Engel Machinery Inc. has become the latest plastics equipment maker to cut jobs, with a June 7 announcement that 30 people will be laid off from its York, Pa., factory, which makes larger-tonnage injection molding machines.
The layoffs amount to 20 percent of the York plant's total employment, which will fall from 150 to 120, a company spokesman said. The factory produces machines with clamping forces of 600 tons and larger.
Engel Machinery is the North American unit of Engel Vertriebsgesellschaft mbH of Schwertberg, Austria. Engel said the layoffs in York are part of a ``joint manufacturing synchronization program'' with Engel's other large-press plant, in St. Valentin, Austria.
``This reduction in staff is the unfortunate but necessary by-product of a strategic streamlining geared to greater production efficiencies and better market responsiveness for Engel's large machines in the NAFTA theater of operations,'' Steve Stojanovic, vice president of operations and logistics, said in a news release.
Engel is taking ``logical, disciplined steps'' to improve sales, ``tighten discretionary expenditures, eliminate duplication, and offer and support a significantly more competitive large machine line,'' Stojanovic said.
Engel officials also blamed the slow, North American plastics machinery market. Hardest hit in the United States has been demand for midsize and large presses, the type the York factory makes, according to just-released figures from the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc.'s Committee in Equipment Statistics of Washington.
U.S. shipments for large-tonnage presses - those with 1,000 tons and greater clamping force - fell by 23.4 percent in the second half of 2000, to 111 machines, down from 145 presses in the year's first half, SPI said. The third quarter was particularly weak, with 51 large-tonnage presses shipped.
For midsize machines - 299-999 ton presses - U.S. shipments fell by 15 percent in the year's second half to 870 machines, down from 1,022 in the first half.
Shipments of small-tonnage injection presses held up throughout 2000, SPI said.
Engel said North American capacity utilization - the portion of factories actually in production - has dropped under 80 percent for the first time since the recession of 1991. Capital equipment spending is down about 30 percent in the NAFTA countries and down 40 percent worldwide, when compared with the previous several years, Engel said.
This year, several other makers of plastics machinery have laid off workers, including Milacron Inc., Van Dorn Demag Corp., HPM Corp. and Davis-Standard Corp.
Engel said it has no plans for any layoffs at its other North American factory, in Guelph, Ontario, where presses with clamping forces of 599 tons and below are made. Jack Flatt, corporate affairs officer at the Canadian plant, said the company has applied to the government for a federally funded work-share program that allows companies to run short work weeks. Flatt said that was done as a safety valve, ``to protect the interests of our employees'' and give Guelph management an option if business slows further.