Injection moulding industry in Europe is changing, as per Applied Market Information Ltd. (AMI), based on its databases of injection moulders for France, the UK and Spain and Portugal.
For France and the UK there has been a notable drop in the number of businesses operating. Over 300 UK companies listed in the last edition of AMI's guide to the injection moulding industry in the United Kingdom have either closed down or gone out of business, while in France 279 businesses have gone. This has resulted in a net decline of 14% in the number of sites listed for France and a 21% decline for the UK. In Spain and Portugal, nearly 200 companies to have gone since the previous edition of AMI's guide. In addition to the impact of the recession which led to an increase in bankruptcies or voluntary liquidations, the industry has also been affected by the retirement of owners unable to sell on their business and by plant rationalization among the larger groups. The relocation of capacity to lower cost locations in Central and Eastern Europe also continues to occur, while other operators have just withdrawn from injection moulding preferring to contract out their injection moulding requirements or have refocused their activities on tooling, assembly or finishing operations or moved into non-plastic activities. The sectors which AMI has found to be most affected by these trends were suppliers to the automotive industry, particularly of small and medium sized components. Similarly small and medium sized electronic and appliance manufacturing has declined significantly in these countries and with it the moulding sector to supply it.
Contraction of injection moulding activity in these countries is also illustrated by the decline in polymer demand during the recession. Hitting a peak of nearly 3 mln tons of thermoplastics injection moulded in these countries in 2007, over half a mln tons of volume was lost in the two year period from 2007-2009. The UK injection moulding sector was the worst affected with a 21% decline in polymer demand from injection moulders over these two years. Moulders in the UK are now processing only around 600,000 tpa of polymer compared with 840,000 tons about 10 years earlier. The impact of the recession came on top of a process of declining foreign investment more attracted to the euro zone or the growing markets of Eastern Europe and significant reductions in automotive, electronics, household appliances and consumer goods manufacturing, much of it relocated to other countries.
Polypropylene is the most widely used material accounting in volumes terms for approximately half of all polymers bought by moulders and in each country over 80% of sites listed are using it. With 20 other materials also identified by site the databases are a comprehensive source of polymer buying intentions for injection moulders. For all countries packaging is a key market, but is notably more significant in the UK than in France or Spain. In all countries the automotive industry is the next largest market although its importance has shrunk within the UK where only 14% of polymer processed by moulders is now for automotive applications compared with 22% in France and 26% in Spain and Portugal. The significance of the automotive sector to the moulding industry in these respective countries is also reflected in the number of sites giving automotive as the main market they serve with 109 in the UK compared with 229 companies in France and 278 in Spain and Portugal.