This might be the year that the polyurethane industry started to turn a corner leading the world back into growth. That’s quite a big claim to make about quite a small (but globally important) industry. But where the PU industry goes today so the world goes tomorrow.
The polyurethane industry is a lead indicator of economic performance, and one of the best leading indicators of any industrial segment is what his happening to the capital equipment sold into that industry.
This makes our machinery survey particularly interesting this year.
We see from the charts, tables and conversations in this feature that it is possible to tell what is happening to large parts of the world economy, where there is growth, or stagnation or decline.
The US has been one area of growth in the past year as Ross Willoughby of Con-Tec, said “2014 was a really busy year for us. We didn't expand we just produced more,” he said.”
His firm makes machinery for the North American market in the automotive Reaction Injection Moulding sector. A second area where the firm picked up work was in making small insulated panels for the heating, ventilation and air conditioning sector. “We have been doing work in the sector for a while,” he said, adding that the sector had picked up for his firm because of a move away from fibre glass. There has been “a switch from fibreglass to polyurethane” to insulate the panels. Typically installations are on commercial buildings in rooms almost like walk in coolers.
Willoughby’s business is based in the US and it does not market its machines overseas.
|Table 1: PU equipment suppliers by new machinery sales 2014|
|Company name:||PU Sales ($m)||Total sales ($m)||Total Staff||PU Staff|
|Impianti OMS SPA||51||51||160||160|
|Albrecht Bäumer GmbH & Co. KG||49||70.5||282||282|
|Rim Polymers Industries Pte Ltd||39.5||150||95||50|
|Fecken-Kirfel GmbH & Co. KG||32||18.4||160||0|
|Saip Advanced Polyurethane Equipment||15||15||50||50|
|Esco Group Inc. - Edge-Sweets||10||12||55||25|
|Trico Poly Systems||3||4||15||15|
|Tec MacC Srl||2.45||2.7||15||9|
|KraussMaffei Group GmbH||NG||973||4200||500|
|Polytec EMC Engineering GmbH||NG||5.9||26||20|
|Laader Berg AS||NG||NG||40||40|
|Con-Tek Machine, Inc.||NG||NG||25||25|
|IPF - Ingenieria del Poliuretano Flexible, S.L.||NG||NG||14||14|
|NG= Not Given|
In Europe, Italy’s Tec Mac saw increased sales in the second half of this year, according to its general manager, Massimo Monchiero.
He said that while the first half of 2014 was quiet, the company had seen an increase of orders in the second half. “Tec Mac exports 95% of its production worldwide but we see Western European countries as being very flat,” he said in an interview at the end of 2014.
Monchiero said there had been more action in Russian and republics of the FSU markets. “They have been very active until few months ago however now every deal is being stopped by political uncertainty and the increase in the exchange rate for the rouble.”
He said that the company had found worldwide that customers are more and more price-oriented. “This penalises European quality products for the benefit of those coming from Far East countries,” added Monchiero.
“I suppose that thanks to the crisis some suppliers could leave while, unfortunately, while other suppliers have moved from their own fields of application to others, creating confusion in the market.
“Tec Mac is very sensitive to any development in the market and this helps us in being always on the wave with all our equipment updated to the new technologies.
“That is especially true for the blowing agents where Tec Mac was the first in the world in designing and producing a spray machine and a block foaming plant using pentane as a blowing agent,” he said.
Philip Hindson or AutoRIM said that 2014 had been a very strong year for the firm. “Last year was probably about the best for 10 years,” he said.
“In 2013 we took the decision to make polyurethane machinery in the UK. In 2014 we sold 8 machines mostly to the off-shore industry for pipe jointing. Quality is key,” he said. Machines must operate without a problem for three or four weeks producing joints on a two-or three-minute cycle. “This market sector is so demanding that we have to be sure that it will work that reliably,” he said.
“We managed to make a niche for ourselves,” he said. The firm has also won import business into northern Europe and Scandinavia, Hindson added.`
Another factor that Hindson attributes his firm’s success in 2014 is the growth in quick-build housing. These use panels which are “quickly assembled on site into buildings with almost passive house levels of insulation. We've got governments to thank for that growth,” he said.
|Table 2 : Machinery companies -- general data and plans|
|Company||Location||Plants||total m2||R&D as % sales||Services supplied||Plans for 2015||Web address|
|Con-Tek Machine, Inc.||US||1||1||NG||•||•||•||•||www.con-tek.com|
|IPF - Ingenieria del Poliuretano Flexible, S.L.||Spain||1||0||NG||•||•||•||•||www.ipfing.com|
|Saip Advanced Polyurethane Equipment||Italia||1||10, 000||5||•||•||•||•||•||•||•||www.saipequipment.it|
|Fecken-Kirfel GmbH & Co. KG||Germany||NG||25000||NG||•||•||•||•||•||www.fecken-kirfel.de|
|KraussMaffei Group GmbH||Germany||6||NG||NG||•||•||•||•||•||www.kraussmaffeigroup.com|
|Albrecht Bäumer GmbH & Co. KG||Germany||0||7300||5||•||•||•||•||•||•||•||www.baeumer.com|
|Tec MacC Srl||Italy||1||2000||8||•||•||•||•||•||•||www.tecmac.com|
|Polytec EMC Engineering GmbH||Austria||1||NG||NG||•||•||•||•||•||www.polytec-group.com|
|Impianti OMS SPA||Italy||4||18000||2||•||•||•||•||•||•||•||www.omsgroup.it|
|Esco Group Inc. - Edge-Sweets||US||0||NG||NG||•||www.edge-sweets.com|
|Trico Poly Systems||US||1||4000||10||•||•||•||•||•||www.tricopoly.com|
|Rim Polymers Industries Pte Ltd||Singapore||NG||NG||NG||•||•||•||•||•||www.rimpolymers.com|
|Services T= Turn-key; R= Trial runs; AS= After sales support; SP= Spare Parts; TS=Trouble Shooting; NG= Not given|
|Plans: E=Expand; Acquire= 1; D= Divest; U= Upgrade; C=Close; B=Build; Co=Consolidate|
Rick Hungerford, of ESCO Edge-Sweets said that 2014 was a good year for his firm. ESCO won a “government contract worth over $1m. The firm’s PM3 machine, which was “introduced a couple of years ago started gaining traction,” he said.