The U.S. market for plastic injection molding presses slowed down just a bit in 2013 but is far from hitting the brakes. In fact, industry executives see solid growth ahead in 2014 from the plastics-hungry auto industry, and from a steadily rebounding North American manufacturing sector.
Approximately 3,500 plastic injection molding machines could be sold be in the coming years with many of those machines falling in the larger-tonnage category.
Large-tonnage press maker Ube Machinery Inc. , for example, will work at capacity through next August, said David Bernardi, senior sales and marketing manager.
Ube, based in Ann Arbor, Mich., has hired 15 new employees this year and plans to hire more, Bernardi said. He said automotive molders also are hiring, but it isn’t easy. Instead a core group of technically skilled people are job-hopping around, enjoying large pay hikes by jumping from molder to molder, he said.
Skilled workers needed to inject more business
Ube isn’t alone. Other machinery companies also have the help wanted sign out. It’s actually getting to be a problem: many plastic injection molding manufacturers worry that the shortage of skilled technical workers could hinder the plastics industry’s growth moving forward. And if the problem spreads to other manufacturing industries, GDP as a whole could suffer as a result.
For 2013 and the new year, automotive will continues to buy plastic injection molding machines, although the hyperactive pace which followed the recession has now slowed to a more normal range. Mid-tonnage machines seem to be gaining in popularity while large-tonnage presses have tapered down, he said. Outside of the auto industry, the packaging sector is showing increased interest in all-electric machines, observers say. Core markets like medical and food packaging are still showing moderate growth.
North American orders have increased 10 percent at Husky Injection Molding Systems Ltd. in Bolton, Ontario. Ditto for Toshiba Machine Co. America, based in Elk Grove Village, Ill., which is busy filling orders for its all-electric presses and larger-tonnage machines with servo-driven pumps. Advantech owns and operates several Husky and Toshiba presses.