Plastics News will be posting live updates on impacts of the coronavirus update on the global plastics industry. This story will be updated as information becomes available.
Coronavirus updates: Geneva auto show canceled
Geneva auto show canceled
The Plastics Industry Association said in a Feb. 28 statement from President and CEO Tony Radoszewski that its products are ready and available to help prevent the spread of coronavirus
“As new coronavirus cases are confirmed around the globe … the plastics industry is continually working with its partners throughout the supply chain to ensure that needs are met, patients get the care they need and medical professionals are protected as they provide that care,” Radoszewski said.
“The global plastics industry stands ready to assist authorities and public health advocates in making sure our materials and products are on the frontline of combating the spread of the coronavirus.”
The organizers of the Geneva auto show said the event has been canceled after Swiss government banned gatherings of more than 1,000 people.
"We regret to announce the 2020 Geneva motor show will be canceled. This is force majeure," a spokesman for the Palexpo show venue said Feb. 28.
Organizers said the show will not be held at a later date.
"The show cannot be postponed. It's not possible. It's too big. It's not feasible," the spokesman said.
Earlier on Friday Swiss Federal Heath Minister Alain Berset announced that events involving more than 1,000 people were prohibited with immediate effect.
"In view of the current situation and the spread of the coronavirus, the Federal Council has categorized the situation in Switzerland as 'special' in terms of the Epidemics Act," the cabinet said after a meeting.
"Large-scale events involving more than 1,000 people are to be banned. The ban comes into immediate effect and will apply at least until 15 March."
The Geneva show was due to start March 3 with a media day for new product debuts.
Automakers and suppliers had already begun withdrawing staff from the event after the virus became more widespread in Europe, with an outbreak paralyzing large parts of northern Italy, which borders Switzerland.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Switzerland rose to nine on Feb. 27 and the canton of Basel-City put a number of children into a two-week quarantine after one of their caregivers tested positive for the virus.
Nick Gibbs, an Automotive News reporter, contributed this report.
The Association of Rotational Molders will postpone its Italian tour of rotomolders, originally scheduled for March 29-April 3, and a collaborative meeting with IT-RO, the Italian rotomolding organization due to the coronavirus outbreak.
ARM said in a statement Feb. 26 it expects to postpone the meeting until 2021 or 2022.
“We are working with the venues in Italy and those we have booked for our next spring meeting to determine when we will reschedule … and will make an announcement in the coming weeks,” ARM said in the statement. “We plan to take advantage of the additional time to make the meeting even more worthwhile.
“Our tour was scheduled to begin in the Lombardy region of Italy, which has the most COVID-19 cases in the country, and travel throughout that and the Veneto region, which has the second-most cases,” the statement continued. “We do not want ARM members to find themselves in a quarantine situation or anything like it.”
Just a day after organizers of JEC said the Paris composites event would go on as scheduled, it announced that it has now postponed it until May 12-14. It had been set for March 3-5.
The organizing board and key stakeholders made the decision on Feb. 25.
"The recent spread of the coronavirus in new countries last week, and especially countries playing an important role in the composite materials industry such as China, South Korea and Italy, has obliged the JEC World organization team and key stakeholders of the industry to reassess the current situation," the organizers said in a written statement.
"Increased travel restrictions from authorities, but also at corporate level, both from exhibiting and visiting companies, have drastically reduced the potential attendance to the show."
The global auto industry is beginning to see impacts from the coronavirus that is now hitting manufacturing regions beyond Asia.
MTA SpA, an Italian injection molder of connectors and other electronic parts for the auto industry, announced it was forced to close its main production center in Codogno, 37 miles southeast of Milan, Feb. 24 to follow regulations put in place by the Italian Minister of Health.
Codogno became the center of a coronavirus outbreak responsible for 12 deaths and more than 370 confirmed cases of the virus, Plastic News’ sister publication Automotive News reported.
Italian authorities ordered factories in Codogno and nine nearby towns to suspend non-essential activities to help prevent the spread of the virus. People are not allowed to enter or leave the towns, but Automotive News reported Fiat Chrysler is working with authorities to access needed products.
Italy-based materials supplier RadiciGroup said all of its production and sales are “operating regularly.”
“Despite the exceptional situation caused by the spreading of the coronavirus (COVID-19), our staff are working as a team harder than ever to guarantee and optimize the carrying on of our business activities,” RadiciGroup said in a news release. “We have adopted the precautions prescribed by the competent authorities, in coordination with the doctors in charge and the individuals responsible for the prevention and protection services at our sites, to safeguard their health without interrupting work activities.”
Analysts with LMC Automotive expects if the virus spreads further it would be a “reasonable assumption,” that “there would be a continuous significant economic cost to containment measures as locations are quarantined, travel disrupted, economic activity curtailed … industrial production halted, supply chains disrupted, and confidence undermined.”
LMC estimated the loss to the volume of light vehicles produced and sold would be about 3-4 million units.
