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While shipment value decreased 11.1% in Q1, a slow start in the first quarter is not atypical. The Plastics Industry Association expects shipments to pick up as the year progresses.

PlasticsToday Staff

June 22, 2021

2 Min Read
quarterly results
Image: Zerbor

Shipments of plastics injection molding and extrusion equipment in North America declined in Q1 2021 compared with the last quarter of 2020. The decrease followed three consecutive quarters of growth, according to statistics compiled and reported by the Committee on Equipment Statistics (CES) of the Plastics Industry Association (PLASTICS).

The preliminary estimate of shipment value from reporting companies totaled $334.9 million in the first quarter of this year, an 11.1% decrease from the previous quarter. Compared with the first quarter of 2020, however, plastics machinery shipments shot up by 31.9%, the third consecutive quarterly increase in plastics machinery shipments year-over-year. More good news is on the horizon, according to PLASTICS Chief Economist Perc Pineda, PhD.

plastics machinery shipments chart

“Plastics machinery shipments usually start slow every first quarter, so it was not surprising to see the data came in lower,” said Pineda. "This is in sync with overall economic activity that is usually slow, starting every first quarter. Judging from a year-over-year comparison, plastics machinery shipments were actually off to a good start. With the economy staying in a recovery cycle, plastics machinery shipments can be expected to increase this year. However, supply chain issues in plastics end markets could slow growth in plastics equipment demand, so we’ll be watching market dynamics very closely in the coming months,” Pineda added.

Twin-screw extruder shipments soar

Although the value of shipments of injection molding equipment decreased by 11.1% in Q1 2021, it was 39.8% above Q1 2020. Single-screw extruder shipments fell 38.3% from Q4 2020, 28.9% lower than Q1 2020. Shipments of twin-screw extruders, however, soared by 42.3% in Q1 2021 and rose by 18.3% over the same period in 2020.

Machinery suppliers optimistic about market conditions

PLASTIC’s CES also conducts a quarterly survey of plastics machinery suppliers that asks about present market conditions and expectations for the future. In general, the outlook is very optimistic.

In the coming quarter, 89.5% of respondents expect conditions to improve or hold steady compared to a year ago, lower than the 96.0% that felt similarly in the previous quarter. As for the next 12 months, 93.0% of those surveyed expect market conditions to be steady-to-better. This is higher than the 89.8% in the fourth quarter 2020 survey.

Plastics machinery total exports in Q1 2021 increased by 9.4% to $395.0 million over Q4 2020. Imports fell by 3.5% to $845.0 million, resulting in a $450.0 million trade deficit, which was 12.6% lower than in Q4 2020.  The volume of merchandise trade is expected to increase this year as global economic conditions improve, concluded the report. 

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