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Supply-chain trends among forum topics

By: Robert Grace

January 29, 2010

The economic tsunami of the past year or so has prompted many North American manufacturers to reassess their strategies on outsourcing, offshoring and, now — using the term for the month — “backshoring.” The term means bringing production back to these shores from abroad (witness California toymaker Wham-O Inc. bringing production of half of its iconic Frisbees back to the United States from China.) 

In some cases, brand owners and manufacturers have discovered just how challenging it can be to manage production, spur innovation or coordinate cross-functional teams from afar.

While the return of some projects certainly is an encouraging sign for North American plastics processors and toolmakers, nobody expects the level of plastics manufacturing activity abroad to slow significantly. And some of the more ambitious players continue to eagerly eye developing regions as potentially lucrative markets for them to serve.

Several presenters at Plastics News’ Executive Forum 2010, set for March 7-10 in Tampa, Fla., will be addressing these issues — to inform both about market trends in some of these regions, and about how best to create and manage a supply chain in such places.

* Roger Young, a former Dow Plastics official who now lives in New Zealand and serves as Asia-Pacific vice president for polymer consultants Robert Eller Associates LLC, will address the evolution of supply chains in markets such as China, as well as India and Saudi Arabia. He will focus on what he calls “quality tiering” in such emerging economies, referring to “low-end,” “local,” “glocal” and “global” levels of production.

* Tamás Kovács, founder of ECEBD Ltd. in Budapest, Hungary, will share his knowledge about the plastics business landscape in central and Eastern Europe — including which end markets hold the most pitfalls and promise.

* Larry Hotaling, managing director of consulting firm Global Diligence (Hong Kong) Ltd., will tap into his 25-plus years of international experience during a panel discussion to offer insights into how to source from or establish manufacturing operations in such places as China, India and the Middle East.

* Christopher Hogan, Singapore-based managing director of the polymers division for the $36 billion supply-chain management and logistics giant Noble Group Ltd., will draw on his broad experience for his forum presentation, as well. Hogan will discuss current and likely trade flows of plastics materials as new capacity comes on stream in the Middle East, Russia and elsewhere. Noble Group itself owns a small equity stake in an 18-month-old polypropylene resin plant in Saudi Arabia.

* And Gaet Tyranski, director of the medical business unit for contract manufacturer Jabil Circuit Inc., will talk about what he is seeing in terms of outsourcing production of medical devices.

Several other presenters with international experience will be on hand to offer their advice about doing business globally, as well. For full program details, or to register, go to PlasticsNews.com/forum2010.

 Robert Grace is editor and associate publisher of Plastics News.