Monday, July 2nd, 2012

The Word Is Spreading: Plastics Rising With Overall U.S. Manufacturing

A recent radio broadcast shows that the word indeed is getting out: The plastics business continues its rebound from recession, as does the auto sector and overall U.S. manufacturing. The feature titled “It’s Not Just Steel Springing Back” features an interview with SPI President Bill Carteaux. And in addition, reporter Brian Bull of Ideastream, which includes two public radio stations in Northeast Ohio, visited a busy plastics manufacturing shop in the area.

In the broadcast, which you can listen to here, Bryan Osborne, VP of sales & marketing for injection molder/manufacturer Venture Plastics, Inc. (Newton Falls, OH), tells listeners that “…about 50 percent of a car is plastics today,” and that demand for more fuel-efficient vehicles is behind the increase.

Venture Plastics is busy working for the auto and several  other sectors. (Photo: Brian Bull, Ideastream)

“That includes under the engine, manifolds, fuel rails, throttle bodies; your entire interior now is mainly plastic. In fact, all of your chrome parts on a vehicle are actually plastic parts that get chromed, they’re not metal,” Osborne added. Bull had learned that by chance when he tried to put a magnetic sticker on his car. It took several tries before he found a place it would stay attached.

Venture Plastics is a diversified manufacturer of plastic products and components, serving markets such as industrial, consumer, major appliances, communications, fuel delivery, and agriculture, as well as automotive.

When Bull interviewed Bill Carteaux, the president of SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association, made it clear that plastics tend to be a leading indicator of the overall economy, including automotive, but beyond that virtually all other sectors. “We certainly started to see things slowing down in 2008, and 2009 was horrible,” said Carteaux. “But from `09-10, overall plastic shipments in this country were up about five percent. We went from $320 billion to $341 billion in shipments.”

Taking the energy sector as an example, Carteaux said it is is helping the plastics industry in a number of ways: wind turbines, fuel cells, and solar cells all use

plastic, and natural gas drilling uses durable, corrosion resistant polyethylene pipe for gas transmission and other uses. Noting that sales have climbed since the end of the recession, including a 30% gain last year, he said, “We’ll continue to see some nice gains as we continue to get the shale gas that’s out there today.”

America’s manufacturing revival, aided by the reshoring of work from other countries, is growing, along with materials such as plastics, aluminum and titanium. The report says that, though they “…may not evoke the same gritty, Rust Belt romanticism that steel does, they are also beneficiaries of a revived manufacturing base.” Though many people would agree with that, the reality is that plastics, as well as those two metals, have been major factors in the Rust Belt economy for decades, although strictly speaking, they don’t rust.

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