Japan's plastic machinery industry saw 2009 sales revenue drop 50 percent, with the country's sizable injection press industry selling fewer than 5,000 units, compared with more than 12,600 in 2008, according to new data from an industry trade association.
The statistics show the impact of the economic crisis on Japan's machine industry, with sales of extruders and blow molding machines also experiencing sharp drops, although not as steep as sales of injection molding machines, according to the Tokyo-based Association of Japan Plastics Machinery.
While AJPM officials declined to comment on the statistics, some companies and industry observers suggest there have been some modest improvements in recent months, led by sales into the Chinese market.
The strength of the overall recovery is unclear.
The Chinese market is quite solid and steady, said Yutaka Hasegawa, general manager of injection molding machine exports at Toshiba Machine Co. Ltd. of Tokyo.
He said the company saw sales bottom out in February 2009, and he expects Toshiba to focus its export business in China on flat-screen television production, computers and cars; in India and Southeast Asia, on automotive uses; and in North America and Europe, on medical and packaging applications.
The AJPM figures report only plastics processing equipment made in Japan and either sold domestically or exported.
Overall, Japanese injection press makers reported selling 4,895 injection presses in 2009, a very low number for an industry that has sold at least 12,000 machines a year since 2002. The industry's high was almost 18,100 molding machines in 2004, AJPM data shows.
One industry source said most of that long-term drop is from economic conditions, and probably not from production shifting outside Japan.
AJPM data does suggest some recent improvement, with the injection press industry reporting selling about 1,740 presses in November, December and January. That figure would represent an annual pace of just under 7,000 units, with press maker Sumitomo Heavy Industries Ltd. estimating total industry sales of 8,400 in 2010.
One industry source who asked not to be identified said there are signs of recovery because Japan's injection press makers did a hard restructuring and reduced production capacity in 2009, but now they cannot keep up with orders.
That source said the strength of the recovery is unclear.
Press maker Sumitomo Heavy Industries Ltd. of Chiba City, Japan, said in its nine-month earnings report covering the period through Dec. 31 that conditions across all its business units, from plastics to semiconductor equipment to shipbuilding, continue to be difficult.
In the overseas arena, with the exception of China, where the positive effect of a stimulus package is becoming more evident, the majority of economies around the world continue to show signs of deeper economic decline with only a glimmer of hope for long-term recovery, the company said in the Jan. 29 report.
The AJPM data indicated sales of extruders and blow molding machinery declined as well, although not as much.
Extrusion main-body sales fell from 566 units in 2008 to 411 in 2009, while revenues dropped from 23.7 billion yen ($264 million) to $14.8 billion yen ($163 million).
Other extrusion equipment fell to about 840 units in 2009, from 1,257 the year before, with revenues dropping more than half, to about 6.05 billion yen ($66.9 million).
The country's blow molding equipment makers sold 399 units in 2009, down from 531 the year before, with sales dropping about 25 percent to 10.7 billion yen ($118 million).
Injection molding press sales were 64.5 billion yen ($713 million) in 2008, compared with 149.3 billion yen ($1.65 billion) the prior year.
Copyright 2010 Crain Communications Inc. All Rights Reserved.