CLEVELAND - Machinery makers interviewed at Plastics Fair Cleveland, held June 13-15, said the red-hot sales pace of late 1994 and early 1995 has cooled somewhat. But that's not necessarily bad, they said, as long as the economy does not fall into a recession. Is the much-vaunted ``soft landing'' coming?
``We haven't seen it yet,'' said Kurt Fenske, vice president of sales at Engel Machinery Inc. of York, Pa. ``We are expecting a slowdown - I've got to say this - in the second quarter of the year, but we have not seen any indicators yet from our customers.''
Newbury Industries Inc. of Newbury, Ohio, also reports steady sales.
``We're still holding up on sales. I don't think it's been quite as strong as the first quarter, but it's holding up,'' said George Dallas, vice president of marketing.
According to the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc., shipments of U.S.-made injection presses increased 25.4 percent in 1994, to 2,757 machines. Imports reached 2,613 units.
The frenetic pace of late 1994, when many press makers could not make and deliver machines fast enough, could not last, according to several machinery officials in Cleveland.
``We were at a fever pitch in the fourth quarter, and I think the fever pitch is off," said Kenneth Vaughan, marketing manager at Van Dorn Demag Corp., of Strongsville, Ohio.
At Van Dorn Demag, officials expect unit shipments and dollar volumes for all of 1995 to run ahead of 1994, President William G. Pryor said. But bookings for future delivery should be off a bit, he said.
Brian Bishop, HPM Corp.'s general manager of injection molding, said: ``We're booked up really through September-November right now, and we've got orders booked out into January and February. Business volume is continuing to be pretty strong, and I'd say we're getting a good mix of both hydraulic and toggle machines.''
Krauss-Maffei Corp. has experienced a slowdown in orders from custom molders.
``That level of growth obviously couldn't be sustained,'' said Michael Santa, executive vice president of the injection molding machine division.
However, he said, molders for specific markets still are buying machines, such as compact disc makers, medical molders and packaging suppliers. Sales also have increased for more specialized, higher-tonnage machines needed to handle molds with a large number of cavities.
Krauss-Maffei, based in Florence, Ky., projects its unit sales will grow by 10-15 percent in 1995, Santa said.
At Husky Injection Molding Systems Ltd. of Bolton, Ontario, the only major concern is possible tightness of PET resin, a key to Husky's customers that make packaging, said Carmen Lowe, general manager.
Now that it is making machines in Hopkinsville, Ky., MC Machinery Systems Inc., the Wood Dale, Ill., company that supplies Mitsubishi machines, has been able to reduce the price of its MJII presses an average of 5 percent, said Jim Bohenko, national sales manager. Mitsubishi, like other Japanese companies, has been forced to raise prices of machines made in Japan because of the yen/dollar relationship.
Minoru Shibata, executive vice president, said the market this year is more stable than it was in 1994.
``I cannot say it's slowing this year, but also it's not very hot,''he said.
Molders for the automo-tive market - which drove much of the growth last year - apparently are not adding new molding capacity now, he said.
Manufacturers of extrusion equipment also remain upbeat.
``We haven't seen much of a slowdown at all,'' said Jim Murphy, business area manager for the pipe, profile and tubing group of Davis-Standard of Pawcatuck, Conn. ``We saw about 70 percent growth in the first quarter and orders are holding well.''
Steven Palmer, vice president of Cumberland Engineering Division of John Brown Plastics Machinery, said he does not see the growth coming in the second half compared with the first half.
``But we do have substantial confidence,'' he said. ``Most customers are very busy, but are waiting to see what happens before they commit any further.''
Cumberland's headquartered is in South Attleboro, R.I.