Cooper Standard Automotive said in its 2019 fourth quarter report that it already is putting the impact of the coronavirus in its 2020 earnings guidance.
“From a big picture point of view, we're nowhere near back to normal as it relates to our plants and our customers’ plants,” Jeffrey Edwards, chairman and CEO of Cooper Standard said in a Feb. 24 conference call. “I just saw an announcement this morning of a couple customers that delayed startup until March 10. It's a very fluid situation.”
Cooper Standard is fortunate to have an “incredible” Chinese management team in place in the country, Edwards added.
“They're doing a great job for us in terms of the supply chain being cut off from certain parts of the country,” he said. “It affects everyone and our team is doing a marvelous job working 24/7 to support whatever our customers are requiring us to do. So far so good.”
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles plans to restart a European plant, an FCA spokesman confirmed to Plastics News, after it halted production due to “an interruption of critical supplies,” related to coronavirus, according to the automaker’s 2019 annual report.
“The Chinese automobile market has also begun to experience reduced demand,” the report said. “The ultimate severity of the coronavirus outbreak is uncertain at this time and therefore we cannot predict the impact it may have on our end markets and our operations; however, the effect on our results could be material and adverse.”
“FCA continues to monitor its global supply chain in relation to the coronavirus outbreak and is working with our supplier partners to ensure the safety of all personnel and to facilitate on-time deliveries,” FCA Spokesman Michael Palese told Plastics News in an emailed statement. “At this time, there is no immediate impact on FCA manufacturing operations.”
At Toyota Motor Corp., production in Japan has “operated normally,” and the automaker expects normal operation through March 2 and will “continue to base our decisions on the guidance we receive from the authorities,” said spokesman Victor Vanov.
“Toyota makes decisions based on the safety and security of our employees and stakeholders and in consideration of those currently dealing with this outbreak,” Vanov said in an emailed statement. “We will continue to take action in a timely manner.”
Vanov also said the automaker’s employees in Japan have been asked cancel all non-urgent business travel, both domestic and international and is prioritizing safety “when considering our inventory situation and making decisions on operations.”
The organizers of Mexico’s second largest plastics industry trade show say the event will go ahead March 11-13 in Guadalajara despite the health threat posed by the COVID-19 virus in different parts of the world.
The virus will inevitably cause a drop in the export of supplies across the world, Jorge Arizmendi, managing director of Expo Plásticos and Residuos Expo, a waste management forum, said Feb. 25 at an event presentation ceremony.
“For this reason, the solutions on display at Expo Plásticos will provide an important alternative to preventing a scarcity of machinery, auxiliary equipment, raw materials and pigments required by manufacturing companies’ operations,” he said.
As of Feb. 25, Mexico’s health authorities said they had no reports of an infection in Mexico.
Contributed by Plastics News correspondent Stephen Downer.
DuPont Co.’s China response team said it has coordinated with the Chinese government and health agencies to get needed protective equipment to healthcare workers. It also increased production of protective garments in manufacturing plants outside of China.
“We will continue to work with our entire supply chain as well as the direct responding agencies to coordinate the most efficient ways to get the needed protection to China healthcare workers and public servants,” it said in a Feb. 6 release.
"DuPont is donating three types of personal protective garments to the most affected areas through the China Red Cross Foundation, to protect healthcare workers and front-line personnel," the Wilmington, Del.-based company said. "DuPont is also contributing probiotic products to help regulate and improve immunity. These donated materials will be allocated by the China Red Cross Foundation to the most needed areas.”
As the coronavirus outbreak that began in China spreads globally, plastics manufacturers on multiple continents are also responding and preparing for more impacts on the industry from a virus now infecting more than 79,000 people globally, and killing over 2,600.
Italy now has the highest number of reported cases of the virus outside of Asia, at 200, with five people dead. South Korea has the biggest outbreak outside of China, with more than 800 reported cases.
Rodolfo Comerio srl, a plastics and rubber machinery company, is limiting access to its base site near Milan.
“In light of the current health situation in Italy,” the company said in a Feb. 24 news release, “ … we are acting with the local health authorities so that all our partners are guaranteed the maximum security and the necessary information to avoid any risk of contagion from Corona Virus.
“Outbreaks have not been recorded in our area, the activities in Rodolfo Comerio are proceeding regularly and safety protocols prohibiting non-authorized personnel from entering the company have been implemented,” the release said.
MIDO, the annual global eyewear industry tradeshow held in Milan announced its board decided to postpone its 2020 50-year anniversary event scheduled for Feb. 29 through March 2.
“We took this decision out of respect for the current alarming situation and for our exhibitors and visitors,” Giovanni Vitaloni, President of MIDO said in a news release Feb. 22. “We are aware that this decision will require industry professionals, exhibitors, buyers, press members, opticians and everyone working for MIDO, including our staff, to re-schedule their attendance, with a significant impact on all internal organizations. … but we cannot honestly think of celebrating our 50 years when the world - and our country now in particular - is experiencing such an international crisis.”
