The SPI Machinery Division slowly is changing its stripes-for the better. Now all we need is for a handful of recalcitrant plastics machinery makers, both in the United States and abroad, to get with the program.
Following a positive change last year in its statistic-gathering methods forU.S. imports of foreign-made injection molding and extrusion machines, the division offered further evidence that it is embracing a more global view at its recent annual spring meeting in Indian Wells, Calif.
The group's executive committee agreed there to put to a membership vote a change in Machinery Division bylaws that will make it possible for non-U.S. machinery makers to become division members.
Until now, such firms had to have a permanent office in the United States and at least one full-time employee to qualify for division membership, even though they could be members of the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. without meeting those requirements.
While this policy had been in place at least in part to limit division membership to true manufacturing firms (to the deliberate exclusion of commercially minded manufacturers' reps and sales agents), it also smacked of xenophobia and protectionism.
This resulted in a ridiculous situation whereby, even after enactment of the North American Free Trade Agreement in January 1994, Canadian and Mexican machinery makers without a U.S. office and staff employee were excluded from Machinery Division membership. So much for an enlightened world view.
But, fortunately, the division now plans to change that. Foreign machine makers still must send a direct company employee-not a sales rep-to division meetings, but at least they soon will be able to become members.
It probably is no coincidence that at the recent meeting, the division also reported a healthy jump in membership applications, with as many as 26 new firms likely to join the fold. That would be a leap of 20 percent over the current 133 dues-paying members.
However, joining is only part of the battle. Active involvement is key.
Some primary and auxiliary-equipment makers remain paranoid about reporting U.S. product shipments to SPI. This is even though independent auditing firm Ernst & Young gathers SPI's machinery statistics and releases them only in aggregate form.
Take, for example, Japan's Nissei Plastic Industrial Co. Ltd., which is perhaps the most significant nonreporter among players in North America's injection molding machinery market. We located detailed data about Nissei's machinery sales and market share in a stock analyst's report on the public Lexis Nexis database. So could anybody else. Yet the company refuses to supply numbers to SPI.
Private companies, of course, have the right to keep such information private. But what's the point?
Make a good product. Sell a lot of machines at a reasonable price. Provide good service. The rest surely will take care of itself.
The entire plastics industry, and especially all plastics machinery companies, stands to benefit from accurate industry trade statistics.
SPI's Machinery Division is making a strong effort to improve the quality of industry data it collects. It's high time that some industry companies change their stripes, too-and cooperate with the trade group that exists to improve their lot.
Grace is editor of Plastics News.