North American plastics equipment shipments spiked in the third quarter of last year, jumping 20% in value over the year-ago and previous quarter totals, and showing the largest quarterly gain of 2013, according to statistics compiled and reported by the Committee on Equipment Statistics of the Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI).
Shipments of primary plastics equipment for reporting companies totaled an estimated US$335.1 million in Q4, SPI said – the strongest quarterly total for all of 2013.
The Q4 total represented a gain of 3% when compared with the total from Q3 of 2013, and it was just slightly lower than the total from Q4 of 2012. 2012 was a good year for North American plastics capital equipment, with orders for injection molding machines, blown film lines, auxiliary equipment, thermoforming equipment, and hot runners all up compared to 2011.
For 2013 as a whole, the total value for primary plastics equipment shipments was up 8% when compared with the annual total from 2012.
By process, shipments of injection molding machines were up 20% in the third quarter when compared with the year-ago quarter. Single-screw extruder shipments rose 9%, and shipments of twin-screw extruders jumped 12%. Shipments of new thermoforming equipment spiked 50% in the third quarter when compared with 2012. In auxiliary equipment, including robotics, temperature control, and materials handling, orders totaled US$99.9 million, up 12% from the second quarter of 2013.
The gains in plastics were matched by increases in the overall industrial machinery sector, SPI noted. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, business investment in industrial equipment rose 5% in the third quarter when compared with last year. The Census Bureau reported that the total value of U.S. shipments of industrial machinery rose by 13% in the third quarter.
“When it is combined with the data reported by the federal government, the [Committee on Equipment Statistics] data indicates that the recovery in the plastics machinery sector was gaining momentum at the end of last year,” said Bill Wood, the plastics market economist who analyzes and reports on this market sector for the CES. “These strong gains notwithstanding, the trends indicate that the manufacturing sector is poised for further growth in the coming quarters. Harsh winter weather constrained the recovery at the beginning of 2014, but accelerating economic growth will return in the springtime. This will generate further gains in the plastics machinery data.”
The Committee on Equipment Statistics also surveys the business outlook of participating plastics machinery suppliers, and responses from the Q3 survey reveal “an upbeat attitude that is broad-based across the industry,” SPI reported. Eighty-seven per cent of the respondents expect conditions to stay the same or even improve in the coming quarter, and 92% expect them to hold steady or get better during the next year. The strongest gains were expected to come in North America and Mexico, and a strong majority predicted that Europe, Asia, and Latin America will be steady-to-better.