For editors of the world's plastics publications, the K show can be a daunting experience — so many companies, so many stands and so many kilometers to tread to cover all the news. But the 2010 event was different.
The size of the task last month was no smaller but, after the intense gloom of 2009, the plastics industry gathered in Düsseldorf, Germany, and had one thing in mind — to enjoy a long-awaited recovery.
For a seasoned plastics journalist — 2010 marked my sixth K — the positivity was at times a little overwhelming. Could the plastics market really be this good? I asked the question many times. And I received the same answer many times: Yes, there are still some clouds on the horizon, but yes, the market really is this good.
While the K show is a shop window for everyone in the plastics supply chain, it is the machinery and ancillary equipment makers that really drive the mood. And this year they were driving it up — fast.
Machine makers in almost every processing sector report levels of incoming orders that have not been seen since 2008. Automotive seems to be driving the recovery in capital equipment markets, but there is plenty of activity in other sectors too.
Of course, after such a deep recession it is no easy task to return to full production volumes. The supply chain is coming under pressure. Plastics machinery makers are not the only companies to have cut back their inventories and staffing levels during the downturn; makers of electric motors, hydraulic pumps and electronic components have done the same, as have the numerous specialist subcontract machining firms that the plastics industry relies upon.
All the machinery suppliers that I spoke to at the show said they are seeing delivery times extend and component prices moving upwards. While all of them had strategies in place to manage those challenges, all seemed to agree that customers expecting immediate deliveries are likely to be disappointed.
And those delivery issues, while temporary, may continue for some months to come.
So, the message to the processing community is pretty clear. If you have investment projects that you pushed to your back burner last year, then now may be the time to pay them some fresh attention.
Getting those “parked” projects back on line may prove to be a longer process than you expected.
Smith is editor of European Plastics News, a sister publication to Plastics News.