International growth of rotomolding was a major theme at the 2005 Association of Rotational Molders International fall meeting and Rotoplas '05 trade show.
Many officials highlighted key areas for growth, including Eastern Europe, India and Latin America, as regions get on board with globalization.
``Some countries have accepted globalization, and they've won,'' Peter Mooney, an industry consultant who operates Plastics Custom Research Services in Advance, N.C., said in his keynote address. ``The blunt truth is that globalization will produce winners and losers.''
Emerging markets for rotomolding include India, which had a strong representation at Rotoplas in the form of machinery makers wanting to serve the U.S. market.
Machinery firm M-Plast India Ltd. started in an 8,640-square-foot plant in 1987. It has grown to roughly 52,000 square feet with 85 employees. Soon, it will have a new, 108,000-square-foot factory that will host a research and development and training center.
The firm is exploring the U.S. market, too, said R.S. Mathur, vice president of marketing.
Right across the aisle at the show, held Sept. 18-21 in Rosemont, was Fixopan Machines Pvt. Ltd. of New Delhi, India, wanting to gain traction for its Fixotron carousel machines, molds and pulverizers.
Reinhardt Roto-Machines Pvt. Ltd. of Gujarat, India, also had a booth. The firm is a joint venture between Ernst Reinhardt GmbH of Germany, Rijsholt BV of Holland and Indian partners Dhanu Patell and Harleen Chawla.
For domestic machinery makers, international competition just adds fuel for innovation, officials said.
``We're trying to stay ahead of the curve,'' said Terry Gillian, vice president of sales with Stow, Ohio-based machinery maker Ferry Industries Inc. Gillian said that means improving manpower and energy efficiency.
Ferry introduced an oscillating oven that is positioned by precision ball screws. The multiple-burner machine has five temperature zones that can be programmed for efficient gas use, Gillian said. The firm also introduced an upgrade to its RotoCure System manager, to trouble-shoot machine problems over the Internet.
Industry trade journal Tecnología del Plastico surveyed 105 rotational molders that said product diversification is the main challenge for growth in Latin America.
``We have a very young industry in Latin America,'' editor Laura Florez said in a Sept. 20 presentation. ``Only 25 percent of companies have more than 10 years in the market.''
Many factors drive the fledgling Eastern European market, said Nick Henwood, who founded materials supplier Matrix Polymers Ltd. of Northampton, England, in 1992. Those factors include low labor rates and entrepreneurial energy. Henwood said Eastern Europe has a dynamic rotomolding sector with companies that want to diversify and are benefiting from investment by Western European processors and customers.
In addition, infrastructure projects fuel growth. As Eastern European nations invest in infrastructure, there will be bigger demand for products like water and waste-water collection tanks.
Matrix has a newer plant in central Poland. Henwood said the region is in need of technical support, and there is a shortage of high-quality molds. But Henwood warned not to assume that the needs of one country - Poland, for instance - are the same as the needs of the Czech Republic.
``One of the biggest mistakes you can make when looking at an emerging market is to look at it as a homogenous market,'' Henwood said.
For example, the industry can expect big growth in demand for kayaks in the Czech Republic, whose citizens favor the water sport.
Of course, no one can overlook the growth in China, either.
Linda Xu, president of Stow, Ohio-based LiDa Corp., said the Rotomolding Committee of China Plastics Processing Industry Association (RMCC) held an opening ceremony in Shanghai earlier this year, and the group held its International Rotational Molding Forum.
``Rotomolding is seeing another round of boom with the formation of the RMCC,'' she said.
In addition to rotomolders, that group is made up of designers and suppliers.