Plastics Industry Survey
Part One - Industry Trends & Issues - "What Keeps You Awake at Night?"

DuPont and Plastics News recently surveyed plastics professionals to understand trends, issues and challenges in the plastics community as they relate to product development and material needs. DuPont Performance Polymers North America Director HH Wong offers his insights.

Q – So what issues are keeping the industry up at night?

Three challenges surfaced - the environment and sustainability, global competition and unstable oil prices.  The next tier included global currency, regulations, workforce shortages and consumer perception of plastics.

Q – Were you surprised by the findings?

 By the breadth, yes.  But when you consider the fact that plastics touches every market, every region of the world, it’s probably not a surprise that some of the same things that keep our world leaders awake at night – like the environment and oil prices - also keep our industry awake at night. The impact of these issues may be felt more sharply in some regions and markets than in others, but on the whole we clearly reflect the world in which we live.

Q – The environment and sustainability is a very broad topic. What is DuPont doing to deal with the variety of issues specific to the polymers industry?

First, sustainability is core to DuPont going back to our roots more than 200 years ago.  We are also committed to working with customers to find sustainable solutions using our materials and technology.  Those perspectives vary by industry. In automotive, for example, we are committed to finding ways to take weight out of the vehicle and improve efficiency to lower CO2 emissions and improve fuel economy.  In packaging, we are committed to working with customers to find cost effective ways to better protect and extend shelf life for meat, fish and dairy, for example, to help reduce food loss and waste.

At the same time, we continue to build our portfolio of bio-based polymers in the face of growing demand in many markets for more renewably sourced polymers.

We fully understand that this is a marathon and not a sprint and is another great example of where collaboration along the entire value chain is critical to success.

Q – What do you think the issues are behind “a competitive global environment”?

Competitive intensity is the new normal and it’s good for the industry. Competition drives greater innovation, speed, better designs and the elimination of waste.  A competitive industry also tells us that the industry is healthy, important and financially attractive.

Along the way we face tailwinds and headwinds from things such as currency fluctuations, changes in government regulations, country specific investment incentives - many of these are beyond our ability to control.

What we can control is how we can innovate and design, and ultimately cost effectively make and distribute our products.

This is what we should focus on.  This is where I am very optimistic. Plastics offer design flexibility and many other benefits that are appreciated in the industries we serve, so we have a bright future. Having a global presence, such as we do here at DuPont, allows us to grow with our global value chains as stay competitive in the local environment in which we operate.

Who Took the Survey?

The DuPont, Plastics News ‘Plastics Industry Trends’ survey was conducted by email in February 2015.  More than 800 industry professionals qualified themselves as being involved in the selection, use or purchase of resins, polymers or elastomers.  Most respondents use engineering polymers, general polymers and elastomers.  Their job functions are primarily research and development, management and the design community.  The markets primarily served are automotive, industrial and electrical/electronic. Nearly half of respondents are based in the United States; one fourth in Europe and the rest are from regions around the world.

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