The heavy machinery sector operates in an increasingly global marketplace, where industrial equipment must be integrated with Big Data applications while meeting both regulations and customers’ needs. Faced with a persistent shortage of skilled staff, a worldwide decrease in patent filings, continued volatility and inflation, as well as pressure to transition to a low-carbon future, the industrial machinery sector must tackle these challenges with both strength and flexibility. Heavy machinery translation services can be a useful tool to remain agile in an industry as globalised as heavy machinery manufacturing.

The current state of the heavy machinery sector

The global machinery market saw a healthy growth from USD 3,542 billion in 2022 to USD 3,810 billion in 2023, an annual growth rate of 7.6%, as the sector recovered from the pandemic lockdowns. Some analysts expect a further growth rate of 6.6% by 2027, driven in part by an increased demand for construction and infrastructure equipment.

The highest growth rates are expected in the Asia Pacific region, as ongoing large-scale infrastructure projects in China and India continue to be rolled out rapidly, including new highways and airports. 

European machinery and equipment manufacturers have also witnessed a significant recovery, with revenue growth spiking to 18% in 2022 compared to 7% in the North American sector. However, Europe lags in profitability, with EBIT margins falling to 8.6%, whereas North America achieved 10.4% over the same period, as reported in a recent report by McKinsey. A large part of the reason is the inflationary pressures in Europe, particularly on energy costs, which have been mitigated in America through shale gas exploration.

The heavyweights of heavy machinery

In the construction industry, the US-based Caterpillar Inc. dominates the market. In 2023, Caterpillar Inc. reported sales and revenues of USD 67.1 billion, establishing itself as the world’s leading manufacturer of construction and mining equipment, off-highway diesel and natural gas engines, industrial gas turbines and diesel-electric locomotives. Key competitors in the global market include Japanese Komatsu and Hitachi, US company John Deere and Swiss manufacturer Liebherr. 

Other notable players within the heavy machinery market are Daimler Trucks, one of the leading heavy machinery manufacturers in the world. With origins dating back to the 1890s, the company has a global presence, employing more than 100,000 people in 42 production sites worldwide. They produce lorries of various sizes and models, including commercial vehicles, buses and specialised vehicles like fire engines.  

Founded in 1927, the Volvo Group is another prominent player in the heavy machinery market, producing commercial vehicles, construction equipment and diesel engines. Volvo operates in several markets, including Europe, North America and Asia. In April 2021, Volvo Group sold its UD Trucks division, generating a USD 2.3 billion payout. 

To preserve its competitive stance globally, the Volvo Group has been steadily investing nearly USD 2 billion (December 2022) in research and development (R&D), primarily focused on battery-powered commercial vehicles.

Paccar is a well-known American manufacturer of light, medium and heavy-duty commercial vehicles, marketed worldwide under the Kenworth, Peterbilt and DAF brands. Paccar also produces industrial winches under the Braden, Carco and Gearmatic nameplates. 

Scania, a Swedish manufacturer of heavy commercial vehicles and engines established in 1891, reported an impressive growth in net sales of 28% in 2023. The company’s workforce grew to 58,163 people, an increase of 2,500 from the previous year. Scania has been focusing strongly on alternative fuel and electric vehicles, selling 6,454 units in 2023, a slight decrease from the previous year but still a substantial part of their total delivery of 91,652 vehicles. 

The main challenges facing the heavy machinery sector 

Skilled labour shortage

A critical issue in the heavy machinery sector is the lack of skilled manpower. By 2050, 30% of the global workforce will be 50 years of age or older; however, in the EU, only 51% of the population aged between 60 and 64 remain active in the labour market. This scenario underscores the urgent need for young recruits who are either highly skilled or given training opportunities within companies, in addition to finding ways to retain older workers.

In Europe, the number of unfilled jobs in the sector rose by around 70% from 2020 to 2022 and has remained just above 500,000 vacancies since the beginning of 2022. Germany alone reported approximately 250,000 vacancies in the machine sector in 2022, a doubling from the previous year as highlighted by a report from McKinsey. In a recent report from Deloitte, figures show that the increased integration of smart connected devices, equipment and systems require highly skilled roles, which are expected to grow the fastest between 2022 and 2032.  

Understanding the evolving expectations of new generations and the changing needs of older workers is crucial. Companies are also implementing internal systems to enable workers to upskill and work flexibly when the need arises, such as the two-day-a-week part-time positions, which have proven highly successful. 

Big Data and heavy machinery

The industrial equipment industry is not immune to technological innovation, Big Data and artificial intelligence. The integration of advanced technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT) is revolutionising industrial machinery and making it smarter. 

Industry 4 systems, where vast amounts of data can be generated and analysed at once, enable fast decision-making, predictive maintenance and operations optimisation. Maintaining such systems requires an ongoing and dedicated investment in equipment, resources and skills training for engineers and technicians.

AI, automation and Big Data integration can also help mitigate the shortage of skilled staff in the sector by simplifying and optimising processes. For example, machine parts can be exchanged before they break, and changes and upgrades can be planned proactively. 

Carbon footprint and the price of transition

Another challenge the sector faces is the transition to a sustainable low-carbon future. The term “zero carbon” is still widely used to describe Electrical Vehicles (EVs), despite a recent ruling from the Advertising Standards Authority stating that it is misleading to call an EV “zero carbon” unless referring exclusively to driving it. This is because CO2 is released during the vehicles’ manufacturing process and potentially in the production of the electricity that powers them.  

The increased demand for batteries is also not without its environmental impact. According to some estimates, it takes 2.2 million litres of water to produce 1 tonne of lithium. When Chile, for example, produces 8 million tonnes of lithium, this will have used around 17.6 trillion litres of water, in addition to the impact the mining has on the surrounding communities and the environment.  

