NPE2018 a fitting platform for a buoyant industry

NPE2018 show floor

Well before the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, FL, opened the doors for NPE2018, the show had already made history as the largest NPE event ever in terms of booked exhibition space. No official word yet on the attendee side of the ledger, but it felt plenty busy, especially on the second and third days of the five-day trade show. I’m going to take an educated guess and say that, while attendance might not break records at this year’s event, the numbers will certainly be very good, on par with the 2015 show.

Some might argue, as Allan Griff does in his article, "NPE 2018: Too big to succeed?," that bigger is not always better, but that viewpoint was not shared by the exhibitors with whom I chatted. By and large, they were in an exuberant mood, and there was nothing irrational about it. By the third day, many of them told me they had already exceeded lead expectations.

I did speak with one exhibitor who waxed nostalgic about Chicago, where the show was held for many years prior to its move to Orlando in 2012. He felt that Orlando had too many distractions; in Chicago, he opined, people were focused on doing business and networking, not on extending their stay and bingeing on theme parks with the family. It’s the same reason he doesn’t exhibit at any Las Vegas events, where the distractions are equally plentiful if quite different in nature.

He will have to grin and bear it, though: The Plastics Industry Association, which organizes the event, announced that NPE2021, NPE2024 and NPE2027 will all be held in Orlando.

Molding a bright future

Several equipment makers held press conferences during NPE2018, an opportunity for them to discuss the financial outlook and business prospects for their companies. By all accounts, a humming domestic and global economy is lifting all boats, plastic or otherwise. 

Michael Wittmann, Wittmann-Battenfeld
Speaking at NPE2018, Wittmann-Battenfeld CEO Michael Wittmann said that he expects the company to post 
$535 million to $540 million in sales
for 2018.

Michael Wittmann, CEO of Wittmann-Battenfeld (Vienna, Austria), said that the company achieved 7% growth in 2017, reaching approximately $490 million in revenue. In 2018, the maker of injection molding machines, robots and related equipment is expecting another record year. “We are projecting $535 million to $540 million,” said Wittmann. To keep up with demand, Wittmann-Battenfeld is investing in an expansion of its Kottingbrun, Austria, plant to the tune of $55 million. Expansion of the molding machine plant is very much needed, explained Wittmann, as the company is wrestling with a backlog in orders. It is also doubling production space in Mexico for automation equipment and is building a new plant in France, which will be completed in March 2019.

Milacron reported 6% sales growth in 2017 and is also diligently investing in the future, putting $8 million into its India operations, $10 million into China and a combined $4 million in its U.S. facilities in Afton, OH, and Greenville, MI, said CEO Tom Goeke.