Industry Pulse Survey

To better understand the overall impact and future state of the plastics industry, MAPP is conducting a regular Plastics Industry Pulse Survey. The original survey, which ran from April 20 - June 17, has been modified and updated to provide leaders with more relevant data and insights. The revised Pulse Survey re-launched on August 10, 2020. This 10-question study takes less than two minutes for leaders to complete, but gives insights into how the plastics industry is faring so far - and what executives are anticipating for the future. Participate every month through your personalized e-mail link to get the results sent to you the following Wednesday. (Request e-mail link) As MAPP continues to collect information, we will begin to trend and make predictions based on the inputs given by plastics industry leaders. 

Data for this article was collected on October 1-16.

This week's results include data provided by 178 organizations. Participating companies are located across 27 states and serve more than 25 primary industry segments. The most common primary industry typically served by respondents this week include medical, automotive, and industrial. Each of these primary industries will have its data highlighted this week throughout this article.

At what level is your plant currently operating?

Overall, the industry is reporting positive operating levels at facilities across the country. In the peak of the pandemic, mid-April and May, nearly half of all manufacturers were reporting they were operating at 75% or less. As of September 16, 79% of processors are operating at 80 percent or higher - up 2 percentage points from last month, and more than 10 percent than in August. Additionally, the number of processors operating at 40-70 percent has decreased compared two weeks ago. Only one percent of companies indicated that plant operations are below 20 percent.

Operating Levels by Industry:

Operating Levels Automotive Medical Industrial
~100% Operations 43% 58% 55%
80-90% Operations 34% 21% 20%
60-70% Operations 11% 15% 20%
40-50% Operations 3% 6% 0%
20-30% Operations 6% 0% 5%
~10% Operations 3% 0% 0%
Full shutdown 0% 0% 0%

Rank your view of the changing business climate over the following periods, taking into account Sales Trends, Feedback from Customers, New Business and Ability to Meet Demand.

Leaders were asked to look out over the next 30 days, 3 months and 6 months and rank their optimism levels for the changing business climate. Over the next 30 days, 47 percent of manufacturers report general optimism (between 8 and 10), while only 9 percent report feeling openly pessimistic (1-4). This is slightly more positive than data reported in September, with higher levels of optimism across the board. Looking ahead, over the next 3 months, processors are more likely to report neutral or uncertain views. This view is consistent with data reported in September. And looking at the 6-month outlook, company leaders are more likely to report neutral or optimistic results, many likely hoping that 2021 will realize many of the projects that have been put on hold recently and help bring production levels back to normal.

  Automotive Medical Industrial
Next 30 Days
  • 43% Optimistic (8-10)
  • 6% Pessimistic (1-4)
  • 39% Optimistic
  • 6% Pessimistic
  • 50% Optimistic
  • 15% Pessimistic
Next 3 Months
  • 29% Optimistic
  • 9% Pessimistic 
  • 40% Optimistic
  • 3% Pessimistic
  • 53% Optimistic
  • 11% Pessimistic
Next 6 Months
  • 29% Optimistic
  • 9% Pessimistic
  • 51% Optimistic
  • 3% Pessimistic
  • 63% Optimistic
  • 0% Pessimistic

At what level are you currently staffed?

As customers continue to open up and operations are ramping up for many plastics companies, employers are able to call employees back to work. A majority (67%) of companies continue to report they are fully staffed, while another 29% are staffed around 75%. The percentage of organizations reporting being staffed at less than half continues to remain low - with just 4% reporting.

Interestingly, processors are reporting anecdotally to the MAPP staff that they would be staffed at 100% but are currently unable to find employees to fill positions to meet current demand. Finding employees has been a challenge for processors before the pandemic. However, unemployment benefits, fear, and inadequate access to childcare have made filling positions even more challenging for manufacturers. 

Current Staffing Levels by Industry:

Staffing Levels Automotive Medical Industrial
90 - 100% Staffed 60% 76% 65%
About 75% Staffed 31% 24% 35%
About 50% Staffed 3% 0% 0%
Less than 50% Staffed 6% 0% 0%
Full Shutdown 0% 0% 0%

In terms of future staff planning (next 1-3 months), we are...

To better understand overall future planning, companies were asked about their near-future staff planning, or how staffing would change over the next 1-3 months. Reported plans only revealed minor changes compared to two weeks ago. A large majority, 94 percent, of processors report they plan to either maintain current staff or hire additional employees in the near future. However, 6 percent indicate they will have at least some permanent or semi-permanent staff reductions moving forward. 

This is a positive outlook compared to data from just 12 weeks ago. In mid-June, only 39 percent of manufacturers were reporting plans to add staff and 14 percent had plans for staff reductions. The concern and focus here will likely continue to be on finding workers to meet production demands.  While unemployment numbers are still much higher than they were at the start of 2020, manufacturing-dense states, such as Michigan, Indiana and Ohio, are reporting lower unemployment rates compared to the rest of the US, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

Future Staffing Plans by Industry:

Future Staffing Levels Automotive Medical Industrial
Looking to Add Staff 51% 49% 65%
Maintaining Levels 49% 46% 20%
Some Staff Reductions 0% 6% 15%
Large Staff Reductions 0% 0% 0%

Are you experiencing supply chain issues that impact your ability to produce and do you anticipate future supply chain issues (1-3 months)?

Current Supply Chain

Future Supply Chain

Processors were asked to examine their overall supply chain and report on current or potential issues. In general, processors are not experiencing or anticipating moderate or major issues with their supply chain. However, the percentage of companies reporting minor issues and disruptions has continued to increase week over week.

