In today's struggling economic climate, our industry seems to have developed myopic approaches to problem solving solutions that would not even get a moment's thought in prosperous times.
Welcome to the hyper-recession, an economic state characterized by spending more time discussing the situation than actually dealing with it. Fear of further downturn clouds even the simplest cost-benefit analysis for a capital-expenditure decision. Liquidity has become a mantra, to a fault.
Isolation cannot produce sustainable growth.
When did the industry appear to lose its focus and forget how it got to the big show? When did our strengths suddenly become our weaknesses?
We should be realizing the potential of our strengths and remembering how plastics became one of the leading contributors to the [gross domestic product]. If we think that the problem is out there, do we really understand the problem itself?
This year's NPE offers a tremendous opportunity for everyone to launch forward-thinking strategies for success. I use the word success to challenge those who would prefer the word survival.
The timing of this event could not be more propitious for our struggling markets. Those in attendance this year will most certainly have something to say in the near-term success strategies of our industry. They will realize that we all have a role in buying and selling products and services which will reinforce our positions in the U.S. and global economies.
Those who choose to limit or eliminate participation are not remembering the basic lessons learned with regard to investments in sales and marketing during periods of economic slowdown. They will also, through attrition, be improving the sales efficiency of those competitors that attend or exhibit [at NPE2009].
In a recent Plastics News story [Analysts: Deal-making slow, not in dumpster, Jan. 26, Page 1], leading mergers and acquisitions gurus stressed that although the market for acquisitions may undergo some flattening in 2009, the underlying formula of strategic purchase and globalization still will enable companies with core competencies, market penetration, and sound financial planning to be the chosen few in a sea of bargain-basement opportunities.
Market uncertainty should not dictate the strategy of the individual company: it can lead to skewed or even flawed analysis, and a resultant misfire in the execution. Nobody wants to fall victim to a domino effect yet we easily accede to theories and postulates that place everything out of our control.
As little as two years ago, the plastics industry was working on inventive solutions to other, no-less-significant issues that were impacting its future. Sustainability, nanocomposites, bioresins, radio-frequency identification, and new multilayer packaging were at the forefront of the drive for growth and strategic success.
Today, we are faced with new and different dynamics, yet we need to harness the same creative and business/engineering synergy to respond to the issues with positive results.
On [June 22] at NPE, the industry will honor its best at the Plastics Hall of Fame induction ceremony. This gala reminds us that success is the result of accepting challenges and finding solutions.
Whether or not you are attending the event, you should take a moment to read the biographies and curriculum vitae of those who have played a vital role in directing the success of our industry to date.
Their trials and accomplishments span many generations, economies, wars, and political and social reformations.
Let everyone who has worked so ardently to build this industry look forward to a place and time when we can state that the tide of economic struggle has turned toward growth and a renewed enthusiasm.
Pick your own square one. NPE seems right for the task: We can get it done, and we will not fall victim to our frustrations and fatigue we are better than that!
Gardiner is president of Gardiner Plastics, a strategic consulting and resin distribution business based in Setauket, N.Y. He is president of the Plastics Academy and a member of the executive committee of the National Plastics Center.