Officials from extruder manufacturers say business is still hot in packaging, prompting sales of film and sheet machines. A stronger new-home construction market — if it continues — should boost extrusion lines for rigid plastic like vinyl windows, siding and pipe.
It was a major year for business news. The biggest story came Sept. 4 when Davis-Standard LLC announced that it bought Gloucester Engineering Co., the film equipment maker. Officials eventually plan to move production from Gloucester, Mass., to Davis-Standard headquarters in Pawcatuck, Conn.
In another development, Graham Engineering Corp. said it was closing the American Kuhne factory in Ashaway, R.I., and moving its extrusion system production to Graham's headquarters plant in York, Pa.
Machines from the companies in those deals make packaging film and medical tubing and other products — growing areas.
Building products are growing too, but more slowly, machinery executives said.
Single-family housing starts ran at a seasonally adjusted rate of 740,000 a year in September — up 6.3 percent from the same period the year before, according to the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
And remodeling remains solid. The National Association of Home Builders reported in late October that its Remodeling Market Index has been above 50 — the key break-even point — for 10 straight quarters. “The increased backlog of remodeling jobs highlights the continuing labor shortages that hinder production, especially of large additions and alterations, and it make it difficult to complete projects in a timely manner,” said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe.
Although home construction is growing, some sectors, such as PVC pipe and profile building products, still have lots of available machines, said Paul Caprio, president of KraussMaffei Corp. in Florence, Ky.
“I still think that, unfortunately, the market still has so much capacity from back when we were doing 1.5 million homes a year,” Caprio said. So he said that extrusion processors have not been ordering many new machines for rigid building products, although they did invest in parts to rejuvenate lines that were down.
“But the good news is everything is coming up. So 2016 should see an increase,” Caprio said.
Ron Krisanda, chief operating officer at Milacron Holdings Corp., said most of the company's new extruders sold this year were replacement machines offering new technology. For existing machines, Milacron has gained sales for aftermarket business — such as screws, barrels and gearboxes.
And Milacron is getting into sheet extrusion lines, a new market, Krisanda said. The Blue Ash, Ohio-based company sold four sheet machines, he said in a November interview.
Graham Engineering's American Kuhne business has gained market share this year, according to Gina Haines, vice president and chief marketing officer at Graham. “The bright spot for the healthy segments for us has been sheet, OEMs, medical, profile and wire and cable,” she said, discussing the North American market.
“We've actually seen good growth in the pipeline here in the second half of the year. So we're hopeful that's indicative of a solid year in 2016,” Haines said.