There's nothing like diving in headfirst, but that's exactly what I did in my first three weeks as Editor of Products Finishing, spending ten of my first 20 days on the road, meeting owners of finishing companies in Michigan and Indiana, attending the annual NASF Washington Forum, and finishing up at the ECoat Conference and PCx Cleaning Conference in Louisville.
All this as we prepare to meet again with many of you at the Sur/Fin conference June 14-17 in Grand Rapids. In fact, that is what most of the month's issue is all about: getting you ready for the conference. Inside we've put together a preview of what the Sur/Fin conference will entail, what you'll see and hear, and how to get the most from your experience in Grand Rapids.
I've been reading about the finishing industry in news clippings, product releases and features, but I really felt I needed to get out of the office and into the shops to see what it was all about.
As part of our trip through Michigan and Indiana last month, Associate Publisher Todd Luciano and I met with a dozen or so business owners and toured countless plants and operations. We started off with the ABB Technology Days in Auburn Hills (and all the cool robots!), and then made our way through Detroit, Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo before heading back to HQ in Cincinnati via northern Indiana, making stops along the way, getting tours of operations, and talking with owners about what the future holds for the industry.
One of those stop-offs in Grand Rapids yielded an inside glimpse of where the plating and surface finishing industry is today, when we dined with six platers from three different firms about all things plating.
We sat down with those owners to talk about the economy, the ever-growing environmental regulations, the new health care plan, and more importantly, what the future of the plating industry looks like now that we have survived one of the harshest financial meltdowns in generations. The food was great, the drinks refreshing and the conversation engaging as you'll find in our Q&A with the platers in the story, 'Just Grand!'.
From our tour up north, we headed to Washington, DC to attend the NASF forum on legislative updates and to talk with our elected representatives. NASF Executive Vice President Christian Richter and his staff were thorough in presenting information about ongoing EPA and OHSA regulations, as well as what proposed congressional bills could affect the surface finishing industry. Turn to our 'Industry News' section on page 8 to read a summation of events, including items that you'll probably hear about a lot at the upcoming Sur/Fin conference.
We finished up at the ECoat conference and the Process Cleaning Expo 2010, the latter sponsored by our sister publication, Process Cleaning magazine. Both events were held in Louisville and featured outstanding speakers, including keynote addresses by Metokote's Jeff Kravitz, American Finishing Resources' Matt Kirchner and Hixson's Stephen Schulte, the latter two being featured columnists here in Products Finishing. All the speakers were insightful, prophetic and humorous in their presentations.
Over the past month I've heard from many finishers who say they're learning to do more with less. Our cover story, focuses on KME Fire Apparatus, showcasing how a new paint line is producing five times more finished parts each day in an area 55% smaller than the company's older system.
I'll see many of you at Sur/Fin in Grand Rapids in mid-June...just look for the guy with the tattered luggage and road map.