14 March, 2019

Does plastic injection in Europe thrive or survive?

The versatility of the injection processes allows this segment to meet a very diverse market portfolio with a demand, in terms of polymer volume, led by the packaging, automotive and electronics sectors. Each market faces different opportunities and challenges, especially as the plastics sector and the applications it serves are subjected to growing environmental demands.

Since AMI Consulting's previous report on the sector in 2014, all key market segments have grown, with packaging showing the most sustained growth, while the automotive sector has experienced the strongest growth in the last 4 years. Global injection demand has experienced an average annual growth of 1.6% in demand for virgin polymers, surpassing 12 million tonnes in 2018.

Injection is the most fragmented plastics industry, with at least 8,000 companies operating in Europe. These businesses range from companies with injection operations in a single plant (more than 90%) to multinationals with many injection centres in Europe. The industry is attracting private equity investments and some companies are listed on the stock exchange, but approximately 95% of the entities are family-owned. The globalisation of the customer base is also attracting investments from outside Europe, especially to serve OEM manufacturers in the automotive and electronics sectors.

However, the fragmentation of the injection industry and the large number of markets it serves create a very competitive business environment in which there have been winners and losers. Since 2014, the total number of injection plants in Europe has decreased, despite significant investments in new plants in Central Europe.

Companies have closed or consolidated due to a change in the customer base in Europe, as many have left the region or have fallen in Europe due to inter-regional competition or technology progression. In this context, many of those involved in the industry could be considered as survivors.

Most European transformers are concentrated in Germany (25%), followed by Italy (11%), France and the United Kingdom (9% each) and Spain (7%).

Around 17% of injection plants participate in the industry as producers of their own products; most are personalised processors whose success depends on their selection of product type and customer base. Many differentiate themselves by their specialisation in a single market, while others distribute their business among a wide range of customers from different sectors.

The report identifies the few hundred injectors that transform more than 10,000 tons of polymer per year and analyzes those that process more than 15,000 tons in the context of the markets they serve. Together, these companies account for approximately 58% of the total volume of injection-processed virgin polymers.




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Does plastic injection in Europe thrive or survive?