THIS year’s K show achieved an exceptional result, with attendance of over 230,000 trade visitors from over 160 countries – up from 218,000 at the last event in 2013. That 5.5% increase was a good achievement for the show. The organisers put it down to the ‘globally growing end-user market’ – which was a realistic assessment and also a good result for the industry overall: plastic products offer a huge variety of solutions for a massive range of modern products.
There was probably a smaller attendance by South Africa’s convertors, although one of the top packaging manufacturers allegedly had over 40 delegates at the show. There’s no doubt that all those individuals would have returned enriched (and it may have been fair reward for performance back at the factory, and a deserved incentive). The SA and African businessmen were well received on the stands, but a lot of the technology may have been priced out of range for use here at the southern tip of Africa – so there may have been more admiring than actual price negotiations. Still, it’s a fact that industry leaders need to invest in top technology in order to remain competitive and that is what the guys were talking about.
The substantial cost of new equipment, not to mention the actual cost of attending, may have put some people off. But there was a high level of excitement, particularly in the machinery halls, where cycle times have come down, manufacturing ‘cells’ were running complicated assembly jobs and, possibly most impressively, the performance of injection moulds exceeded expectations.
Machinery and mould manufacturers are involved in a tough competition to outdo one another, which is one of the main drivers behind technology development in the industry. We are talking about developments such as that of ‘cube’ moulds that complete dual injection processes in slashed cycle times. Minimisation of maintenance routines has advanced too, and changeover times reduced further. All this technology, unfortunately, costs … but may be necessary for businesses which want to remain locally and, dare one say it, internationally competitive.
‘Zero Plastics to Landfill’
Given the apparent increased popularity of our products, it’s salient to notice that one of the leading industry organisations globally, PlasticsEurope, made clear appeals to both visitors and exhibitors at the K to bear our environmental responsibilities in mind. According to Dr Patrick Thomas, director of PlasticsEurope and also CEO of materials manufacturer Covestro, there is no need for any plastics to go into landfill, because all plastic materials can be recovered and reused and, if the latter is not possible, used in energy recovery. Up till that point I’d thought ‘zero plastics to landfill’ was just a vague goal.
Some 34 industry associations are now active globally and the environmental initiative is one of the most important as we strive to achieve what Dr Thomas calls a ‘circular economy’. For example, stats show that South-East Asia and China account for about 44% of global plastics consumption (world usage stands at an estimated 255 million tons p/a), so one can see how the region is potentially an environmental problem area, so PlasticsEurope is supporting the publication of a children’s book for Thailand. The story follows the line that fish can’t tell the difference between food and plastics, and it’s hoped it will have a meaningful impact on youngsters in that country. In fact, children in general respond positively to environmental conservation, it’s just that adults struggle to cope with the reality.
It’s been a tough year for most of us, but that’s a given – and not only here in southern Africa. Due to increased numbers of people, competition levels have cranked up. Managing the process and keeping our ships in order is a daily challenge for every one of us, so we congratulate you on completing the year in fairly decent form and wish all of you a happy festive season – and hopefully some well-deserved rest and fun.