Pandemic slows plastics machinery shipments in Q1

May 26, 2020

The value of primary plastics machinery shipments in North America dropped to $254 million in the first quarter, a 19.6 percent decrease from the fourth quarter of 2019, according to a report from the Plastics Industry Association’s Committee on Equipment Statistics (CES). Compared to the first quarter of last year, the value of shipments was down 6.9 percent.

Injection molding machines bore the brunt of the slowdown, suffering a 23.6 percent drop from the previous quarter, and down 11.8 percent compared to the previous year.

Extruders showed a silver lining, with single-screw extruders seeing a 15.5 percent increase in shipments for the first quarter and, compared to 2019’s first quarter, posting a 34.9 percent rise. Results were more modest for twin-screw extruders, which fell 0.8 percent in the first quarter, but were 19.3 percent higher than the same quarter of 2019.

“The coronavirus pandemic continues to disrupt the manufacturing and service sectors of the economy, both impacted by the plastics industry,” said Perc Pineda, chief economist of the Washington, D.C., trade association. “However, the demand for plastics remains fundamentally healthy, particularly in the medical and consumer essentials spaces, and the economic slowdown is transitory.”

Looking ahead to the next quarter, 18.5 percent of plastics machinery suppliers surveyed by CES foresee conditions to either hold steady or improve, a drop from the 69.4 percent who held the same opinion in the fourth quarter of 2019. Extending that outlook to the next 12 months, 22.6 percent of current respondents expect steady or improved conditions, compared to 73.5 percent of those polled in the fourth quarter of last year.