Worldwide demand for material handling products is forecast to increase 4% annually through 2016 to $123.6 billion, according to a new study from The Freedonia Group Inc., Cleveland. Analysts say that sales of advanced equipment such as automated conveyors and automated guided vehicles are on the rise, as companies strive to save labor costs. Energy-efficient products, such as electric lift trucks, will also see gains as end users seek to reduce costs. What's more, the rising use of e-commerce will fuel demand for automated equipment, as business is increasingly conducted in large, lightly-staffed warehouses. These and other trends are discusses in World Material Handling Products.

Among global markets, India and China will experience the fastest gains, due to rising manufacturing output spurring demand for distribution and production equipment. In contrast, Western European markets are among the heaviest users of material handling equipment in the world, because manufacturers there have adopted automated equipment as a response to high domestic labor costs. The U.S. market, which accounted for 22% of global sales in 2011, is expected to remain the leading consumer through 2016. After a period of slow gains between 2006 and 2011, demand in the U.S. will increase through 2016, due to improved manufacturing conditions, especially in the motor vehicle industry. Japan and Germany both enjoy large markets for material handling products, although both countries have performed poorly compared to the global average in recent years.

The U.S., China, Germany, and Japan possess the largest national material handling equipment industries in the world. Despite sluggish growth over the last few years, the U.S. remains the largest global producer. China possesses the second largest material handling equipment industry and is the largest net exporter. In fact, Chinese output has grown well above the global average in recent years, fueled by gains in local demand. Germany and Japan both have large trade surpluses in these products, reflecting their large manufacturing sectors. A full report is available for $6,300 from freedoniagroup.com.