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Countdown to NPE2009: Big year awaits U.S. plastics industry

“Big year? For what—layoffs, plant closures? What big year?” Please, enjoy your gallows’ humor; most processors could use a laugh about now. But the headline is no misprint.The current recession is hurting the United States on many fronts, with plastics processing, as usual, being dealt more than its fair share of the pain. Globally, industry growth was due for a slowdown anyway following the brisk processing machinery acquisitions in 2006 and 2007 and processors’ expansions in the same timeframe.

“Big year? For what—layoffs, plant closures? What big year?” Please, enjoy your gallows’ humor; most processors could use a laugh about now. But the headline is no misprint.

The current recession is hurting the United States on many fronts, with plastics processing, as usual, being dealt more than its fair share of the pain. Globally, industry growth was due for a slowdown anyway following the brisk processing machinery acquisitions in 2006 and 2007 and processors’ expansions in the same timeframe.



The Main drop-off area at NPE2009
There had to follow a period of digestion as new capacity gets running and, eventually, swallowed by consuming end users, at which point the expansion process could be repeated. It remains a cyclical industry.

In the U.S, the rate of descent of this predictable slowdown is being accelerated by the standstill in the construction market, the massive problems facing the domestic automotive industry, and the vagaries of the financial crisis. It’s enough to make one wonder what processor in North America has the time to attend a trade show such as NPE when there are so many challenges to be overcome.

Well, you should, if you agree that in every challenge there is an opportunity.  NPE2009 will be the first opportunity for many attendees to see, in operation, some of the world’s best processing machinery. It will be an opportunity for processors to attend not only NPE but also the Society of Plastics Engineers’ Antec technical conference, for the first time co-located with NPE. 
It is an opportunity because manufacturing in the U.S. is bound for a comeback as many, maybe most, elected officials finally see, with the clarity that comes during extreme duress, the benefits of an economy whose foundation rests on companies that make stuff, instead of ones busily trading bad debt. Processors should make the trip to Chicago because it is a good opportunity not only to benefit their own shops, but also to show their trade group, the SPI, which also organizes NPE2009, that they appreciate its efforts in opening those politicians’ eyes to the importance of manufacturing. 

There is always a good reason not to attend, too: you plan to be out of business in the next year or two anyway. But maybe your shop is just one good project, one good applied technology, or one chance meeting away from its own resurgence. Maybe tough times call for processors to get going, to Chicago in June, to make their own opportunity.

Benchmark: Who’s winning, and why, in North American industry

Growth isn’t the same as profits. Overhead remains the major difference between successful and struggling companies. Sales and marketing can save or sink you. These are among the conclusions drawn from the 2008 North American Plastics Industry Study. 
The study, conducted and published by Plante & Moran PLLC, the 12th-largest CPA and business consulting firm in the U.S., includes data from 172 companies representing 244 facilities in North America, covering an array of processes.

“The results of the study show there is hope and perhaps prosperity ahead for those industry participants who persevere and have a well thought-out strategy,” said Jeff Mengel, plastics industry practice leader at Plante & Moran.

(See our “As I See It” article on p. 12 of  this month's issue to read one molder’s opinion of the report.)—[email protected]


Design follows function—and great design deserves recognition. The Adiri Natural Nurser baby bottle, molded of PP and TPE, won a 2008 red dot design award. Enter your great designs for the IPDC competition.


Got great design?

Flaunt it in the International Plastics Design Competition (IPDC), which will co-locate with NPE2009. Organized by the SPI, the competition is open to designers, processors, moldmakers, and OEMs from any country or end market. Entries are due by April 1, 2009, with more information and an application form available at www.plasticsdesign.org.

Entries will be displayed at a special IPDC pavilion in the newly opened West Hall of McCormick Place. Awards will be presented during NPE2009.

The skinny on NPE2009

What: North America’s largest plastics
industry exhibition

When: June 22-26, 2009

Where:  McCormick Place; Chicago, IL, U.S.A.

Who: Organized by the Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI); about 75,000 attendees are expected, with 2000 exhibitors.

More information: Visit www.npe.org, or subscribe at mpw.plasticstoday.com to the NPE Advisor, our free e-mail guide with tips on what to do and see, the hottest innovations, the cheapest flights, best restaurants, and more.

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