If you're looking for a sense of capital spending in the North American plastics machinery industry, my colleague Catherine Kavanaugh has a telling number for you: 3,000.
As in, Plastics News estimates that the North American market shipped fewer than 3,000 injection molding machines this year, down from 4,000 in 2020 and 5,000 in 2021.
As her reporting details, part of it is the COVID buying binge coming to an end, as well as companies working through inventory and capacity left over from that binge. And of course, higher interest rates are delaying investments.
As one machinery executive put it: "It should not have come as a surprise that, after two years of record orders, the overall market is taking a bit of a break."
Catherine's reporting also looks at what's happening in the blow molding equipment market, where there's some of the same post-pandemic adjustments in capital spending, as well as, one executive noted, more capacity amid pressure on consumer goods packaging companies to use less plastic or find alternatives.
In extrusion markets, there was a similar pandemic bump followed by a slowdown, but then followed by signs of a pickup again in the second half of this year. That was a theme in all markets, signs of a pickup in 2024.
As Don Loepp, our editor, described it in a column accompanying the report, the mixed results could be summed as "clear as mud."
In short, these are markets with a lot of moving parts, but our machinery report tries to look at all the gears.