Thursday, August 12th, 2010

Celebrating a Win for Plastics Manufacturing at the White House

President's Post

Yesterday I went to the White House to celebrate a hard-earned victory for job creation and the competitive hopes of American plastics manufacturers. I  felt a real sense of pride and progress as I sat in the East Room and watched President Barack Obama formally sign the Manufacturing Enhancement Act of 2010 into law.

I was honored to be at the signing ceremony because SPI’s advocacy team, aided by our dedicated members, worked tirelessly for more than two years to strongly encourage Congress to pass the Miscellaneous Tariff Bill (H.R. 4380). The legislation renews a number of expired tariff measures and reduces duties on manufacturing materials (including several essential to the plastics industry) that are not produced domestically, thus lowering costs for U.S. manufacturers. The bill, now formally named the Manufacturing Enhancement Act of 2010, was approved by both the U.S. House and Senate in late July.

While this one law won’t sweep away all of the challenges our industry currently faces, it marks real progress toward leveling the playing field for U.S. plastics manufacturers competing in the global marketplace. It will cut the cost of doing business for SPI members and the entire U.S. plastics industry. Free from the burden of tariffs on manufacturing inputs not produced  in the U.S., plastics companies will find it less challenging to maintain or increase their current workforce, spur investments and eventually help turn the tide in the nation’s economic recovery.

Signing ceremonies like this are the end result of a long advocacy process that involves being engaged with Congress from the start and making sure our industry’s collective voice is heard.  On September 15th our industry will have another opportunity to engage with Congress and have our voices heard — in face-to-face meetings on Capitol Hill.

On September 15th SPI members from across the country will gather in Washington, D.C. for an organized day of meetings with their elected representatives that will be followed by a reception. By taking the time to visit with lawmakers, we have an opportunity to educate them about the key policy issues that are challenging our companies – from energy to TSCA to R&D Tax Credits to a host of international trade concerns and more. Having just returned from their summer recess, legislators will be busy moving on these issues before the rapidly-approaching mid-term elections.

September 15th will be an excellent time for our industry to tell our story, remind Congress that the third largest manufacturing sector is critical to revitalizing the nation’s economy, and plant seeds so that we can celebrate more legislative victories (and signing ceremonies!) in the future.

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

Nano: Ongoing Big Opportunities in a Small World

Nanotechnology is the understanding and control of matter at dimensions of roughly one to 100 nanometers, where unique phenomena enable novel applications. Over the past several years the field of nanotechnology has continued to evolve at a rapid pace. As a follow-up to my last nanotechnology blog, I wanted to update readers about the latest activities of the National Nanotechnology Initiative.

The National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) is the program established in fiscal year 2001 to coordinate Federal nanotechnology research and development here in the U.S.  Today the NNI consists of the individual and cooperative nanotechnology-related activities of 25 federal agencies with a range of research and regulatory roles and responsibilities. The NNI as a program does not fund research; however, it informs and influences the Federal budget and planning processes through its member agencies.

In terms of nanotechnology funding, the total investment by NNI member agencies for 2011 is nearly $1.8 billion for nanotechnology R&D. According to the recently issued report entitled NNI Supplement to the President’s 2011 Budget, the document highlights Nanotechnology Signature Initiatives to accelerate nanotechnology development in support of the President’s priorities and innovation strategy. NNI member agencies identified areas for these initiatives ripe for significant advances through close and targeted program-level interagency collaboration.

You may be wondering “how I can provide my input as to what the NNI and the related agencies plan next in regards to nanotechnology?” I highly encourage you to attend the NNI’s Strategic Planning Stakeholder Workshop which will be held July 13-14 in Arlington, Va.  The goals of this event are to:

  1. Bring together those who are new to nanoscale science, engineering and technology as well as those familiar with the NNI;
  2. Obtain stakeholder input regarding the goals and objectives of an updated NNI Strategic Plan; and
  3. Gather suggestions to the U.S. Government interagency task force that is drafting the new plan. Let your voice be heard!

In addition, in order to help members keep up-to-date on the various activities of the NNI and other nanotechnology organizations around the globe, I recommend that they become part of SPI’s Nanotechnology Group. The group’s mission is to provide a forum for nanotechnology resin and additive suppliers, processors and equipment suppliers within SPI to address nanotechnology issues, activities and opportunities related to the plastics industry. Also to learn more about nanotechnology and the plastics industry you can listen to SPI’s recent “Business of Nanotechnology: Nanotechnology 101” webinar.

Nanotechnology is an exciting and evolutionary area. In my opinion, big changes continue to occur in the small world of nanotechnology.

