NPE2021: Some companies stay hopeful, while others are pulling out

Dec. 29, 2020
Uncertainty about vaccines, quarantines for international visitors and safety concerns about gathering indoors in large numbers are driving conversations about whether to participate; PLASTICS remains 'hopeful' the show will go on.
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UPDATE: The in-person component of NPE2021 has been canceled as of Tuesday afternoon. See the story at .

By Karen Hanna 

Wait and see.  

OEMs and equipment suppliers that might otherwise be gearing up for NPE2021 are taking a tentative approach to the show. Some have even said they won’t be there. The PLASTICS Industry Association (PLASTICS), however, was moving ahead, as of Dec. 29.

“We don’t think a lot of people will attend the show,” said Ali Ali, marketing coordinator for Macro Engineering & Technology. Since it is based in Mississauga, Ontario, the company’s employees would be subject to quarantine once in the U.S., and, with no certainty that full vaccine deployment will come in time to safely gather for the show, Ali sounded a pessimistic note.  

“We are not going to participate in the NPE,” he said. 

Macro Engineering & Technology, which had reserved a booth, is not alone in rethinking its participation in the show, planned for May in Florida. Other companies expressed doubts, as well. 

“The show is very international, and I don’t see people from Europe flying over and being quarantined for 14 days, said Jochen Naujokat, president of Delta T Systems, a Richfield, Wis., maker of temperature-control products. 

In a statement released Dec. 29, Tony Radoszewski, president and CEO of PLASTICS, said the organization remains optimistic. 

“The Plastics Industry Association places the health and safety of our members, exhibitors, and staff as its highest priority, and is regularly consulting with medical experts and with our executive committee and association membership to ensure a safe experience for the industry. We remain hopeful that NPE2021 will take place as scheduled beginning May 17, 2021, at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, and will keep the PLASTICS community apprised of any changes that may be required due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Like others surveyed, Marko Koorneef, president of Boy Machines Inc., Exton, Pa., said his company hasn’t decided what to do. It won’t make a decision until at least the first week of January, he said. 

Fred Piercy, president of R&B Plastics Machinery LLC, said his company, a Saline, Mich., maker of blow molding machines and single-screw extruders, plans to make its decision by the second week of January. 

R&B Plastics Machinery currently plans to exhibit at the 2021 NPE; however, a final decision has not been made due to COVID-19 uncertainties. We are very concerned with the possible low attendance, assessing the cost versus benefit/sales potential,” he said. “We will consider what other companies have decided to not exhibit and/or attend, along with a look at the current COVID-19 pandemic situation. 

For some, the show seems especially precarious because it falls at a time when vaccines might be widely available — or not.  

“I do think a show in 2021 might be a really good idea if everything is true what they say about the economy coming back … but maybe not in May. September would be awesome,” said Monika Gneuss, VP of Gneuss Inc., Matthews, N.C. 

She predicted a physical show will attract fewer international visitors and less machinery than seasoned visitors have come to expect. 

Planning for the show in May requires months of logistics work, which could be hampered by developments on the disease front, especially for companies like Gneuss that have overseas parent companies overseas.  

To ship things by sea freight, we really have to get things ready in early February, and personally, I’m not comfortable with that,” Gneuss said. The timeline means that machinery could be en route, at the moment new restrictions or decisions come down regarding the show. 

Naujokat said the pandemic has probably torpedoed Delta T Systems’ hopes of exhibiting for the first time.  

“I personally think that we will pull out because, under the current situation between now and May, I don’t think we will have a successful show with return on investment,” he said. 

The situation leaves potential participants looking for alternatives or trying to troubleshoot. 

Aline Alroy, VP of sales for High-Technology Corp., Hackensack, N.J., stressed her company’s relationship with PLASTICS and voiced her confidence that the trade association and its members will work to find a solution that is safe and meets participants’ needs.   

“I have no doubt that the members, the leaders of the association are thinking through scenarios. It’s a difficult situation for everybody,” she said.  

Doug Ort, division manager for Hosokawa Polymer Systems, Berlin, Conn., echoed Alroy. With a growing focus on building machinery for postconsumer recycling, the company has expanded its customer base beyond the NPE participant list, but the triennial show is still important.    

“We would love to work with the association to come up with some kind of alternative,” Ort said.  

As PLASTICS noted, so much is outside the control of organizers and participants. 

Jamie Stebbins, sales and marketing manager for CMT Materials Inc., Attleboro, Mass., said that, like everyone, he’s put his hopes on doctors and researchers. 

Coming in a year of limited customer contact, the show is an important way for sellers and buyers to meet.  

The thought of not going “hurts a lot,” Stebbins said. 

But, like others, his concern is safety.  

“It comes down to, there’s only so much we can do at the venue level. How do we ensure the safety of our employees, our customers and of the families of all those people?” 

With only a skeleton crew planning to go to the show, limited materials to pack and exhibit and three-quarters of its NPE budget already committed, CMT is willing to bide its time  maybe until early February. 

“I’ll be honest with you, I think we hope for what all of us are hoping for, for quick adoption of the vaccination and a smooth rollout so that we can achieve herd immunity quick enough to ensure safety. That’s about all we can hope for right now,” Stebbins said. 

Karen Hanna, associate editor

[email protected] 

About the Author

Karen Hanna | Senior Staff Reporter

Senior Staff Reporter Karen Hanna covers injection molding, molds and tooling, processors, workforce and other topics, and writes features including In Other Words and Problem Solved for Plastics Machinery & Manufacturing, Plastics Recycling and The Journal of Blow Molding. She has more than 15 years of experience in daily and magazine journalism.