Collective effort required to save Canadian plastics industry
By Tom Venetis, editor
As this year wraps up, it's time for some blunt words: the plastics business is going to get even tougher and some of you will not survive....
As this year wraps up, it’s time for some blunt words: the plastics business is going to get even tougher and some of you will not survive.
There’s no beating around the bush on this. Moldmakers and plastics processors are going to face increasing economic and competitive pressure in the next few years, resulting from higher resin prices and the challenge of matching or beating cheaper molds from Asia and India. On top of this, there are the wage disparities between those countries and North America.
I’m not going to tell you there is a “magic bullet” that will solve these problems. But I can tell you that “business as usual” is not going to work anymore.
However, the biggest stumbling block, as I see it, is too many plastics processors, moldmakers and others in the industry refuse to work together to tackle these problems.
There is an attitude amongst many, that working together means compromising one’s business; that co-operation is tantamount to divulging trade secrets and thereby giving competitors an advantage. The unfortunate result is an industry made up of companies and people who are often reluctant to truly band together to tackle issues affecting everyone, and consequently, nothing gets resolved.
Now, compare how the plastics industry works to the automotive and high-tech sectors. For years now, automotive and high-tech firms have seen the value of co-operating to collectively address issues affecting their industries. These firms have no qualms about joining forces to lobby government, and frankly, anybody or any organization, to find soluions to the issues affecting them.
If the automotive industry believes government can put into place legislation or regulations that it will benefit from, you can bet all the major automotive players and industry organizations are hard at work getting that message out to the politicians. If unfair trade issues are going to close down an automotive plant, you can guarantee there will be a major press conference where the case for saving the plant will be fervently and passionately presented. Putting pressure on politicians works simply because they are terrified of being caught flat-footed when asked questions like: “Why aren’t you doing anything to save hundreds of jobs or an industry that employees so many Canadians?”
In the software industry, companies have banded together, and even formed new industry organizations, to pressure government to deal with software piracy as well as countries that are lax in protecting intellectual property and turn a blind-eye to piracy. These groups can tell you at the drop-of-a-hat how much money the economy loses from piracy, intellectual property theft and how many jobs have been affected.
When was the last time you saw moldmakers or plastics processors lobbying government or holding a press conference to bring attention to economic and trade issues affecting them? Could anyone say off the top of their head how much moldmakers and plastics processors contribute to the Canadian economy, or how many Canadians are employed in the industry? How about the effects on the Canadian economy when moldmakers and plastics processors increasingly go out of business due to unfair competition or poor trade practices?
And let’s not go easy on industry associations. These groups have to do a better job bringing members together to effectively tackle these issues. They also must do a better job at bringing attention to the issues affecting their members.
Right now, the only long-term solution for the Canadian plastics industry is collective action. First, people must wake-up and realize they are facing the same challenges. If plastics firms don’t take that step to really work together for the benefit of the whole industry, then more moldmakers and plastics processors will be needlessly shutting their doors for good this coming year. It could be you.