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

2010 Equipment Forecast and Webinar

Machines at NPE2009

By all accounts, 2009 was an abysmal year for our national economy – and the plastics industry followed suit.  According to data collected by the SPI Committee on Equipment Statistics (CES), sales of primary plastics machinery, auxiliary equipment, and components suffered tremendously – though NPE2009 provided a welcome boost in the third quarter.  Overall new orders decreased by over a third of what they were in 2008 and were less than half of the total numbers in 2007!  Plastics parts production also hit a wall, and capacity utilization dropped to its lowest levels in years.  As with the rest of the economy, things were grim but started to improve late in the year as the fourth quarter showed signs of improvement.

As alarming as these numbers are, it appears that the worst is passed us according to Bill Wood of Mountaintop Economics & Research, who provided analysis for the CES program.  As part of the continuing SPI Business of Plastics webinar series, Mr. Wood will give a one-hour presentation on Tuesday, June 22 at 11:00 am EST exclusively for SPI members to discuss his 2010 forecast and let you know what signs your business should be looking for as proof of the turnaround.

By attending the webinar, you will find that through the first four months of 2010 the data is encouraging.   All industry segments can expect to grow 15-30% this year when compared with 2009.  Capacity utilization has leapt to 76% and total plastics parts production is also on the rise.  Major end-markets – including both residential and commercial construction – are also gaining momentum.  Though 2010 is certain to look lean compared to just a few years ago, the market has reached the bottom and on its way to recovery.

Don’t miss this opportunity to gain insight and take the first steps towards a profitable 2010! Register today!

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

Webinar: Learn How to “Save Energy Now” (and Money Too!)

On Thursday, June 3rd, SPI will host a one-hour webinar beginning at 11:00 am EST to discuss the benefits of the Department of Energy’s Save Energy Now initiative.  This webinar is exclusively for SPI member companies.  Register now!

In today’s current economic climate, companies are looking for ways to save money. But I bet not everyone has heard about the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Save Energy Now program. The goal of DOE’s program is to help American businesses, factories and manufacturing facilities save energy. A key part of the program is that DOE conducts an energy assessment to help manufacturing facilities identify immediate ways to save energy and money. Oh, and did I mention that DOE does this at no cost to the company?

The assessments focus primarily on energy-intensive systems such as pumps, fans, processing heating, steam and compressed air. The program offers several energy assessment options:

  • For large plants: The nation’s largest, most energy-intensive plants can apply to receive a three-day system assessment. These on-site assessments are led by DOE’s Energy Experts who use DOE’s software tools and technical information to target a specific system area. Assessments also provide hands-on learning that can help a company’s staff gain knowledge to multiply the benefits of the assessment.
  • For small and medium-sized plants: DOE’s university-based Industrial Assessment Centers (IAC) conduct one-day assessments at smaller plants. Teams of highly trained IAC faculty and engineering students apply the same DOE software tools and technical resources to identify key savings opportunities throughout your plant.
  • For all plants: Contacting the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) Information Center is the a great option for any plant, large or small, if you are ready to boost energy savings and improve productivity. Whether or not you receive an assessment, here you will find expert technical assistance and guidance on how to make the most of the Save Energy Now portfolio of resources.

The Save Energy Now energy assessments have helped U.S. manufacturing facilities save an average of $2 million, or 8% of their total energy costs which is pretty impressive. Companies have saved real money with this program, and you can too!  I encourage companies to look into this opportunity by registering  for our upcoming webinar!

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

I Come Bearing Plastic Freezer Bags… Lots of Them

When travels involve visiting friends or family, there’s often the pleasant custom of bringing along a gift of  local or regional goods — perhaps oranges if you are from Florida, bagels if you hail from New York, bread from a favorite bakery, a particular specialty store’s branded products and so on.

When the travel is overseas, the effect is amplified, with those abroad craving things that simply can’t be obtained – or obtained at reasonable price points –  where they live.  And the items being conveyed get a bit less usual.  

Planning a recent overseas trip, and knowing I’d be seeing an expat friend, I solicited his  ideal “wish list” in advance. The request that came back wasn’t the typical one from  abroad – hard-to-find electronics or clothing –  but for a case of resealable, heavy duty plastic freezer bags

Beyond food storage, I’m not sure what my friend’s need for so many plastic freezer bags entailed. Reader’s Digest suggests more than 35 ”extraordinary uses” for them and one blog maintains that they are essential to include in a disaster survival kit or bugout bag for “off-grid living.” 

Regardless, my expat friend’s request for freezer bags is just one small reminder that the breadth of (affordable) choices enjoyed by the American consumer doesn’t always exist in even similarly industrialized, modern countries.  I only wish I had seen the look on the airport agent’s face while inspecting my luggage: clothes for a few days…and 1,240 plastic freezer bags.