Feature

THE HIGHS AND LOWS OF 2008

Canadian Plastics made some big moves this year -- our print magazine got a full redesign, and we launched CanPlastics TV, the industry's first and only episodic Web TV show. For the industry at large, meanwhile, there was no shortage of big developments. Below, we recap some of the peaks and valleys of a memorable 12 months.


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November 1, 2008 by Canadian Plastics



AUTO INDUSTRY GETS FLAT TIRE: Although many small suppliers have met their end over the last few years, 2008 may be remembered for the fall of many major auto suppliers. Midland, Ont.-based Huronia Precision Plastics Inc. was placed in receivership, and 80 jobs were cut. Perhaps most notably, Concord, Ont.-based molder Progressive Moulded Products Ltd. failed to restructure its ten plastic plants in Ontario. The company reported revenues of over $290 million and had more than 2,000 employees. The company’s assets were auctioned off in September. And most recently, Tillsonburg, Ont.’s largest employer DDM Plastics announced that it would cut more than 460 jobs, leaving the company with about 200 employees.

NOT-SO-BIG THREE: The three major automotive OEMs fared no better in 2008. In October, plans for a GM-Chrysler merger were put on ice after the U. S. government rejected GM’s bailout bid. The OEMs continued to close plants and cut costs, which had a significant impact on their supply chain. For instance, Oakville, Ont.-based compression molder Polywheels Manufacturing Ltd. filed for bankruptcy this summer. Polywheels primarily manufactured parts for big pickups and SUVs, and cited GM’s decision to close its Oshawa truck assembly plant as one of the major factors behind the company’s demise.

CPIA GETS PLASTIC SURGERY: The industry’s national association underwent a restructuring: the Environment and Plastics Industry Council (EPIC) became an autonomous unit within the association, and the Canadian Plastics Industry Association (CPIA)announced that it would close its last regional office in Montreal. Only three councils with the greatest membership — the Composites Council, Plastic Film Manufacturers Association of Canada and the Vinyl Council — will be supported by the CPIA, and the rest were phased out. Additionally, CPIA president and CEO Serge Lavoie announced that he would retire from his position in early 2009.

LIVING IN A MATERIAL WORLD: Suffering from squeezed profit margins and high energy costs, several major raw material suppliers hiked up their prices this year. Perhaps most notably, Midland, Mich.-based Dow Chemical Co. announced it would increase product prices by as much as 25 per cent in July — and this after a 20 per cent hike already announced by the company in May.

BAGGED: Retailers continued to jump on the anti-plastic bag bandwagon. Among them, the Liquor Control Board of Ontario decided to phase out plastic shopping bags in order to become “greener.”

TAKING THE LEAD: Sajjad Ebrahim, president of Brampton, Ont.-based thermoformer received the CPIA’s Leader of the Year award, and was featured on the May 2008 cover of Canadian Plastics magazine. The CPIA also presented Lifetime Achievement awards to Poly Expert president Gilles Plante, and to Robert Krycki, founder of Mississauga, Ont.-based Future Design Inc.

MACHINERY MAKEUPS AND SHAKEUPS: The injection molding machinery market went through some changes this year. Press maker Battenfeld was acquired on April 1 by auxiliary equipment, robot and mold supplier Wittmann Kunststoffgerate GmbH. Engel stopped manufacturing injection molding machines at its Guelph, Ont. plant earlier this year, shedding 225 jobs from the facility. The company did retain nearly 30 employees at the Canadian plant, dealing mainly with sales, service and spare parts, and the facility will continue to produce key molding cell automation systems. And Bolton, Ont.- based Husky Injection Molding Systems Ltd. has stopped producing large-tonnage machines to focus on packaging and PET preform markets.

LA BELLE PROVINCE(!): In Quebec, the Expoplast trade show in October measured up to the show’s last outing in 2005, and the CPIA called the show an unequivocal success (see pg. 8). Not all was well in the Quebec industry, however. Earlier this year, the CPIA’s Quebec executive committee resigned and created a new unaffiliated plastics association in Quebec. The committee accused the CPIA of being hostile to efforts to bring in a new governance structure for the Quebec region, and of being too Ontario focused. At press time, the new association Federation des Plastiques et Alliance Composites had reached its fundraising goal, and was poised to hire a new director-general.

BYE BYE, BPA: After another year of negative scientific studies, retailer boycotts and industry efforts to protect the substance, Canada became the first coun- try to formally declare bisphenol A (BPA) hazardous to human health. The announcement came months after Minister of Health Tony Clement proposed a limited ban on the product, but said that people “need not be concerned” about the health effects of BPA.

THE WORLD BEYOND: While there was plenty of news to report on within the plastics industry, many of us are talking about the changes in the outside world. Everyone had their eyes on the meltdown on Wall Street, and many voiced their concerns about a recession in Canada. (For now, many experts believe that Canada will avoid a recession.) And both Canadians and Americans went to the polls to vote in national elections. As predicted from the outset, the picture in Canada isn’t much different than it was last year — Canadians elected their second consecutive minority Conservative government. In the U. S., Democrat Barack Obama was elected as president after eight years of a Bush presidency. President Obama ran on a platform of hope and change, but will America — and, indeed, the world — look better or worse in 2009? Stay tuned.