James Ballantyne, Luxus sales and business development manager is finally taking retirement from the Louth firm after 15 years.
Ballantyne, who holds an agricultural engineering degree, fell into the plastics manufacturing industry by accident. “I was on the verge of signing up to do an MBA after working as a sales agent in the retail industry when a friend phoned me and told me there was a job in manufacturing. That's how I ended up in plastics and gained experience in injection moulding which was to prove invaluable for my role at Luxus,” he tells PRW.
Ballantyne played a key role in establishing Luxus as a key supplier of technical recycled compounds to the automotive, construction and other market sectors. “I enjoy seeing how products are manufactured and working out what material solution is appropriate to an application.”
Changes he has noted in the plastics industry during his time working in it include globalisation. Ballantyne says: “Nowadays if you look at material specifications they are increasingly not particular to a factory or region, but are ones which enable global supply delivery.”
He notes there is also a lot more freedom around movement of products. He says: “Competition has driven improvements in manufacturing efficiency. If an organization is inefficient they won't make money and that soon focuses people's minds.”
Ballantyne believes recycled polymer compound suppliers trading at the top end of the market like Luxus are finding business more stable while those trading at the bottom end are struggling. “We have got a different market developing with sustained low polymer pricing which I believe will run through 2016 and maybe into 2017.” He adds: “Additional material production capacity has been developed globally which creates ongoing downward pressure on materials prices. As long as oil prices remain low with the advent of shale gas and showing no sign of reversing in the short term, the cost of collecting polymer for recycling, then cleaning it and then compounding it means there may not be a huge difference in price between recycled and virgin material. “
Ballantyne says: “We see a number of our customers who export to Europe are struggling because the euro rate is not good for exports. On the other hand we also see a lot of Continental compounders who have quiet home markets so they are becoming active in the UK market increasing the competition in the domestic market.
He warns that companies trading in recycled material have to remain lean or they will not make money. “If you don't make money you can't invest for the future. I think 2016 is going to be a tough year for a number of businesses in UK manufacturing. In general UK manufacturing should continue to grow in 2016. You may see a drop off in volume in future years if the currency situation does not suit exporters. UK vehicle manufacturing plants are very busy, but present exchange rates make the UK less attractive for inward investment. It remains to be seen what happens to the manufacturing sector should the UK vote to exit Europe.”
Peter Atterby, Luxus's managing director told PRW: “Jim was from a plastics and closure business prior to joining Luxus, he combined this base plastics and moulding knowledge to move Luxus forward into the 21st century as a leading technical compounder. His relationship building skills across varied stakeholders in the automotive arena has helped to establish our reputation and credentials as a technical compounder within this challenging sector.
“It has been a pleasure working with Jim over the years and I have enjoyed the experience on both a professional and personnel level. I'd like to thank him for his contribution to the company and wish him all the very best for the future.”