Supply Chain Issues by Industry:

  Automotive Medical Industrial
  Current   |   Future Current   |   Future Current   |   Future
No issues with supply chain 23%   |   32% 42%   |   59% 45%   |   33%
Minimal Issues 69%   |   61% 46%   |   34% 50%   |   61%
Moderate Issues 9%   |   7% 12%   |   7% 5%   |   6%
Major Issues 0%   |   0% 0%   |   0% 0%   |   0%

If you have a line of credit, what percentage availability do you on your line of credit?

To better understand the financial position of organizations, the survey looks at an organization's line of credit. Overall, 76 percent of participants indicated their organization has a line of credit. Thirty-five percent report that they still have 100% of that line of credit available, indicating a positive position. However, another 28 percent of companies indicated they have less than 50 percent of their line of credit available. During the peak of the crisis, many organizations drew down on their lines of credit as a precautionary move to allow the organization to have cash accessible to them during an uncertain time. 

  Automotive Medical Industrial
N/A 29% 29% 11%
0% 0% 13% 5%
1% - 25% 11% 6% 5%
26% - 50% 12% 3% 11%
51% - 75% 4% 6% 10%
76% - 99% 11% 16% 15%
100% 36% 26% 42%

Including line of credit, how many weeks of cash flow or working capital do you have on hand?

MAPP asked industry leaders to report on their current cash on hand levels. It should be noted that beginning on August 24, it was specified that leaders should include the line of credit in their cash on hand calculation. The majority (66%) of companies indicate they have at least three months of cash on hand for business operations. However, 18 percent indicate that their organization has less than one month of cash on hand for business operations.

Cash Flow by Industry:

  Automotive Medical Industrial
1-7 Days 0% 0% 0%
1-2 Weeks 4% 4% 5%
3-4 Weeks 4% 11% 5%
1-2 Months 16% 18% 15%
3-6 Months 36% 25% 50%
>6 Months 40% 43% 25%

What is the current status of outstanding accounts receivable (days aging)?

To further understand the financial position of organizations, MAPP asked executives to evaluate the current status of their accounts receivable. Approximately two-thirds of processors report that there has been little to no change in their aging accounts receivables. However, 20 percent are seeing an increase in their aging accounts receivable, while 13 percent are experiencing decreases in days aging for A/R. The data from this week's Pulse Survey varies only slightly compared to data reported over the past two months.

Aging Accounts Receivable by Industry

  Automotive Medical Industrial
Significant Increase 3% 0% 0%
Increase 9% 16% 20%
No Change 74% 65% 70%
Decrease 14% 16% 10%
Significant Decrease 0% 3% 0%

What is the current status of backlog of orders?

As a measure of business conditions and potential future business, processors rated the current status of backlog of orders. For 60 percent of organizations, backlog is increasing, and another 31 percent report that backlog is remaining steady or flat. The data reported continues to get slightly more positive compared to one month ago. However,10 percent report that the backlog of orders is decreasing or significantly decreasing.

Backlog of Orders by Industry

  Automotive Medical Industrial
Significant Increase 6% 6% 10%
Increase 37% 44% 45%
No Change 34% 41% 30%
Decrease 17% 6% 15%
Significant Decrease 6% 3% 0%

What is the current status of quoting volume?

Looking ahead at potential future business, leaders reported on the current volume of quotes. Forty-two percent of companies report that the number of quotes are increasing, and 43 percent report no change. However, 15 percent say that quoting volume is decreasing. It should also be noted that while may processors are indicated an increase in quoting volume, anecdotally, many company leaders have reported feelings of frustration as the correlation between quoting volume and orders received is not as strong as before.

Quoting Volume Status by Industry

  Automotive Medical Industrial
Significant Increase 3% 6% 0%
Increase 57% 42% 42%
No Change 26% 39% 47%
Decrease 14% 9% 11%
Significant Decrease 0% 3% 0%

At this time, with the information currently available to you and your team, when are you anticipating production levels to return to "normal"?

Company leaders were asked to look forward and share when they believe they will experience the elusive "return to normal" or pre-COVID-19 production levels. Over the last several months, the percent of companies anticipating a return to normal in 2020 has decreased - until October. At the end of June, only 30 percent of manufacturers believed that production wouldn't return to normal in 2020. Two months ago, on August 14, that had increased significantly, to 42%. Perhaps the most telling data point to indicate the overall confidence of plastics industry leaders is this week's response to the predicted "return to normal." A huge jump occurred between September 11 and October 16, with 38% of companies saying production has returned to pre-COVID levels.

Return to Normal by Industry

  Automotive Medical Industrial
Production not impacted 0% 21% 10%
Already returned to normal 38% 33% 35%
End of September 0% 0% 0%
End of October 9% 3% 0%
End of November 0% 3% 10%
End of December 9% 3% 5%
No time in 2020 44% 36% 40%

How are you forecasting revenue through the end of 2020?

While the industry is changing rapidly, executives were asked how they are currently forecasting revenue through the end of 2020. As year-end continues to get closer, there is a shift in how leaders are forecasting revenue for the end of 2020. Fifty-one percent of plastics manufacturers are now forecasting revenue for the end of 2020 at 95% or higher of budget. This is 7 percentage points higher than four weeks ago. Additionally, about half, 49 percent, of companies are still anticipating revenue to be down at least 25% if not more. 

End of Year Sales Forecast by Industry

  Automotive Medical Industrial
95%+ of 2020 forecast 23% 55% 55%
75% of 2020 forecast 71% 39% 45%
50% of 2020 forecast 3% 3% 0%
<50% of 2020 forecast 3% 3% 0%

Remember to check this site on the second Wednesday of each month. If you have suggestions for questions to be added or changed, please e-mail MAPP's membership & analytics manager, Tony Robinson, at