Commentary: Processors still need new machinery despite NPE cancellation

Jan. 18, 2021
How will buyers and sellers come together without the trade show? PMM aims to help fill the gap with an April special issue and ongoing coverage of the latest innovations.

By Ron Shinn 

Plastics Machinery & Manufacturing’s annual machinery-buying survey published in January shows that processors are ready to open their checkbooks for new presses, extruders and associated auxiliary equipment. In a normal year, that would portend strong sales during and after the NPE show. 

But this is far from a normal year  NPE is canceled, the vaccine rollout is going slower than predicted and it looks like business travel won’t resume until later this year, if then. It creates a quandary for machinery salespeople, as well as buyers who look forward to “kicking the tires” on new hardware every three years. 

A quick review of what processors told us in the buying survey:

  • 73 percent said they expect business to improve in 2021;  
  • 61 percent plan to buy primary processing equipment;  
  • 63 percent plan to buy auxiliary equipment;  
  • 48 percent plan to buy automation equipment; 
  • 48 percent plan to buy robots. 

Some processors expressed frustration at the end of 2020 over long delivery times for machinery needed to produce medical parts and PPE. There is also strong interest in used equipment. 

The demand for machinery and equipment and the absence of an NPE puts pressure on machinery suppliers to reach out to processors in new ways.  

The Plastics Industry Association (PLASTICS) plans a virtual NPE event of some sort, but it is still formalizing details. Some machinery suppliers have developed their own virtual tours and are using technology in exciting new ways to connect with customers. 

PMM will publish a hefty new products issue in April that originally would have helped NPE attendees decide which equipment they wanted to see at the show. Now it will be the primary way many processors learn about the newest and best equipment tconsider when making buying decisions this year. 

Here is a reminder for machinery manufacturers: The deadline to have your equipment included in the issue is March 1. Email product information to [email protected] and be sure to include a high-resolution photo (300 dpi at 3.5 inches wide or greater) if possible. There is no cost to be included. 

Our mission at PMM is to bring machinery buyers and sellers together. Starting in June, we will begin our extensive, in-depth coverage of new machinery.  

I predict that plenty of machinery deals will be made this year, but they won’t necessarily follow the routines of the past. Industry veteran Paul Caprio, president of Engel North America, summed it up perfectly: 

“The industry will need to continue to maneuver the challenges that COVID-19 presents until a vaccine is successfully distributed,” Caprio said. “And there will, of course, be a ‘new normal.’ Whatever that looks like.” 

Much of the plastics industry prospered in 2020 despite problems caused by the pandemic, and the fact that 73 percent expect business to improve in 2021 is a testament to the strength of the industry and the vital role it plays in the overall economy. I am confident we will be able to follow Caprio’s advice and adapt to whatever comes our way. 

Read the full report on our machinery-buying survey: 

About the Author

Ron Shinn | Editor

Editor Ron Shinn is a co-founder of Plastics Machinery & Manufacturing and has been covering the plastics industry for more than 35 years. He leads the editorial team, directs coverage and sets the editorial calendar. He also writes features, including the Talking Points column and On the Factory Floor, and covers recycling and sustainability for PMM and Plastics Recycling.