Plastics processors show a clear preference for domestic manufacturing, survey says
Respondents to the sixth annual thermoforming industry survey conducted by Ray Plastics also placed concerns about price and quality as top considerations.
Ray Products, a California-based custom plastics manufacturer, recently conducted its annual thermoforming industry survey – and the results show that respondents have a clear preference for domestic manufacturing and placed concerns about price and quality as top considerations.
The company’s 2019-2020 survey drew over 200 responses from engineers, industrial designers, and manufacturing professionals representing industries that include medical device manufacturing, transportation, contract manufacturing, and more. Eighty-four per cent of the respondents had been involved with at least one plastics manufacturing project in the past year, and 30% had been involved with more than five over the past year.
Just 13.2% of the respondents reported being happy with offshore plastics manufacturing, the survey found. On average, respondents reported that 56% of their manufacturing happens in the U.S., a dip of 9% from last year. There are also several industries that show a clear preference for domestic manufacturing, the results showed. “Industries like medical device estimated that 67% of their operations occurred domestically,” Ray Plastics said. “In contrast, those with five or fewer projects estimated that only 50% of their projects happened in the U.S. Manufacturing, transportation, and green energy all reported a higher-than-average preference for domestic manufacturing.”
The majority of respondents said that quality is the number one thing they look for in a plastics manufacturer, followed by engineering support, and price. Respondents peg their biggest challenges as total project cost; followed by issues with quality, such as part-to-part repeatability and proper fit in multi-part assemblies.
For the first time since the company began conducting its annual survey six years ago, respondents predicted an overall decrease in the number of plastics manufacturing projects they expect to undertake in the coming year. “Fifty-nine per cent of our respondents indicated that they expect to undertake roughly the same volume of projects in 2020 as they did in 2019, but for the first time, respondents who expect to undertake fewer projects (23%) outweigh those who expect to undertake more projects (18%) in the coming year,” Ray Plastics said.
The survey also found that some industries utilize thermoforming at a higher frequency than others. “Most notably, transportation, makers of plastic enclosures and medical device manufacturers all reported utilizing thermoforming at higher-than-average rates,” Ray Plastics said.
And this year’s survey also indicated a concern among respondents with recyclability. “After several years of dipping, our respondents’ concern with 100% recyclable plastics was once again on the rise this year,” Ray Plastics said. “This concern hit an all time low in our 2018 survey, with just 41% of respondents indicating that 100% recyclability was important, but climbed back up to 55% in this year’s survey.”
“In some ways, the data from our 2019–2020 survey reinforced what we already knew,” Ray Plastics said. “People who utilize plastics manufacturing want it all: the best quality, lowest prices and part-to-part repeatability. They want partners they can depend on, and convenience to go along with them. They prefer manufacturing domestically, but feel that sometimes there’s a case to be made for going into markets with lower labour costs.” In other ways, the company said, the survey delivered unexpected results: “a concern that overall, plastics manufacturing could dip in the coming year, a not insignificant downturn in injection molding utilization, and an increase in concern over recyclability after three years of decline.”