As the global plastics industry gathers this week in Friedrichshafen, Germany, for the Fakuma trade show, machinery suppliers find themselves in a complex business space.
The COVID-19 pandemic that shut down most trade shows and business travel for 18 months seem to have not had as great an impact on sales as first feared. In fact, Michael Wittmann, CEO of Vienna, Austria-based Wittmann Battenfeld Group, said there were opportunities available for machinery makers.
"Not only did we learn to cope in a difficult situation, but we saw a truly dramatic increase in slower moving segments, such as garden furniture. People had to stay at home and therefore started doing more around the house. In the end, in terms of business figures the impact has been small," he said.
But individual companies and trade associations both worry that supply chain problems will hold back growth potential this year.
Thorsten Kühmann, managing director of German trade group VDMA, said that companies faced the paradox of full order books but having to limit their own production.
"The bottlenecks in the supply of plastics — which is impacting the willingness on the part of manufacturers to invest — as well as in the sector of metals and electronic components, could soon lead to the paradoxical situation of machine manufacturers having to curb production despite full order books," he said.