Back in the good old days, raw materials' prices typically only moved in one direction—up—and a manager was tasked with guessing the rate of increase and timing his orders to get ahead of the price hikes. That was then; now, prices for key raw materials fluctuate up and down, often dramatically, and it can be a company-ending mistake to take delivery just before prices fall.
How are managers dealing with this fluctuation? Finding the answer to that question was the reason behind a recent poll of more than 250 European managers from the chemical, construction, and base-material industries. The poll's questions were designed to reveal how these managers address higher costs, inflation, and collapsing margins. Although not all of the respondents are plastics processors, their problems and responses are familiar to processors....