Frankfurt, Germany – German rubber & plastics machinery makers are set to return to pre-crisis levels of 2019 by the end of this year, or in 2022 at the latest, according to trade association VDMA.
In 2020, the sector outperformed many other machinery rivals, closing order books 7% higher than the year before, VDMA’s plastics and rubber machinery association announced at its annual general assembly 17 June.
Sales, however, fell 12% year-on-year, due mainly to the effects of “the negative trends of 2019 and the start of 2020.”
"After a difficult start, which was characterised by major challenges including a lockdown, incoming orders showed a rapid increase from the summer onwards," said association chairman Ulrich Reifenhäuser.
This was particularly noticeable in sectors where hygiene is important, including the packaging and medical industries.
In addition, the automotive industry has started to invest again following years of restraint, VDMA noted.
According to the association, order intake recorded an increase of 92% year-on-year over the first four months of 2021.
Sales have also stabilised, showing a rise of 8%, it added.
For the whole year, VDMA expects many companies to deliver “record results”, and sales to increase 10% year-on-year.
While the industry is currently doing “very well", Thorsten Kühmann, managing director of the plastics & rubber machinery association, warned about supply chain constraints and shortage of “necessary raw materials and components.”
"In particular, the bottlenecks in the supply of plastics – which is impacting the willingness on the part of manufacturers to invest… could soon lead to the paradoxical situation of machine manufacturers having to curb production despite full order books," he added.
Reviewing the performance of machinery makers last year, VDMA noted that exports fell 11% in 2020.
However, deliveries to the US, which according to VDMA had 'very robust investment situation', increased by 8%, keeping the country at the top of the export list.
China followed in second place with a 3% decline in exports.
Here, VDMA noted that local production of plastics and rubber machinery – including that of foreign manufacturers – is operating "at full speed, as demand in the country is surging.”
“All in all, this means that China remains the most important sales market for German plastics and rubber machinery,” it added.
The BRIC countries – Brazil, Russia and India – also play an important role, holding a 23% share of worldwide deliveries of German plastics & rubber machinery.