Roger Jones, the former president LNP Engineering Plastics, blamed the American government for many of the plastics industries woes in a talk to a standing room only audience at the annual technical conference of the Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE) in Milwaukee, WI this morning.
“Politicians are generally hostile to manufacturing,” said Jones, telling attendees that this year’s elections, particularly at the Congressional level are a watershed for the future of plastics. “I think one of the material outcomes unless things change is that more manufacturing companies are going to move offshore,” said Jones.
He was particularly critical of the subsidization of the corn-to-ethanol industry. “This is a real problem,” he said. “It’s driving up food prices.” Efforts to make plastics from renewable feedstocks, such as corn, are OK, he said, “if they can stand on their own two feet.”
Problems go beyond government activities. One problem is a short-range view by major American companies. He cited the example of General Electric, which sold its plastics business last year to the Saudi Arabian Basic Industries corp. (SABIC). “GE’s research activities in plastics went from long term to mid-term to short-term,” said Jones. When GE bought LNP (after Jones had left) they were only interested in orders above 100,000 pounds. “Those small orders had been the lifeblood of LNP’s business,” he commented.
Jones predicted the American plastics industry will be in turmoil for another ten years, with only specialty and medical applications showing much growth. Molders may move more into micro parts where the impact of material prices is minimized and part prices are higher.
Jones is now a consultant and a frequent speaker at SPE meetings.