Furthermore, an investigation has revealed that the cobalt used in batteries, including vehicle batteries, is in some cases sourced from mines where child labour and other dangerous work practices are rife.  

The EU recently passed The Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive, which means that European companies must document that the products they import adhere to environmental and human rights standards. For the machine industry, it will be necessary to carefully build supply chains, as any environmental or human rights impact will undoubtedly come under scrutiny as the transition to the desired low-carbon reality gathers pace.

Inflation and profitability

As mentioned before, revenue and productivity have both increased in Europe, but profitability is weaker than in North America. There are several contributing factors, including the increased price of energy, fuelled largely by sanctions on Russia, and interruptions of supply chains. 

The development of shale gas has helped the US keep gas prices down. This has had knock-on effects across the market, not least on energy-intensive steel production, which is extensively used in the production of heavy machinery.

The conflict in the Middle East is also driving up volatility, as well as insurance costs and transportation times for goods that are re-routed away from the Suez Canal. 

Businesses that are robust enough to withstand these difficulties and perhaps even increase their efficiency to thrive in troubled times will stand even stronger in a global industry where there will always be an element of volatility. 

Innovation and R&D

Patents remain vital for protecting and maintaining a company’s competitive edge. Innovation is crucial in a mature market like heavy machinery, where distinguishing a product by solving problems more efficiently can drive sustainable growth. 

Patent applications to the European Patent Office rose from 181,532 in 2019 to 199,275 in 2023. However, the number of patents for specialised machines dropped by 1.8% globally in 2022. The top five countries for patent applications were the USA, Germany, Japan, China and the Republic of Korea, with a total of 57% of applications coming from outside Europe and the UK.  

Notably, the Nordic countries of Sweden, Denmark and Finland rank in the top five for the number of patent applications as a share of the population. Denmark and China are the only two countries that have had stable growth in the number of issued patents across all major sectors.  

As skilled labour becomes scarcer, innovative industrial equipment that enhances efficiency and productivity per working hour will be essential for future success.  

Heavy machinery translation and localisation

In the global market, making use of heavy machinery translation services provides significant added value and is often a crucial necessity.

The most successful companies in the global marketplace are those that maintain the integrity of their product while adapting it to meet local preferences. Swedish furniture giant IKEA, for example, not only tailors its product range to fit local needs but also makes linguistic and cultural changes so that its product and marketing materials resonate with the target audience. 

Although industrial machines are not typically marketed directly to consumers like an IKEA coffee table, the underlying principle remains the same: reaching international audiences is crucial for growth and overall business sustainability. To succeed, business must tailor their offerings to appeal directly to decision-makers in the industry or industries they aim to penetrate. 

Localisation covers a range of activities and areas crucial for commercial success. This can include product adjustments to meet specific local conditions, such as modifying machinery to handle dry, sandy environments or cold, snowy conditions. 

In addition, localising product descriptions enhances the connection with local buyers, while localised customer service and helplines foster long-term relationships.  

With the global shortage of skilled labour, attracting qualified and highly motivated people from all over the world is another obvious benefit of a global approach, guided by the principle that has made Spotify a success: Think Global, Act Local.

Specialist knowledge

Heavy machinery translation often requires linguists with specialised knowledge of commercial and regulatory needs as well as technical terminology.  

Professional localisation services use several tools to ensure that translations are linguistically accurate and industry-specific (e.g. a “pipe” may mean something very different in the oil-drilling industry than in the construction industry). This includes maintaining term bases with preferred translations and technical terminology. 

Automated solutions can also be beneficial for ensuring accuracy and consistency across technical translations. However, it is essential that a competent human translator reviews all content for accuracy and adherence to agreed terminology.

Common content types for heavy machinery translation 

There are several key areas where the heavy machinery sector needs translation services: 

Product information

Key product information translation may be mandated by regulations such as the EU Regulation of 14 June 2023 on machinery. This regulation stipulates that all key information regarding machines, including statements of conformity, instructions and a broad range of other documentation, shall be presented “…in a language which can be easily understood by users. If necessary, it shall “… be translated into the language or languages required by the Member State in which the machinery or related product is placed on the market, is made available on the market or put into service.”

Product descriptions

In a market dominated by established players, standout product descriptions can significantly impact how a company’s unique selling points are communicated to a technically savvy audience.  A specialised translator can help ensure that the terminology and meaning are spot-on for every audience. 

Safety information

Heavy industrial machines and construction machinery are high-risk entities to use, with the construction sector topping the stats for fatal work accidents in Europe in 2021, with 22.5%Given these risks, it’s crucial that product manuals and operating instructions are clearly presented in a language that each user fully understands, both for safety and regulatory compliance 


When it comes to patents, translators should have experience with both technical and legal translation to ensure precise and effective communication.

Reach global audiences in a global industry

Producers of heavy machinery – whether it is industrial equipment or machinery, construction machinery or heavy goods vehicles – face numerous challenges including the need for skilled labour, increased globalisation, the integration of technologies like Big Data, IoT and AI, and evolving sustainability and low-carbon requirements. 

Despite these challenges, the sector is strong and continues to grow and improve. For instance, the UK government’s Advanced Manufacturing Plan, launched in November 2023, highlights significant ongoing projects across Europe, the UK and Asia. 

But to ensure compliance with regulations and maintain a competitive edge in such a globalised and competitive industry, high-quality heavy machinery translation services are a necessary component of a successful global sales and marketing strategy.

Going global, Machine translation, Manufacturing, Technical translation