Bridled Enthusiasm Part 2



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Earlier this year, I reported in this column on the general mood and atmosphere at two trade shows held this past spring. The best description I could come up with at the time was “bridled enthusiasm.”

At the Electrocoat 2006 conference, held in April in Orlando, attendance was off slightly from the 2004 edition of the event. But exhibitors and attendees seemed happy to be there and pleased by the quality of contacts they were making. E-coat technology suppliers and users had a good opportunity to network with others involved in the industry.

The second event, the UV and EB Technology Conference and Exposition held in Chicago in late April, surpassed its total attendance for the previous edition on the first day, according to sponsor RadTech—The Association for UV and EB Technology. The expo and conferences both had an international flavor, and once again the atmosphere was generally upbeat and positive.

E-coat and the UV/EB show and conference were focused on important segments of the finishing industry. But the same kind of cautious optimism exhibited at the spring events was apparent at two more recent shows, both more mainstream and both held the same week in September.

In Indianapolis, Powder Coating 2006 staged a successful three-day run. Meanwhile, in Milwaukee, the plating side of the industry held its annual SUR/FIN show.

Both events fairly reflected the current state of the domestic finishing industry: smaller than they used to be, maybe, but maintaining an enthusiasm and passion that defines the finishers who remain successful in today’s tough economic and competitive climate.

The passion was particularly evident in Milwaukee, where the topic of consolidation of industry trade groups into a single organization heightened the buzz. (I had actually learned first-hand about the strong feelings of consolidation opponents a bit earlier, after being taken to task by several respondents after I endorsed reorganization in this column in PF’s September issue.)

SUR/FIN was the setting for the vote of the Council of Delegates of the American Electroplaters and Surface Finishers (AESF), the final potential hurdle to the plan to combine AESF and the two other main associations representing various segments of the North American surface finishing industry, the National Association of Metal Finishers (NAMF), and the Metal Finishers’ Suppliers Association (MFSA).

As the show and conferences wound down, SUR/FIN attendees learned that the Council of Delegates had voted in favor of creating the single industry group by a margin of 73% to 27%. That’s not as big a landslide as it may seem at first: a two-thirds majority was required for passage. Regardless, the vote paved the way for creation of the National Association for Surface Finishing (NASF).

NASF has a mission that sounds deceptively simple: the promotion and advancement of the North American Surface Finishing Industry globally. But given global competition, increasing environmental and worker safety regulations, and other factors, it’s a handful.

Getting to this point required a lot of effort on the part of many individuals. Much more hard work is going to be needed to make a consolidated organization work for all parties involved.

“(The Council of Delegates vote) marks the beginning of another era in the history of our Society and profession, in which you, our members, will be our guide and strength,” said newly elected AESF President Joelie Zak in a message to members. “The stakes are high, and it will require a great amount of energy and courage on all of our parts to adopt new strategies that will not only champion the cause of individual professional members, but to move our AESF Foundation to sustained prosperity and strengthen our industry.” According to Zak, moving forward will require “trust, faith and—above all—kindness.”

John Flatley, executive director of the Surface Finishing Industry Council, echoes those comments. “A lot of the work has gone into getting thing this far and a lot more hard work is going to be involved over the next few months to put meat on the bones of the consolidation agreement,” he said.

“I hope opponents of consolidation will become active in this work. The members of all three associations have spoken. I believe—and they believed—that the consolidated organization will offer a home and involvement for everyone, whether it’s at the council level, in the AESF foundation, or at the chapter level. Working together, we can make that happen.”