Asian machinery companies got caught in the West Coast ports labor dispute — causing some headaches to get equipment ready for NPE 2015.
Officials at several companies said they faced a time crunch, but still will be able to get their NPE machines ready. Some switched shipments to the East Coast.
But one knowledgeable Japanese industry source, who asked not to be identified, said at least two plastics machinery companies have had problems shipping equipment through the U.S. West Coast ports. He said the Japanese industry asked the NPE organizers to “do anything they could do” to speed up clearance through U.S. customs or prepare for the delay in getting items to the exhibition site.
One of the companies, injection press maker Nissei Plastic Industrial Co. Ltd., confirmed that its NPE plans have been caught up in the labor disputes at the ports. In an email to Plastics News, the company, one of Japan's largest injection press makers, said it has had to change one machine it wanted to bring to NPE from a model shipped from Asia to one of its stock machines already in the United States.
The machine it wanted to bring is still stuck in transit, Nissei said.
Labor dispute settled
The nine-month standoff between longshoremen and port owners paralyzed international trade through 29 West Coast ports. Produce rotted. Retailers were forced to fly in clothing to fill store shelves. And for the plastics industry, machinery shipments got held up.
Union dock workers and port owners have signed a tentative contact, and the ports are moving back to full production. But Asian machinery officials estimate it will take at least a month for the ports to get back to anything resembling “normal.”
Meanwhile, the clock ticks down until NPE 2015, in Orlando, Fla., March 23-27.
Brad Williams, director of trade show marketing and sales at the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc., the show organizer, said the West Coast port work stoppage and slowdowns have not set off any major alarms for NPE.
“They are now working out there so I think everybody is going to be OK [for the show],” he said.
That's the case for several Asian machinery companies, but the ports mess has caused some tension and delays for machines shipped to customers, officials said.
“We're spending more time on logistics than we normally would, just because of these concerns,” said Glenn Frohring, president of Absolute Haitian Corp. in Worcester, Mass., which sells Haitian injection presses made in China. “What is basically a routine in the order process has become more unpredictable.”
Absolute Haitian is all set for NPE, Frohring said. “It did impact it a little bit, but we do have our machinery, and we're setting it up in Ohio. We're basically replicating our booth so we can move it to Orlando,” he said.
Haitian shipped some machines from China to the East Coast, through the Panama Canal, a process Frohring and others said adds anywhere from 10 days to three weeks. “We've rerouted a lot of our equipment to our East Coast ports,” he said.
The imported machines, shipped in containers, are moved from the transport ships to trains, he said.
Randall Wan, president of Fortune International Inc., which sells Victor Taichung injection molding machines out of Somerset, N.J., said the port blockage caused one customer to miss an end-of-year tax credit for capital investment.
“We [had] three containers we were supposed to get around Dec. 16, but finally we got it around the 20th of January,” Wan said.
He said Fortune spent more than $2,000 to rent a truck to pick up the equipment. The three containers included a 130 Victor Taichung injection press for fortune's NPE booth.
The cost of containers in Asia have dramatically increased — but few containers are available, machinery officials said.
“A lot of big companies like Toyota just panicked and bought up all the ships leaving Japan. So right now it's difficult to even get space on the vessel until the end of March,” said Peter Gardner, who sells Niigata machines for DJK Global Group of Wood Dale, Ill.
Niigata had three of its NPE display machines already in Wood Dale. “Another special vertical machine that we're showing we shipped through Jacksonville, Fla., to avoid the West Coast completely,” Gardner said. That press arrived Feb. 26.
Niigata will transport the vertical press directly to Orlando for setup before the show, he said.
Customers are facing delays of about for two or three weeks for machines that are shipped from Japan, Gardner said.