Another tough year As 2004 draws to a close, Amanda Jacob takes a look at a few of the year’s industry trends. We’d also love to hear your experiences of the year, and your predictions for 2005. Send your comments to us via e-mail: [email protected]
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Rising costs The most talked about issue this year must be rising costs, driven by record prices for crude oil. These include increased prices for the raw materials essential for resin manufacture, as well as energy and transportation costs. Resin, gel-coat and additives suppliers have announced price increases for their products throughout the year with almost monotonous regularity, and there seems no year in sight. Another spate of price increases is set for January (see page 11).
Growing markets Who has not been to China this year? OK, perhaps it’s not quite that extreme, but a tremendous interest in the Chinese market has certainly shone through this year. Unsurprisingly, given the slow growth rates in Europe and North America, the huge and growing market in China has attracted everyone’s attention. The big composites companies have already set up sales or manufacturing operations in the country, or have chosen Chinese partners to work with. And it’s not all one-way traffic – Chinese companies are certainly becoming more active internationally. Whether you consider it an opportunity or a threat, China is just too big a market to ignore (see Reinforced Plastics, November 2004). India is another Asian country which is raising its profile internationally, and is reported to be the second fastest growing economy after China. Indian composite companies are also setting out to attract more business their way (Reinforced Plastics, March 2004, page 34).
(Image © Andrew Toos, www.cartoonstock.com.)
Outside of Asia, Eastern Europe countries are now offering more business opportunities and they are also starting to attract considerable investment.
Environmental pressures In Europe and also North America, we’ve seen a continuing focus on environmental protection, primarily driven by legislation. This has taken emissions reduction and waste management higher up most composite companies’ agendas. The growth in popularity of closed moulding processes seems to be continuing, and the environmental performance
and benefits of products are now seen as important benefits worth publicising (low-VOC, HAP-free, low waste etc).
Battle for the skies In the commercial aircraft market, the battle between Boeing’s 7E7 ‘Dreamliner’ and Airbus’ A380 has been in the news. Both aircraft will use large volumes of composites materials and showcase new composites technologies, and mean big business for the suppliers involved. The A380 is expected to enter passenger service in 2006, while first deliveries of the 7E7 are scheduled for 2008. ■ 0034-3617/04 ©2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.