30 Editions On, Chinaplas Continues to Grow

By: Tony Deligio 24. April 2016

Launched only five years after China’s 1978 Open-Door Policy reintroduced the country to the global economy, Chinaplas and the Chinese plastics industry have shared a meteoric rise over the last three decades.


Born in 1983 but celebrating its 30th birthday in 2016 thanks to a short-lived 18-month show cycle when it first started, Chinaplas kicked offed its 30th edition celebration in Shanghai with song, cupcakes and a look back and forward from Stanley Chu, chairman of show organizer, Adsale.


In 1983 in Beijing, where the show formerly rotated to in non-Shanghai years, roughly 100 non-Chinese exhibitors showed their wares to the newly forming plastics industry over a couple thousand square meters. In 2016 in Shanghai, 3323 exhibitors covering more than 240,000-m2 will welcome more than 140,000 visitors, roughly 30% of whom come from outside China, to Shanghai.


Certain areas in the Chinese economy might have slowed in recent years, but Chinaplas is not among them, with 2016 exhibitors up 4% over 2015. Cause for celebration in an economy that is contracting in some areas for the first time in a long time and Adsale did at the April 23 Media Day event, rolling out cupcakes and coaxing the assembled trade press in a rendition of Happy Birthday to the now 30-yr-old show.


Going Forward
In addition to being a time for reflection on the past, birthdays represent an opportunity to think about the future, and Chu admitted the show’s growth, and the opening of a new exhibition center in Shanghai, are giving Adsale something to think about going forward.


Completely filling the Shanghai New International Exhibition Center’s indoor facilities, Chinaplas 2016 will once again turn to temporary tents and stands within the exhibition center’s courtyard, with 40,000-m2 of exhibitors in tents outside the brick-and-mortar halls, while an additional 30,000-m2 of booths languish on a waiting list to get in.


The new exhibition facility, on the other hand, would offer Chinaplas 500,000-m2 of space—400,000 indoor and 100,000 outdoors. Chu, however, noted that the new two-floor center is not purposefully built to display machine and poses some possible logistics challenges. Despite that, he added that Adsale will “keep monitoring the situation, evaluating alternatives in light of the best interests of the exhibitors and the visitors.”


In 2017, Chinaplas returns to its same venue in Guangzhou. In 2018…? “We will evaluate all the options and consider what to do in 2018,” Chu said. “It’s still open.”  (pictured below, Stanley Chu and Ada Leung of Adsale, marking Chinaplas's 30th birthday.)

Stanley Chu, Ada Leung, Adsale

Connected: The Factory of the Future Is Closer Than We Think

By: Tony Deligio 20. April 2016

“Enabling humans to collaborate with machines, in a real-time, two-way exchange.”


That would be the result of implementing a “Connected Industrial Workforce”, according to a new study released by Accenture Consulting. Despite a somewhat whimsical title—Machine Dreams: Making the Most of the Connected Industrial Workforce—the report points to some very down-to-earth benefits to such worker/machine connectivity, including significant gains to productivity, improved operational efficiency and enhanced safety and risk management.


Taking a step back, what exactly does a Connected Industrial Workforce look like? According to Accenture, in a factory this would include technologies like collaborative robots (or cobots, an issue we tackled here), augmented reality devices (“smart” glasses and helmets relaying data to workers and sending it back to a central hub), smarter machines (think equipment that talks to workers and other machines), and the souped-up IT infrastructure needed to run all this.


Smart glasses on the shopfloor might be some ways off (but not for Lockheed, according to Popular Mechanics), but one area that has already seen adoption would be autonomous guided vehicles, or mobile robots that move materials and products around a warehouse. According a survey of 500 executives in the U.S., Europe, and Asia conducted by Accenture, such vehicles already account for half of Connected Industrial spending by companies today with an even greater share anticipated in the future. Fully 39% of companies in the survey already assign injection molding machine output to collaborative robots.


The survey also found that the same organizations plan to increase investments in cobots and the aforementioned augmented reality devices, over the next five years. Where’s all this headed? According to 85% of respondents:


They expect the focus of technology in manufacturing to evolve from human to human-machine-centric, where collaborative machines, humans augmenting machines and autonomous machines are combined to create a more effective workforce.


Fully 85% of those polled expect the concept of a Connected Industrial Workforce to be commonplace in plants by 2020, but that’s not to say some challenges aren’t anticipated, with 85% describing their companies as digital followers. What’s the hold up? Security concerns and the shallow skills pool, with 76% worried about data vulnerability, 72% concerned over system vulnerability and 70% fretting about a shortage of skilled workers.


That’s not to say the field will not continue to progress, despites these and other challenges. Respondents estimated up to 25% of their R&D expenditure over the next five years would go toward connected industrial workforce technologies, at a value of €181 billion ($205 billion) for automotive companies and €39 billion ($44 billion) for industrial equipment companies.


