Plastics News editor Robert Grace reported the following items from Plastimagen, held Sept. 3-6 in Mexico City.
``It's strange,'' Eduardo Alvarez Bilbatúa said of current end-market trends in Mexico. ``Certain areas are going well, and certain areas are seeing a lot of pressure from the Far East.''
The Cuban-born Alvarez, a Mexico plastics veteran, since January has been director general of resin supplier PolyOne Distribucón Mexico SA de CV, based in Naucalpan. He said the automotive business is doing well and the household appliance sector is extremely strong, as it also becomes sophisticated.
On the other hand, Alvarez said, the maquiladoras are slowing down, and production of small electric appliances has all but shifted to Asia.
``Tools migrate East, and materials follow tools,'' he said Sept. 3 at the Plastimagen stand of PolyOne, which employs about 180 people in Mexico. Asians are making the greatest inroads into markets for compact, dense, easily shipped products. Mexico, meanwhile, is more than holding its own when it comes to making big, bulky products, those that are ``full of air,'' he said, such as washing machines, refrigerators and the like.
Alvarez sees an interesting trend in the large-appliance, or white goods, sector. Asian - mostly Korean - producers are moving into northern Mexico to set up plants to make such items. Their products ``are at the low end of the market,'' he said, ``but they are very innovative in design.''
He believes the influx of Far Eastern competitors has caught North American appliance makers a bit off guard.
To remain competitive, he said, appliance makers should get more creative in their designs. He said with a smile that he has told U.S. producers: ``We want white goods that are a little less white.''
On a broad scale, though, Alvarez said, ``I see progress here in Mexico - material progress. More people are buying cars, buying refrigerators. Our workers seem more prosperous.''
Plastec reports rise in equipment sales
Hector Sosa, who sells primary and auxiliary plastics equipment to the Latin American market, said business has picked up in the past couple of months after a ``lousy'' first half of 2002.
The president and general manager of Miami-based Plastec U.S.A. Inc. said crisis-ridden Argentina remains dead. But sales are increasing in places such as Ecuador, the Dominican Republic, across the Caribbean, and even in Venezuela, which he described as ``incredible to us,'' given that country's current political and economic turmoil.
``There is interesting activity in electric machines, even in Venezuela,'' he said. ``And Mexico is showing some activity, but a lot of manufacturing is going to China.'' Nevertheless, he said he was very satisfied with activity at Plastimagen, where Plastec exhibited.
Sosa, whose product portfolio includes Milacron machines, noted that the competitively priced injection press Milacron makes in India is doing well in Latin America. ``We're selling a number of such machines,'' available in clamping forces of 32-1,212 tons. Sosa said the machines offer strong competition to Taiwanese and Korean presses.
Six or seven years ago, he said, Plastec made auxiliary equipment a primary plank in its business strategy. So, while customer budgets for big-ticket purchases dried up during tough economic times, Plastec made money selling auxiliaries, spares and reconditioned machinery. That, Sosa said, ``has been a saving grace.''
Foreign toolmakers flock to Plastimagen
Weak domestic mold-making capabilities make Mexico a prime target for foreign tooling suppliers, which typically turn out in force at Plastimagen. This year was no exception, with many Canadian and Portuguese toolmakers exhibiting, along with the American Mold Builders Association and others.
One Canadian tooling giant, StackTeck Systems Inc., said business is booming. Dave Brown, president and chief executive officer of StackTeck, which includes Unique, Tradesco and Fairway Molds in its portfolio, said demand is poor in Brazil but steady in Canada and strong in the United States and Mexico.
``Sales volumes are back to 2000 levels,'' Brown said, ``but prices are depressed.'' Customers wanting a simple container mold can get one from StackTeck in 16 weeks, he said, but high-end stack molds are backlogged up to nine months.
Cefamol, Portugal's national association for the mold industry, had about a dozen of its member companies exhibiting in Mexico City, said Manuel Oliveira, the group's secretary general. ``Business is starting now to become good,'' he said. ``Last year business was down, but not as bad as in the U.S.''
Oliveira said his group's members, which export more than 90 percent of their mold production, now are seeing ``more quotes, more work.'' He said the U.S. market is steady, with demand growing incrementally in parts of Europe, such as Germany, France and Spain.
Crompton introduces various new products
Polymer additives producer Crompton Corp. of Middlebury, Conn., promoted several new products, including:
* A pair of lubricants, Kemamide VO and Kemamide ELO, which the firm claims are the first vegetable-oil-based slip agents that perform comparably to, but are less expensive than, animal-based alternatives.
* MoldPro 931 nucleating agent, used to enhance stiffness and strength while reducing cycle times for processing wood/natural-fiber plastics, an area in which Crompton is very active.
* XLPEarl silane for wire and cable and cross-linked polyethylene pipe applications.
* Mark High-Speed 2200 Series window-frame stabilizer, based on patented technology, which is said to eliminate extrusion line vibration.
Ernst & Young honors Houston's V. Goradia
Vijay Goradia, the Houston-based head of resin and chemical distributor Vinmar de Mexico S de RL de CV, recently was named Houston's 2002 Master Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst & Young.
The award honors individuals who create companies that generate new jobs and wealth. Goradia, a 24-year chemical industry veteran, founded ChemXL in 2001 to provide online negotiating tools for the chemical industry. That firm since has evolved into SourceXL. Goradia also started and is chairman of Vinmar International Ltd.