- May 01, 2011
Frequently I refer to myself as a puppy who thinks the whole world is my newspaper. Do you get the image? I'm easily excited like a puppy, but at times I'm also guilty of being quite naive in thinking I can drop my “business” anywhere I please without thinking of the implications.
So here's a homework assignment for you. I'm asking you to train me — gently, please (i.e., no rolled-up newspaper on the snout). I understand that the implications of an improving converting market are diverse and many. It's easy to understand the pressures of manufacturing — either as a converter or as a supplier of equipment to converters — in a down market. Fewer orders for converted materials or the need for new equipment means low plant capacity utilization and/or idle skilled workers. But what happens to a industry such as ours when demand both for converted products as well as new equipment is instantly turned on? How do you keep pace with demand?
Here's why I ask this question… If you've been a regular reader of my editorials, you'll know that I've been fairly upbeat lately — even when other editors in our industry have reported doom 'n' gloom. This issue's report on the cumulative results to PFFC's exclusive Critical Trends Survey for 2011 is good reason to perform the Happy Dance (just for fun and inspiration, see Nerdfighter Happy Dance Project on You Tube at www.youtube.com/watch?v=dxYNUu_2egM).
Employment for nearly half (47%) of the respondents had been maintained in 2010, but for 30% of respondents, hiring had increased. Only 23% of respondents indicated a decrease in employment for 2010. Similarly, 30% increased investment in R&D (slightly more than in 2009), but considerably fewer (only 4%) decreased R&D investment by comparison to 12% in 2009. A significant 66% managed to maintain their investments in R&D — the key to innovation and the lifeblood to our industry. Go look for yourself on p24, the responses are more than just a little uplifting.
With all this splendid good news, at the ICE USA debut in Orlando — which surprised many with an attendee turnout of 2,431 to see 275 exhibitors — I was more than just a little surprised to hear some equipment manufacturers actually concerned about their order backlog.
It's no secret that there have been numerous mergers and acquisitions in our industry — both on the converter as well as the equipment manufacturer levels. The bad news is that some companies did not make it through the Great Recession, but maybe some managed to survive by complementing a larger, broader mix of manufacturing capabilities. The good news is there are fewer competitors with more work.
But how are you managing to keep pace with the sudden demand without disappointing your customers? What's your secret?
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