Machine Tools and Plastics Numbers up in Q1

By Nancy Bartels

Jun 18, 2014

There's good news in the manufacturing sector as numbers for the first quarter of 2014 come in. According to The Association for Manufacturing Technology (AMT) , in March of this year, U.S. manufacturing technology orders for machine tools and related equipment totaled $493 million, up more than 38% from February and nearly 3% when compared to March 2013's total of $479 million.

At the same time, despite the harsh winter weather and the resulting lackluster growth in the U.S. economy, manufacturers and suppliers of primary plastics machinery (injection molding, extrusion, blow molding, and thermoforming equipment) recorded another quarter of solid growth in Q1 of 2014. According to statistics compiled and reported by the Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI), shipments of primary plastics equipment for reporting companies totaled an estimated $300.5 million in Q1.

The total for Q1 of this year represented a gain of almost 11% when compared with the same quarter of 2013. For the sake ofcomparison, the total value for primary plastics equipment shipments in 2013 was up 8% when compared with the annual total from 2012.

The shipments value of injection molding machinery increased 9% in Q1 of 2014 compared with the total from Q1 of last year. The shipments value of single-screw extruders escalated 4%, and that of shipments of twin-screw extruders jumped 15%. The shipments value for blow molding machines spiked up 60% in Q1.

The gain in the data on plastics machinery shipments corresponds with the gains in the two major data series compiled by the U.S. government that measure activity levels in the industrial machinery sector. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, business investment in industrial equipment rose by 5% (seasonally-adjusted, annualized rate) in Q1 when compared with Q1 of 2013. The other important machinery market indicator, compiled by the Census Bureau, showed that the total value of shipments of industrial machinery jumped 29% in Q1.

Referring to the AMT numbers, association president, Douglas K. Woods, said, "Along with strong readings for the PMI, durable goods orders and motor vehicle sales, manufacturing continues to be a leader in economic growth. It’s noteworthy that this was the strongest month for orders since September 2012, an IMTS month. As we head toward IMTS 2014, we expect continued expansion through the rest of this year and likely into 2015."

According to Bill Wood, the plastics market economist who analyzes and reports on the plastics machinery market sector for the SPI, "The momentum that the plastics machinery sector enjoyed in 2013 continued in the first quarter of 2014. The trend in total investment in industrial machinery in the U.S. has risen sharply in recent quarters. We are entering the sweet spot of the capital expenditure cycle, and this bodes well for suppliers of plastics machinery, as well as the whole manufacturing sector."