Europe's flexible foam producers expect production to fall anywhere from 30 to 80 percent compared to normal conditions during the next few weeks, as the effects of the coronavirus crisis and national lockdowns hit the industry.
This could cause more plant closures irrespective of national policies, warns EuroPUR, the European association of flexible polyurethane foam blocks manufacturers.
The association said its survey showed that all dedicated flexible foam companies supplying the automotive industry have shut down. Most plants supplying furniture and mattress markets are closed in southern Europe and in northern Europe, operations are much lower than usual.
The companies still operating are focusing their output on medical mattresses and online sales.
But EuroPUR warns "these volumes are nowhere close to compensating production volumes lost for other applications."
"Among companies producing medical mattresses, some are starting to report difficulties in sourcing covers. Some machinery makers are reporting difficulties in sourcing spare parts from countries under lockdown," the group said.
Those shortages likely are to grow along in the coming weeks as "availability of workforce and more stringent and sever controls on border crossings… could cause delays in shipments."
EuroPUR surveyed more than 30 companies across the continent for this snapshot of its findings:
- France: All plants closed due of a lack of demand.
- Spain and Portugal: Some medical foam manufacturing is open in Spain, but most plants are expected to be closed until mid-May. Portugal is closed, companies hope to re-open in mid-April.
- Turkey: Most PU foam plants are closed until at least April 6.
- Italy: The only PU foam plants operating are tied to medical programs. The rest are shut.
- Russia: Closed. On March 28, Russia started a one-week national paid holiday except for the medical sector and plants producing continuously in the chemicals and refining sectors.
- Poland: Demand for exports is 50 percent of usual and April could be 20 percent of usual. Plants can operate along as companies take precautionary measures. It is not clear is foam companies will be able to benefit from the country's bailout for firms.
- Hungary, Czech Republic, Croatia, Slovenia, Slovakia: All have companies working at much reduced capacity.
- Greece and Cyprus: Operating at much reduced capacity.
- Romania and Bulgaria: Operating at much reduced capacity
- Scandinavia and the Baltics: Plants can operate and the reduction in output is less dramatic than in other regions.
- United Kingdom and Ireland: All U.K. plants are open and operating at reduced capacity. Irish plants are continuing to make medical foams.
- Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan: Plants are open but running at reduced capacity.