in quantitative terms, the share of domestic steel consumption remained virtually at the level of the previous period, and the year output fell less than the experts had predicted. In addition, steel exports are regaining their profitability due to the devaluation of the exchange rate, rising prices and the ambitious task of the Ministry of Industry and Trade "to increase exports to the east."
At this stage, Russian enterprises are open to business proposals from new market players. Foreign market participants have excellent chances to take their business to a new level, expand sales geography and strengthen their positions in the Russian arena.
Prepared ground for entering the Russian welding market
Any plant which deals with metal processing and metalworking requires welding. Without it, it is impossible to produce a car, a rocket, a tank, a ship, or a landing gear. Accordingly, the changes taking place in these areas directly affect the industry of welding materials and equipment.
If before the introduction of sanctions, according to the data of the European Metallurgical Association Eurofer, the Russian Federation was on the second place in the rating of steel suppliers to Europe, then the ban on the import of a range of steel products from Russia affected about 40% of Russian steel supplies. Today, losses in the metallurgy range from $8 billion - more than 4% of the total export of the European country. According to experts, the reduction in the export of Russian steel products led to a decrease in capacity utilization at enterprises from 93% to 80% in the second quarter of 2022. In January 2023, 5.8 million tons of steel were produced - 12% less than in the same period in 2022. At the same time, due to sanctions and economic turbulence, the expert community predicted more significant damage to the industry (at least 15%) than it happened in fact.
However, the decline in exports of metal products made it possible to increase domestic consumption up to 80%. For example, last year the consumption of unalloyed steel increased by 13%, while the share of consumption of rolled products reached 90%. This made it possible to maintain the demand in the country for welding equipment and materials at the same level.
Several factors helped the welding market in Russia not to bend under sanctions, including following the order of the Ministry of Industry and Trade No. 650 dated March 15, 2015 to increase the share of import substitution of welding equipment to 49%. In 2021 and 2022, the figure exceeded 25%, today a number of local enterprises (for example, the Rosatom plant) actively use domestic robotic technologies in their work and organise independent production of spare parts. At another enterprise - Research and Development LLC Plant of Technological Sources - the share of non-Russian components ranges from 12% to 14.5%, depending on the type of welding. According to forecasts of industry experts, by 2030 steel production will show an increase of 6.4% due to the import substitution policy.
At the same time, today there is a lag behind foreign manufacturers in terms of the technological capabilities of welding equipment, the level of mechanization, automation and robotization.
Speaking about the development of production, the members of the Moscow Interindustry Alliance of Chief Welders (MMAGS) emphasized the role of the Government and legislative bodies of the Russian Federation, which today create favorable conditions for investors in the development of production of modern products for welding, cutting and surfacing. Thus, foreign players have an excellent opportunity to take advantage of these conditions, gain a foothold on the Russian welding market and effectively develop their business in cooperation with local partners.
Incentives to enter the Russian business arena
One of the main opportunities that foreign partners can take advantage of on the Russian welding market is the shortage of equipment and components due to the stop of direct European supplies by most foreign manufacturers. At the same time, more than 90% of the industrial welding equipment was import. Such large market players as Kemppi, Erbach and others stopped supplying their products to Russia.
There is also a shortage of welding materials, as many of them are simply not produced in Russia. Foreign companies have a great opportunity to enter the Russian market with their materials and get large orders for supplies, because, for example, the annual consumption of electrodes in Russia and the CIS is 150 thousand tons (for comparison, in Europe - just over 50 thousand tons).
According to Pavel Maslennikov, Chief Welder of JSC Admiralty Shipyards, today there is a noticeable shortage of flux-cored wires for shipbuilding, and there are products on the market that serve as “repackaged imports” or are produced in Russia by the remaining foreign brands (for example, the Swedish manufacturer of welding equipment ESAB). Industry experts emphasize the importance of cooperation with foreign partners ready to enter the Russian business arena in the field of repair of welding equipment, proper maintenance, provision of components, parts and assemblies, as well as the huge role of new international cooperation.
