Is this a good time to be in the plastics business? That's a question I ask a lot, and lately the answer has been a very strong "yes."
That's not to say that everything is perfect. Running a business is never easy. And I've noticed lately that, after a year or two with very few layoffs, some plastics companies have been announcing cutbacks and plant closures in the past few weeks.
That could be a sign that business conditions are getting more difficult. But I think it's more likely that it's a result of the end of the Paycheck Protection Program, which helped a lot of businesses survive the pandemic without layoffs. Plus, some companies fear a recession is coming as the Fed tries to tame inflation, so they're making moves now to preserve capital.
In 2020 and 2021, it seemed like the only plastics processors that were cutting back were automotive suppliers that were dealing with pandemic-induced customer shutdowns. Not to mention erratic orders that were the result of the computer chip shortage.
The fact that automotive was tougher than most plastics end markets made the performance of our 2021 Processor of the Year winner, Saline, Mich.-based MMI Engineered Solutions Inc., all that much more impressive. MMI is an automotive molder that emerged from the pandemic with a full order book and a strategy for taking on additional business. It followed that strategy even as it faced all of the hurdles that other North American processors dealt with last year: supply chain chaos, worker shortages and ballooning resin prices.
MMI's success made quite a good story. And now the time has come to discover the next great North American processor success story and share the details with our readers.
Yes, it's time to nominate companies for the 2022 Plastics News Processor of the Year award.
It's the top award that a company can win in the North American plastics industry, and only 27 companies have held the title. (We haven't allowed repeat winners. A few have asked for the opportunity, but there are still so many great companies to recognize that I'm not ready to give any company a second year in the spotlight.)
The competition is open to all private and public companies or corporate operating divisions engaged in North American plastics processing for at least the past five years. Processors are manufacturers of plastic parts, so compounders, recyclers and resin manufacturers are not eligible.
The deadline for nominations is Aug. 31, and the deadline for final submissions is Oct. 1. Nominations are easy, and you can nominate any company, including your own. You can find the nomination form online at www.plasticsnews.com/poy.
Submissions require a lot of effort, and I'll contact every company that's nominated and let them know what's involved. To give you a taste, think of it as a detailed report about your company, with an emphasis on how it excels in our seven criteria: financial performance, quality, customer relations, employee relations, environmental performance, industry/public service and technological innovation.
After we get the submissions, we pick several finalists and visit each one in person. We'll announce the finalists in a January issue of PN, and the winner will be announced at the 2023 PN Executive Forum, which will be held Feb. 27 to March 1 in Clearwater Beach, Fla.
We have more information online at www.plasticsnews.com/topic/processor-year, including an FAQ and tips for putting together a winning submission.
The 2021 batch of finalists was one of the strongest I've ever seen, with many deserving companies. I'm looking forward to seeing the 2022 nominations and visiting some more great North American plastics processors.
Don Loepp is editor of Plastics News and author of the Plastics Blog. Follow him on Twitter @donloepp.