UPDATED — U.S. plastics machinery shipments in the second quarter continued to outperform activity in 2013, according to data from Society of the Plastics Industry Inc.
Primary equipment shipments for reporting companies reached $299.3 million in the three month period ended June 30, a 10 percent hike from the 2013 period. The primary equipment category comprises injection and blow molding, extrusion and thermoforming equipment.
“The manufacturers of plastics machinery that anticipated strong demand and then allocated resources accordingly are being richly rewarded for their efforts in 2014, especially in North America,” explained Bill Wood, plastics market economist who analyzes and reports on the machinery sector for SPI's Committee on Equipment Statistics. “Those companies that hired new workers, increased production capacity, invested in inventories, or all of the above are reaping large returns on those investments this year.”
Wood said in SPI's machinery report that the industry is entering the “sweet spot” of the capital expenditure cycle.
“It is a good time for plastics manufacturing in the U.S.,” Wood said.
Plastics machinery strength mirrors the buoyancy in the overall industrial machinery market. The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis reports business investment in industrial equipment grew 13 percent in the second quarter of 2014 compared with a year earlier. And the U.S. Census Bureau found the total value of shipments of industrial machinery soared 35 percent in the second quarter.
Ongoing North America strength is supported by encouraging U.S. economic data, Wood said in a telephone interview.
“There was a strong purchasing management index in August and the industrial production index for plastic parts has been rising at a strong pace,” Wood pointed out. The latter index for plastics is up about 6 percent vs. a year ago, a “very strong” performance.
Other U.S. portents for continued plastics machinery strength include good housing starts data, an 8 percent hike in new orders for durable goods, a recovering appliance industry and healthier numbers for personal income and employment data.
Wood is the founder of Mountaintop Economics & Research Inc., and Plastics News' economics editor.
Injection molding machinery shipments value was 9 percent higher in the second quarter compared to the 2013 quarter, SPI data show. Twin-screw machines, including co-rotating and counter-rotating types, led the way for extrusion machinery, with shipments jumping 63 percent. Single-screw extruder shipments, however, dipped 2 percent. Blow molding machine shipments also slipped 2 percent in the second quarter.
The auxiliary equipment sector posted a record-breaking $108 million in new bookings in the second quarter. This new benchmark was 21 percent higher than in the 2013 quarter, SPI estimated. Machinery in this sector includes robotics, temperature control, materials handling and other equipment working in tandem with primary equipment.
A second-quarter survey of machinery suppliers indicated there is still room for growth. About 90 percent of respondents said they expect market conditions to stay the same or improve in the third quarter. About 88 percent said they expect conditions to hold steady or improve over the next 12 months.
Respondents generally agreed that North America will offer the strongest gains in machinery shipments. The outlook for Latin America and Mexico is expected to be lower than expectations in the first quarter but expectations for Asia and Europe were reportedly better than in early 2014.
Automotive and medical markets will remain strong for plastics products and equipment, respondents predicted. Other major end markets will experience steady conditions in the coming year, the survey showed.
Primary equipment shipments in the second quarter slipped 0.3 percent compared to the first quarter of 2014 but momentum built in the first quarter of the year fueled a 10 percent rise in shipments for the whole first half of the year.