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Not a year to remember, nor to forget

Article-Not a year to remember, nor to forget

Exit recession stage left; welcome to a new year.

Exit recession stage left; welcome to a new year.

Earlier this month an industry colleague told me he could not remember looking forward to a new year more than he’s looking forward to 2010. His approach sure beats, “Can’t wait to see the end of this stinkin’ 2009,” which is what I’d been thinking. Either way, it feels good to type 2010.

Virtually everyone is happy to exit this whole last decade (we’ll call them the “aughts”). How do you feel good about 10 years that began with a recession, picked up a bit, and then skidded into a Great Recession? (I know the decade doesn’t end until 2011 starts. No one seems to care.)

I may be sounding negative, but I’m not feeling that way. As the year turned, the economic news began to improve a bit. Job losses slowed down, despite being more than predicted. The Institute for Supply Management’s purchasing index for manufacturing was up for the fifth straight month in December, indicating more orders going to the shop floor. Retail shoppers spent a few percent more this past December than they did the year before. Those are reasons to be positive, for sure, but I’m not feeling up, either. I’m somewhere in the middle, and working hard to stay there.

We’re not out of the woods by many kilometers. The U.S. needs nearly 10 million jobs created just to get back to where it was. The purchasing index upturn may only be the replacing of drawn-down inventory, and a shopping month that was a couple of percent better than the year before (which was a pure disaster) is no big deal.

My hope is that we learned some hard lessons during the aughts, such that we do better in the tens, or teens, or whatever the next decade is called. From what I hear and read, I think we have learned that “irrational exuberance” can lead to a nasty hangover. Americans already are saving more than they have for many decades, and not spending money they don’t have. I want to think we’ll be better at spotting and exiting economic bubbles before they explode all over us.

Our industry performed better in 2009 than many of us thought it would at the start of last year. The Plante & Moran 2009 North American Plastics Industry Study said successful processors were good at the basics—things such as pricing discipline, cost control, quality—and followed a strategic plan that maximizes their strengths. Injection molders were 60% of the processors surveyed. The study also showed that we still face “significant challenges.”  You can read our report on it at; search for “Plante & Moran.”

IMM starts 2010 with a close look at one of the basics finally getting the attention it deserves. Attached to p. 11 is a pull-out guide to energy efficiency that includes a comprehensive overview of where to find energy savings in a molding operation, plus a couple of relatively easy ways to quickly trim the energy bill. The savings then move to your bottom line. What could be more basic than that?

Rob Neilley
Editor in Chief
[email protected]

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