I like playing with statistics, and there’s no richer trove of new statistics about plastics than the SPI study, The Definition, Size and Impact of the U.S.

I like playing with statistics, and there’s no richer trove of new statistics about plastics than the SPI study, The Definition, Size and Impact of the U.S. Plastics Industry, which came out in December (see p. 70). SPI published a similar report in 2000 that contained figures that plastics processors could use to benchmark their productivity. I had to get out my calculator and massage the 2002 data to make them comparable to the 1999 numbers. Results are in the table.

The 13 plastics processing sectors tracked by the U.S. Dept. of Commerce are ranked in descending order of labor productivity (shipments per production worker). The top four categories were also the leaders for value added per production worker. (Value added equals shipments minus the cost of raw materials.) Some categories that ranked relatively low in labor productivity showed the largest percentage improvements since ’99. Packaging film and sheet was a standout—it ranked first, second, or third in productivity, value added, and improvement in both areas.

Custom compounding did almost as well, and came out number one in new capital investment per dollar value of shipments. More capital investment should translate into higher labor productivity. One surprise was that some processing sectors that produced the most value added per worker were the lowest in value added as a percentage of total shipments. One can only speculate that competitive market conditions must be forcing some processors to give away much of the value they create.

PRODUCTIVITY IN PLASTICS PROCESSING: 2002
Processing SectorShipments/
Mfg.Worker
Change From '99Value Added/
Mfg.Worker
Change From '99Capital Invested/
Shipment $
Custom Compounding

Resilient Floor Coverings

Packaging Film/Sheet

Other Film & Sheet

Pipe & Fittings 

Plastic Bottles

PS Foam Products

PUR & Other Foam Prods.

Plastic Bags

Profile Shapes

Laminated Plate, Sheet, Film

Plumbing Fixtures

Misc. Other Products

All Plastic Products
 
$413,556

$402,722

$367,901

$353,676

$329,870

$270,010

$258,243

$251,890

$246,621

$232,207

$228,722

$170,753

$183,739

$223,172
+45%

+26%

+52%

+42%

+31%

+60%

+41%

+39%

+33%

+40%

+15%

+53%

+45%

+43%
$154,585

$198,056

$182,687

$169,928

$127,407

$133,098

$133,004

$115,023

$123,944 

$133,880

$121,954

$ 99,361

$ 98,610

$113,608
+29%

-6%

+75%

+35%

+31%

+54%

+43%

+42%

+43%

+61%

+12%

+44%

+40%

+40%
$0.061

$0.038

$0.039

$0.050

$0.054

$0.060

$0.050

$0.024

$0.046

$0.044

$0.031

$0.024

$0.047

$0.047
Data source: SPI’s The Definition, Size and Impact of the U.S. Plastics Industry 2002