Their customers are taking production offshore, costs are soaring, competition is as fierce as ever.
Welcome to the North American rubber machinery business, whose companies are facing challenges that are no different than those of the customers they serve.
As detailed in a feature in this issue, machinery suppliers-those that weathered the long economic downturn after 9/11-now struggle with the movement of American manufacturing to overseas locations.
Just as tire and automotive components makers have no choice but to follow auto manufacturers to China, India and other low-cost, growing-demand markets, machinery firms must have a presence in those locales. If they don't respond, the companies risk losing business to local machinery suppliers.
Like the tire industry, many North American machinery producers today are foreign owned. This has been beneficial to some companies, allowing them to utilize that connection to enter new growth markets. It also results in technology sharing that adds value to what they can provide to customers.
It's somewhat different for the smaller, independent equipment suppliers. In general, they are niche companies that serve primarily domestic customers, and their future can be more tenuous. They need to find their place in the changing global market.
Big or small, both types of machinery suppliers face price erosion and the reluctance of customers to spend on capital improvements during difficult times.
Perhaps the biggest characteristic today's rubber machinery makers share is the fact they still are in business. The weak have been culled from the herd over the years. Those that remain have shown they know how to change with the times.