MIDO’s organizers postponed the event to a date “still to be decided,” between the end of May to mid-June, the release said.
On Feb. 24, the Dow Jones industrial average lost nearly 1,000 points, or 3.3 percent, while the S&P 500 also fell 3.3 percent and the Nasdaq fell 3.7 percent.
And beyond the stock market, petrochemical demand could fall by between 2.4 million and 4 million metric tons because of the virus, according to Bill Hyde, senior director of olefins and elastomers at Houston-based analytics firm IHS Markit.
The overall Chinese economy will be significantly impacted by the virus, Hyde said.
“Our best estimate right now is that Chinese GDP growth will be reduced by around 0.4 percent this year to about 5.4 percent,” he said. “A more aggressive scenario could result in GDP growth below 5 percent in 2020.”
The virus' impact on transportation in China has caused negative growth in global crude oil demand in the first quarter of 2020, according to Hyde.
Patrick Dempsey, president and CEO of Connecticut-based Barnes Group Inc., said in its fourth quarter conference call Feb. 21 that Asia accounts for about 10 percent of Barnes’ total sales, mainly from molds and automotive hot runners, and special nitrogen gas springs.
“Our primary concern remains with the safety and welfare of our associates around the world,” he said.
Dempsey said Barnes temporarily suspended employee travel in and out of China. Plants remain closed after the extended Chinese New Year holiday, but are “slowly coming back online.”
“At this point we are monitoring the situation closely,” he said.
The industry is also responding to a growing need for plastic medical supplies for containment and treatment of the coronavirus.
Nantong Polymax, a sister company of PolymaxTPE of Waukegon, Ill., and a manufacturer of thermoplastic elastomers located about 500 miles from the center of the outbreak in Wuhan, China, said in a Feb. 24 release that the Chinese government requested it remain open to produce a critical component called P3838, which is molded into diaphragms needed for sputum aspirators, suction machines used to clear out a patients’ airways.
“Nantong Polymax has been allowed to keep a portion of their facility open, operating with a small shift of employees to run limited production,” the release said.
“Understanding the severity of the situation, not only in China but across the world, we are happy to be able to do our part to fight the virus,” Tom Castile, vice president of sales at PolymaxTPE said in a statement.
Miles Moore of Rubber & Plastics News contributed to this report.
As federal officials warned of the spread of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., suppliers to the medical and health care industries said they were ramping up production.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a news briefing Feb. 25 that it is is preparing for pandemic response plans if needed.
Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Disease at the CDC said health officials don’t know how large the spread of the disease to the U.S. might be, but that “disruption to everyday life may be severe.”
“It’s not so much of a question of if this will happen in this country any more but a question of when this will happen, and how many people in this country will have severe illness,” she said. “We are asking the American public to prepare for the expectation that this might be bad.” she said.
Plastics suppliers such as PolymaxTPE of Waukegon, Ill., and a manufacturer of thermoplastic elastomers, had already said its sister company in China was producing specialized TPE used in aspirators.
Berry Global Group Inc. had already ramped up production of nonwoven health care products in response to the initial outbreak in Wuhan, China, “prioritizing production of nonwoven health care products.”
“With the recent outbreak of the coronavirus in China, we continue to stay abreast of challenges which may affect our supply chain,” Amy Waterman, a spokesperson for Berry Global told Plastics News in an emailed statement Feb. 25. “We will continue to communicate with customers and suppliers to identify and resolve any delays during this time.”
Flexible packaging specialist Sealed Air Corp. said it is implementing precautionary measures to ensure the well being of its employees, including suspending business travel to and from affected countries.
“Sealed Air has business continuity plans in place to minimize potential impacts on its operations and customer service,” Pam Davis, a spokesperson for Sealed Air said in an emailed statement to Plastics News. “The company will continue to monitor the situation and assess the need for further measures based on recommendations by relevant authorities and business needs.
“At Sealed Air, the safety and welfare of employees and their families is our top priority. The company is closely monitoring the development of the COVID-19 outbreak,” the statement said.
Italy's plastics industry has been seeing an impact of the coronavirus beyond a rise in cases in the Milan region.
Amaplast, the Italian plastics and rubber processing machinery and molds manufacturers’ association, said companies have seen delays in shipments and delivery of machinery because of the halt in production in China.
“In addition, some companies that for a number of years have been operating manufacturing units or trading offices in China, have been forced to temporarily close their premises, due to the block on business activities, and also as a result of the interruption of the components supply chain and distribution channels,” Amaplast said in a news release Feb. 24. “However, at present there are reports of a progressive, though slow, return to normal operations, with the reopening of company premises.”
China is an important export market for Italian manufacturers of machinery, equipment and molds for plastics and rubber processing and delays in new orders and investment decisions could cause financial stress for some companies, Amaplast said in the release.
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