Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Laser Munich Part 1--German mood lifts all

You can tell that Germany is doing well these days just from going to Laser Munich. And not just Germany. Everyone from Coherent, IPG, and JDSU are all smiles these days. In fact, everyone I met at Laser Munich this week was in a great mood.Of course, it helps that the beer starts flowing in the booths at 5:00 sharp. Even better!

The German economy didn't fare as poorly in the financial crisis as other major countries, and it recovered better and more quickly.German unemployment is now the lowest since reunification 20 years ago. This recovery has lifted German companies, most notably Trumpf and Rofin-Sinar, but many others too.(Read about it from David Belforte, here.)Laser sales are back to 2008 levels.The good cheer came out in the CEO Roundtable: what did photonics companies do right that they fared so well in the recession?

My standard answers are:
2.Semiconductors and electronics (think iPads and smartphones)
3.The jobless recovery--buying new laser systems instead of hiring workers.
4.Did I mention China?
5.Oh and yes, this time photonics companies reacted quickly.

These factors affect some companies more than others,but enough is happening that it gets spread around. That said, there was the usual grumbling that there are too many competitors. More on that in a later post.

The Munich venue is great, but what if it were somewhere else? Stuart Schoenmann of CVI Melles Griot kept it real in the CEO Roundtable when he gave his respects to Japan.The Japanese economy was hit with not one, but two crises: first the financial crisis and now the tsunami/nuclear crisis.The latter didn't take much production out of service, but it did upset the supply chain. Moreover, the Japanese stock market has never recovered to the peak of 1990, not even close.And that was 21 years ago.

And it's not just Japan that has been hit. I don't know about you, but every company I know was cut to the bone.More on that in a later post too.

But that's somewhere else. Here, it felt like a "normal" show. No fads. No gossip. Just a good mood and good beer.

Tom Hausken

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