It might not be spectacular, but the U.S. market appears solid and steady as 2005 draws to a close - the year after K 2004 and the year before NPE 2006.
Some dark clouds hover on the horizon. On Sept. 28, Milacron Inc. ominously announced plans for ``significant measures'' to reduce costs by closing plants in Europe and North America. So far, the company has not announced anything specific.
Germany has taken the brunt of publicly announced layoffs this year: 470 jobs will be eliminated when Battenfeld's injection press plant closes in Meinerzhagen, Germany, after 50 years of making injection molding machines.
Another blow to German machinery workers came during the Fakuma trade show in October. Friedrichshafen, Germany-based Mannesmann Plastics Machinery GmbH announced that Demag Plastics Group would lay off 100 people from its two German injection press factories, in Schwaig and Wiehe.
Earlier in the year, DPG axed 130 jobs in Germany and at the company's plant in Strongsville, Ohio.
Just as the U.S. machinery market had stabilized, along came Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, pummeling the Gulf Coast, uprooting residents and ripping through the key U.S. oil-producing region. Resin prices soared sky high, and there were some shortages. Resin prices already had jumped in 2004.
Looking to next year, costly resin could derail the machinery recovery by wiping out an already-slim profit margin at U.S. processors. It's tough to buy new equipment if you're not making money.
China also continued to make headlines, as many machinery makers scrambled to source components from China to cut costs - and turn a profit in the intensely competitive world of plastics equipment.
Husky Injection Molding Systems Ltd. announced plans to build all its small-tonnage injection molding machines at its Asian headquarters plant in Shanghai, China. Milacron Inc. delivered the first injection press built at its joint venture plant in Jiangyin, China.
Toshiba Machine Co. Ltd. built its second injection press assembly plant in Shanghai.
Blow molding press maker Kautex Maschinenbau GmbH is expanding its factory in Shunde, China.
Sourcing presses and parts from China could help machinery makers offset high steel costs caused in large part by China's insatiable demand.
But overall, 2005 was a decent year for U.S. machinery demand. Some machinery producers were able to push through modest price increases.
Capacity utilization is up at U.S. plastics and rubber plants. Consumers still are spending - even though economists are waiting to see the impact of big heating bills.
As the snow begins to fly, here's a look back at major events of and affecting 2005.
* At K 2004, Hanover, Germany-based Berstorff GmbH announced a huge planned expansion of its U.S. assembly of compounding extruders.
* Husky sold a mammoth, 8,800-ton injection press from its automotive technical center in Novi, Mich., to Buckhorn Inc., which makes shipping containers and pallets.
The companies kept the deal pretty hush-hush.
In other giant-press news, Negri Bossi SpA built a 6,600-ton machine for Jcoplastic SpA, a Battipaglia, Italy-based manufacturer of garbage containers and garden furniture.
* Machinery veteran Bill Carteaux was named president of the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. Carteaux moved to the Washington trade group from Demag Plastics Group, where he had been co-executive managing director.
* Krauss-Maffei Kuntstofftechnik GmbH and Dalian Shide Group Co. Ltd. said they would build extruders in a joint venture factory in China.
* Husky's board of directors picked John Galt, vice president of operations and chief operating officer, to replace the legendary Robert Schad as president and chief executive officer.
* The Times of London reported Feb. 17 that Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. was preparing to sell Mannesmann Plastics Machinery, which makes the machinery brands Krauss-Maffei, Demag Plastics Group, Netstal, Berstorff and Billion. Then nothing happened. As of this writing, Kohlberg Kravis still owns the world's largest plastics machinery company.
* Auxiliary equipment maker ACS Group announced plans to move production from its headquarters in Wood Dale, Ill., and Milwaukee to New Berlin, Wis.
* Taylor's Industrial Services LLC, parent of Mount Gilead, Ohio-based machinery supplier HPM, bought Turin, Italy-based injection press manufacturer Sandretto Industrie SpA and a sister company, Windsor Kunststofftechnologie GmbH of Hanau, Germany.
* Demag Plastics Group said Helmar Franz, executive managing director, and Gerhard Becker, chief financial officer, would leave the company. Franz, well-known in German machinery circles as the chairman of VDMA, the German Engineering Federation, disagreed with the company's future direction, sources said.
* William Lester died March 12 at the age of 97. An injection molding press pioneer, he was the son of Nathan Lester, founder of an early U.S. press manufacturer, Lester Engineering Co. in Cleveland.
* The owners of Davis-Standard Corp. and Black Clawson Converting Machinery Co. formed a joint venture to combine the two extrusion machinery makers into Davis-Standard LLC.
* Husky said it would close one of its two plants in Milton, Vt., an operation that produced control cabinets, and move the work to its headquarters in Bolton, Ontario.
* Davis-Standard LLC purchased Merritt Extruder Corp.
* Robert Ackley retired as Davis-Standard's top executive, ending a 46-year career with the company.
* Demag Plastics Group bought out its joint venture partner Ningbo Haitian Group Co. Ltd., taking full ownership of a factory in Ningbo, China, that has assembled about 1,000 injection presses since the venture started in 1998.