Market volumes had already declined well before the corona pandemic, especially in the automotive industry. "However, the poor economic development was exacerbated by Covid-19", as Dr. Christoph Steger, CSO of the ENGEL Group reports. "We are expecting a further drop in sales revenues of 20 to 25 percent in the current 2020/21 fiscal year compared with the latest figures of 1.3 billion Euro in the 2019/20 financial year". The year 2021 is associated with great uncertainty, explains Steger. A forecast regarding a possible recovery of the markets important for the plastics industry is currently not possible due to the unpredictable ongoing development of the pandemic. ENGEL has benefited in recent months from serving various industries. Medical technology is growing and has seen an additional boost from Covid-19. The plastics industry is making an important contribution to fighting the pandemic.
USA and China showing signs of recovery
The first signs of economic recovery are coming from China and North America. Industrial production in China is recovering the fastest in Asia as a whole, and this is also evident in the injection moulding market. "China is doing well again," reports Steger. The strongest growth impulses there are coming from the construction industry, above all from infrastructure projects, but the automotive industry is also picking up again. Besides this, Medical and Packaging are developing well in China.
In North America, it is mainly household goods and sports and leisure goods that are driving the economy. "The stay-at-home trend is particularly noticeable in the USA," says Steger. SUV and truck production, both of which are doing well, stand out on what is generally still a cautious automotive market.
Medical and Packaging exhibiting further growth
Europe was hit particularly hard by the pandemic and is only slowly getting back on its feet. "Whether the European injection moulding industry will ever return to its pre-crisis level is hard to say," says Steger.
The packaging and medical sectors are exceptions in Europe, too. Not least because of Covid-19, both sectors are seeing further growth. Covid-19 has shifted the discussion about plastic products out of the focus of public perception. "The pandemic has made it clear that plastics are indispensable in our modern life. They make essential contributions to our health and hygiene," emphasises Stefan Engleder. "This is a great starting point for conducting more differentiated talks and making decisions based on facts from now on. Establishing a circular economy is currently the greatest challenge facing the global plastics industry. And we are consistently tackling this challenge. The issue continues to be a focus of our development work."
Easing of restrictions boosts economy
In the other regions, the negative effects of the Corona pandemic are still being felt in some cases. They include Latin America, where the plastics industry is benefiting from the stay-at-home trend, as in the USA. In Mexico, hopes of a recovery are being nurtured by the close links with US industrial production.
In Southeast Asia, it is the Thai market which is recovering fastest from both the automotive crisis and the lockdown. The optimistic mood results not least from the easing of local contact and travel restrictions, whereas in Singapore, for example, direct customer contact is still not possible.
Ensuring productivity and delivery capability
Particularly in these challenging times, ENGEL is continuing to invest consistently in the development of new products, technologies and solutions with the aim of making the best possible use of the new opportunities that are opening up and further expanding its competitive advantages for times of economic upswing. Besides the establishment of a circular economy, the drivers of innovation are the transformation of the automobile and, above all, digitalisation, which in turn is paving the way for the other two trends.
"Covid-19 has accelerated the digitalisation of industrial processes. Virtual meetings, and even virtual service calls, are now part of our everyday life, and that makes many processes even more efficient." says Engleder. "With the help of remote services and online support, we were able to provide our customers with excellent support throughout the lockdown. Many companies are now concerned with the question of how they can ensure their productivity and delivery capacity in the event of a crisis. This motivates us to continue investing heavily in the development of digital solutions.
Support along the entire product life cycle
What is new is that ENGEL is increasingly focusing on the entire product life cycle. "We are increasingly supporting our customers from the design phase through the production phase to recycling at the end-of-life," Engleder points out. "We are consistently gearing our inject 4.0 program to this in further development.
Digital solutions play an increasingly important role at all levels of the product life cycle. ENGEL is already helping its customers to leverage efficiency and quality potential along the entire value stream with numerous established and proven digital solutions. The greatest leaps in development in the coming years will be in the field of services. With its new performance.boost, ENGEL is already establishing a milestone at live e-xperience 2020. As part of the service package, ENGEL's customers are supported by experienced process engineers in process optimisation, remotely and using inject 4.0 technologies.