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Fourth quarter was brutal.

Custom plastics processors took a beating in the fourth quarter of 1991, with overall machine capacity utilization below the level of first-quarter '91, erasing two quarters of gradually improving rates.

Responses by 374 custom processors to PLASTICS TECHNOLOGY's quarterly survey showed slightly more plants decreasing utilization than increasing it in the fourth quarter, and slightly more plants shortening their workweeks than adding hours or shifts. Both cases reversed the trend of the past two quarters and returned almost to the first-quarter '91 level.

Custom injection molding fell 3.5 points to the lowest capacity-utilization level since early 1983. Custom extrusion also dropped 3.5 points, though it was still above the level at the start of '91. (However, custom film processors saw no change in operating rates, and tubing processors actually gained one point.)

Custom blow molding slipped four points to its lowest level since 1986. Thermoforming lost 2.5 points, but held above the first-quarter level. And compression/transfer plunged eight points to a nine-year low.

Capacity utilization was highest in New England and the North Central regions, and lowest in the West.

Comments on business conditions were 49% favorable or optimistic, 44% negative or pessimistic, and 7% neutral in tone. That again resembled 1991's first quarter, a relapse from the 60/40 positive/negative ratio of the preceding two quarters.

TOOLING ORDERS SLUMP

New orders for molds and dies slumped in the fourth quarter, again mimicking the first quarter. Responses from 204 toolmaking shops indicated that lead times grew shorter on average, as they were less busy (another reversal of two quarters of increasing activity). New England and South Central shops actually saw gains in tooling orders; the West suffered the deepest slump.
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Title Annotation:1991 manufacturing activity index
Publication:Plastics Technology
Date:Mar 1, 1992
Words:285
Previous Article:Quality is not enough.
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