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Slight recovery in a year of crisis – German photonics curbs decline in sales to three percent

November survey by SPECTARIS and OptecNet Germany shows slightly improved overall assessment since survey in June, but also confirms earlier fears / Industry experiences digitalization boost from Corona.

The signs are pointing to recovery in negative territory: this is shown by the results of the third survey conducted by the German industry association SPECTARIS and OptecNet Germany on the economic situation of photonics in the Corona year 2020. Overall, photonics is experiencing a significant drop in sales in some cases and permanent changes in business processes are to be expected. Sixty-one percent of companies expect sales to be worse in 2020 than in the previous year, while 14 percent expect them to remain the same. However, a quarter of manufacturers expect sales to increase. Overall, the sales expectation is a good 3 percent
below that of the previous year and has improved compared to the June survey, in which a ten percent decline in total sales was still expected.

Dr. Bernhard Ohnesorge, Chairman of Photonics in the German industry association SPECTARIS, sees the focus of the economic impact in medium-sized companies: “The survey shows that smaller companies in particular are suffering from the consequences of the pandemic and the majority of these report significant, in some cases double-digit, declines in sales. It is now more important than ever to promote the SME foundation of the German photonics industry.”

SPECTARIS Managing Director Jörg Mayer underlines the importance of photonics in the current situation: “Several photonics applications are making a significant contribution to the fight against the pandemic or to vaccine development. At the same time, they are flanking the digital transformation, which has once again gained massive momentum as a result of the Corona crisis.” This includes products ranging from analytical, biological and laboratory technology, to online data storage and communications technology. Even video conferencing would not be possible without photonics. Other application areas, however, have been severely affected by the consequences of the Corona crisis, such as aviation or the automotive sector.
In addition, there is a noticeable overall reluctance to invest on the part of industrial customers.

This is expected to lead to a 3.4 percent decline in sales in the sector for 2020 as a whole. Foreign business is expected to be down 3.2 percent, while domestic business could be four percent below the previous year’s level by the end of the year. By contrast, actual order intake, which in the period from January to May was still twelve percent down on the corresponding prior-year period, is showing a slight upward trend with a decline of around six percent in the period from January to November.

In terms of the permanent changes expected as a result of the pandemic, a clear trend emerges among the survey participants: two-thirds rank the adaptation of working methods in the company as the most important issue, followed by digitalization in marketing, sales or service. “While face-to-face interactions may not be fully replaceable by digital means. However, digital collaboration at all levels offers a variety of new flexible business processes that will become the new normal in photonics even after COVID-19,” Ohnesorge is confident.