Machine sales to stabilize in 2007
The U.S. domestic demand for packaging machinery is projected to level off this year to an estimated value of $6.27 billion, according to the U.S. Packaging Machinery Purchasing Plans Study, published by the Packaging Machinery Manufacturers Institute ( www.pmmi.org ).
Except for the economic downturn that started in 2001, North American machinery manufacturers have experienced strong growth over the past five consecutive years. This year’s forecast of 1-percent growth represents a cautious reaction to the uncertainty of the U.S. economy, rather than on decisions based on financial imperatives, PMMI reports. However, certain market segments will do somewhat better than the aggregate average, most notably the pharmaceutical/medical sector, which should see machinery sales increase 2 percent to 4 percent, and food growing at 1 percent to 3 percent.
The 468 packagers who responded to the PMMI survey indicated that some market trends could lead to machinery orders. One is the increased focus on improving packaging-line efficiency and productivity. Another is the need for increased flexibility to handle more package types and quicker changeovers. Also noted are escalating concerns about product security and tracking, the use of packaging as a retail competitive differentiator and the still-growing emphasis on convenience packaging.
Dampening the prospect of increased machinery sales are end-users’ strategic cost-cutting initiatives, such as plant closings to improve profits, and packagers’ plans to expand into emerging markets. The shift of production to lower-cost overseas markets is expected to continue through 2007, also impacting the need for capital spending on packaging machinery.
Robotics continues to grow in importance in packaging operations, especially in food, beverage, pharmaceuticals, paper products and printing. Roughly a third of the respondents who will buy packaging machinery configured with robotics mentioned equipment for dry and liquid filling, coding, labeling, conveying, bagging and form/fill/seal.
Because of the downsizing of end-users’ in-house engineering departments in recent years, the role of system integrators has grown in importance. The study shows that 38 percent of the respondents will turn to system integrators for at least some portion of the design and/or installation of packaging lines this year. A significant increase in the exclusive use of consulting engineers is also forecast.