Back to those “machine dreams”; the classic sci-fi movie Blade Runner, which turns 35 next year and features some “cobots” that are not in a very collaborative mood, was based off Philip K. Dick’s 1968 novel, “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”. Nearly 50 years after its publication, maybe we’ll find out what cobots or fully connected processing machines dream about when their shift has ended in the near future.

Accenture Connected Industrial Workforce

Where’s Your Production Going; Where Has It Been?

By: Tony Deligio 20. April 2016

“How do you know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been?”


That quote courtesy of Craig Porter, president and owner of custom injection molder PlastiCert Inc., Lewiston, Minn. PlastiCert was among Plastics Technology’s inaugural group of 25 World-Class Processors based on their responses to the 2015 World-Class Processor survey.


I interviewed Porter following his company’s selection and the above quote was in response to my asking him why his company tracks all the different production metrics covered in our survey. As he elaborated, the ultimate goal for PlastiCert was to “establish a baseline of how you perform to standard.”


We’re once again seeking participants in that survey, click here to take it today, with the goal of helping individual companies, and the industry at large, establish that baseline and track performance.


Approximately 50 questions, with segments devoted to profile info, operational metrics, human resources, and business/processing strategies, the anonymous survey’s complete results will only be shared with companies that participate. Take some time today and figure out where you’ve been and where you’re headed


2016 Plastics Technology World-Class Processor survey

Survey Helps Plastics Processors Keeps Tabs on the Competition

By: Tony Deligio 13. April 2016

Do you track your facility’s productivity? Ever wonder how your best scrap rate, product changeover speed or on-time delivery ranks with your competition?


Take the 2016 World-Class Processor survey today and found out the answers to those questions and see how your operation compares to fellow plastics processors in many other performance metrics, while gaining information on overall plant size and output.


After a highly successful 2015 launch, the World-Class Processor survey is looking to expand the breadth and depth of data gathered to the benefit of our participants. Can you set aside 30 to 45 minutes to answer approximately 50 questions about your operations? If yes, you can benefit from the full data set anonymously and learn about your competitors’:


  • Average setup time
  • Scrap rate
  • Total amount of resin processed
  • Total number of different resins processed
  • Total number of active customers
  • Total hours shop doors were open
  • On-time delivery rate
  • Machine utilization
  • Accident incident


In terms of profile information, learn the following about survey participants:


  • Number and average age of primary processing machines
  • Secondary processes performed
  • Industries served
  • Materials processed
  • Total employees
  • Turnover rate
  • Shopfloor wage rate
  • Revenue per employee
  • Benefits
  • And more


In addition, the survey has process-specific questions breaking down participants by injection molding, blow molding, thermoforming and extrusion, including data on the size and type of machines employed, as well as products produced.


Set aside some time today for the free, 100% anonymous survey and build your industry knowledge. 


Plastics Technology 2016 World-Class Processor Survey

Building a Bridge from Boomers to Millenials in Manufacturing

By: Tony Deligio 4. April 2016

Video competition has high schoolers create videos to showcase the skills and education necessary for a manufacturing career.


Starting on Jan. 1, 2011 and every day going forward for the next 19 years, 10,000 baby boomers will turn 65 years old every day. Those 10,000 people and their decades of professional experience will hit retirement age in numerous industries, with a wide-ranging impact, but perhaps the biggest one will be felt in manufacturing.


The reason why is two-fold: less young people have been entering the manufacturing trades, and proficiency in advanced manufacturing requires time, lots of time.


That latter fact summarized here in a Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report:


Even in occupations where technological innovations have produced relatively large productivity gains—many of the more complex machining jobs in manufacturing, for example—the learning curves often are steep, meaning that new workers need to enter these occupations soon, so they can become proficient in the necessary skills by the time the baby boomers begin leaving the labor force.


That particular report found that manufacturing leads the list of affected industries, with 12 occupations and 14 industries impacted by retiring boomers. By 2025, millennials—those aged 18 to 32—will comprise 75% of the workforce, according to ThomasNet. But how do you get younger people interested in manufacturing?


For the second year, the Eastern Advanced Manufacturing Alliance (EAMA) is directly engaging high school students with manufacturing, sponsoring a video competition. The “Manufacturing a Path to Success” contest follows on the heels of last year’s, “What’s So Cool About Manufacturing?” contest that garnered videos from 13 teams of students and 11 different schools.

In 2016, numerous schools and 14 different companies from Connecticut’s Windham, New London and Middlesex counties have signed up to participate. Each team will have a liaison at its paired manufacturing company and student teams will meet with their manufacturer several times, completing interviews and tours before filming and editing videos.


Each completed video will be posted on the EAMA website, the paired manufacturing company website, and on the EAMA Youtube channel. Once student videos are complete, EAMA says an “American Idol-style” voting competition will take place where viewers will have the opportunity to vote online for their favorite video. Ultimately a “film festival” will be held in April 2016 at Quinebaug Valley Community College, where videos will be screened and judged on creative merit.


Last year’s winner? RHAM High, which highlighted MPS Plastics (see video below):


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