One example of such cooperation is working with Chinese “colleagues”. After the departure of Western market players, Chinese enterprises have replaced a significant part of the industry and today supply the sector of welding equipment, components, tools, raw materials and others. The PRC factories supply to the Russian Federation both high-speed and die steel, as well as finished tools. According to the results of 2022, summed up by the customs authorities, the trade turnover between Russia and China amounted to $190 billion, which is a record high ($43 billion more than in 2021). The current economic situation allows companies that are open to cooperation to expand their sales geography and occupy vacant niches.
The share of manual welding in Europe, North America, Japan and Korea was less than 20% for 2022, and the global robotic welding market will grow by about 8.7% until 2026, highlighting the growing influence of robotics on the industry.
The trend towards robotization of welding processes and avoiding human labor is also gaining popularity in Russia, where today there are more than 1,600 enterprises that have introduced automatic welding into their work.
On the one hand, there are several manufacturers of industrial robots in the country - progressive and ambitious startups with opportunities for scaling production and high export potential. Moreover, Federal Centers of Welding Competence are being created in Russia, designed to combine business knowledge and market needs.
On the other hand, the implementation and development of any industry projects is hampered by the lack of components and high-tech equipment due to sanctions and difficulties with the supply of products from Yaskawa, KUKA, Fanuc, ABB and other well-known companies. In this regard, foreign participants have serious prospects for development in the niche.
Today, some product categories - gearboxes, automation equipment, spare parts - have already been partially replaced by products from Chinese and Turkish manufacturers. Entering the Russian market, foreign participants get the opportunity not only to expand the geography of sales, but to secure the status of an innovator and a leading specialist in the field of robotic welding in Russia for their company.
The ban on the import of rolled steel, fittings, welded and seamless pipes from Russia in the spring of 2022, according to the Ministry of Industry and Trade, affected the export of almost 4 million tons of finished rolled steel, 200,000 tons of pipe products and 700,000 tons of steel billets. At the same time, the situation has provided unique opportunities for the rapid establishment of supply chains to Asia (the share already exceeds 50%) - deliveries of ferrous metallurgy products to the east in the first half of 2022 alone increased by more than 25% compared to the same period in 2021.
An important role in ensuring the growth of traffic and the redistribution of production volumes is played by an increase in the intensity of traffic on the Eastern Range (Baikal-Amur Mainline and the Trans-Siberian Railway), an increase in the weight of trains and the slow but steady development of ports to further increase trade with international colleagues. Among them are Asian countries, Turkey, Iran, India, as well as the countries of the Middle East, northern and western Africa and Latin America.
All this will greatly simplify and speed up the supply processes between Russia and Asian countries, and, accordingly, will make manufacturers and trading companies from these countries more attractive for cooperation among Russian buyers.
Welding remains the leading process in the manufacture of structures and products in almost all industries and construction. The growth of industrial production requires an increase in the production of welding equipment and welding materials, as well as the development of new technological processes for welding.
Today, the state actively finances projects in the construction and industrial sectors. According to the statistics of the Ministry of Industry and Trade, more than half of the domestic demand for metallurgical products is occupied by the construction sector. Thanks to the work of the Steel Construction Development Association, in May 2022, the Ministry of Construction lifted restrictions on the construction of residential buildings from light steel thin-walled structures, for the manufacture of which welding is used, for the resettlement of emergency housing. Preferences are offered for developers using a steel frame. Among such preferences are preferential loans, discounts up to 30% on the provision of land, preferential mortgages for equity holders.
Another measure of support by the Ministry of Construction is the draft road map for 2022–2026 to expand the use of steel in construction. Such a step will help increase the consumption of sheet and long products, as well as the use of pipes in the construction of residential, commercial and social infrastructure, and it is simply impossible to carry out all these processes without welding equipment and materials.
Thus, although the welding market in Russia faces serious challenges, it has significant growth points and potential for development with the participation of new foreign partners.
Weldex 2023 is a springboard for entering the Russian market
The international exhibition of welding materials, equipment and technologies Weldex 2023 will allow international manufacturers and suppliers to build business communications with decision makers, heads of enterprises in the engineering, oil and gas industries, metallurgy and others. Last year, 52% of exhibitors found new clients and partners, and 77% met existing ones. Also, participation in Weldex is a great opportunity to confirm the company's key positions on the welding market, increase the geography of sales and secure the status of a reliable partner.