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American moldmakers generally positive about business outlook: survey

But only half of the moldmakers surveyed by the American Mold Builders Association believe business conditions in Q1 will increase, and only 10 per cent think their business will increase substantially over the next 12 months.


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February 27, 2019 by Canadian Plastics

Sixty-seven per cent of moldmakers in the U.S. are reporting positive business conditions in 2019, a fall-off the 81% that reported the same last year.

This result comes from an online survey of mold manufacturers conducted by the American Mold Builders Association (AMBA). Presidents, owners, and senior staff from 136 companies took the survey, which was conducted from Dec. 27 through Jan. 31. Forty-four per cent of respondents were from companies reporting US$1 million to US$4.9 million in sales, and 39% came from companies that reported sales of US$5 million to US$14.9 million. Manufacturers of plastic injection molds represented 77% of respondents; 16% were makers of rubber and compression molds.

Only half of the moldmakers surveyed believe business conditions in Q1 will increase, and only 10% indicate that they will see business increased substantially over the next 12 months.

And for the third year in a row, all of the executives surveyed said that workforce development is their primary challenge. Respondents also identified creating a new sales strategy and diversifying their customer base as a major challenge.

In a webinar held on Feb. 20 to review the survey data, AMBA executive director Troy Nix noted that employment was up for 12% of respondents compared with three months prior to the survey; 76% reported that employment remained the same; and 11% said that employment was down. In the 2018 business forecast, 29% reported that employment was up, with 67% saying it was unchanged, and only 4% reporting a decline.

Also, profits were the same for 60% of respondents compared with three months before the survey, Nix said, while profits were up for 23% and down for 17% of respondents.

The automotive market is no longer deemed to be the most promising market, Nix said. “The respondents seem to be more skeptical of automotive,” Nix said. “Automotive is projecting under 17 million units forecast for the first time in four years. The medical, dental and optical sectors are deemed the most promising by the respondents, he said. Automotive still came out on top in terms of markets served, however, with 65% of the respondents saying they were involved in automotive work; consumer products came second with 58%; medical, dental, and optical came third with 49%; and packaging came in fourth at 24%.

Also, capital expenditures are expected to decrease among 60% of respondents with less than US$1 million in sales. At companies in the US$1 million to US$4.9 million category, 48% expect to increase capital expenditures. “A lot of companies took advantage of the 2018 tax changes,” Nix said.

The top challenge for moldmaking companies continues to be workforce development, with 100% of respondents reporting that in the survey.

The AMBA is headquartered in Indianapolis.