Fast Facts: SFIC Washington Forum

A Q&A with Christian Richter, Surface Finishing Industry Council (title).


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Editor’s Note: President, The Policy Group Christian Richter recently spoke with Products Finishing about this year’s SFIC Washington Forum, scheduled for May 23-26 at the L'Enfant Plaza Hotel in Washington, DC. The second edition of this event promises to be an important source of information for attendees, who will learn how to meet the challenges and take advantage of the opportunities created by  global environmental, economic, regulatory and technology trends.

Products Finishing: Why should finishers consider attending this event?
Christian Richter: The Washington Forum will provide up-to-date coverage of some of the most important issue facing the finishing industry--everything from globalization trends to what new product requirements are coming out of the European Union to U.S manufacturing competitiveness issues. Also, we'll have a special briefing on the OSHA chromium rulemaking, what it means for finishers from a compliance standpoint, and the outlook for challenging the rule.

PF: How does the Washington Forum differ from other industry events?
CR: The Forum fuses what used to be the industry's Washington policy and legislative conference with technical topics traditionally covered at AESF week. It's the only venue to exchange views with decision-makers in Washington on topics affecting the industry in a relatively compressed agenda that tries to meet the needs of busy people in the industry.

PF: One session will cover results of the U.S. EPA’s nickel emissions study. Is nickel next on OSHA’s “hit list”? Should finishers running nickel electroplating or electroless nickel lines be concerned?
CR: With respect to nickel, we've continued to work with the nickel producer industry to monitor EU risk classification efforts for nickel, and we've also engaged with EPA here in the U.S. to ensure the agency does a thorough review of the science underlying potential effects of nickel on human health and the environment. Many folks don't know that EPA is now launching a new air emissions control rule that may cover nickel plating processes, so having good nickel emissions data that's been analyzed in concert with EPA is a good start to show that new controls are not needed. On other fronts, OSHA for the first time in the chromium PEL rule just noted concerns over nickel as well. The agency won't act tomorrow, but we're monitoring developments very closely.

PF: How important is it for finishers to be up to speed with the latest information on RoHS, WEEE, and other directives?
CR: If companies aren't up to speed, their customers may not be doing business with them any more. There remain some outstanding questions regarding how the new directives will actually affect some coatings, but most companies need to be clear on the ramifications of the directives for their company and their customers.

PF: What other sessions do you feel will be of most interest to attendees? Why?
CR: Other sessions of relevance will be coverage on nanotechnology, as coatings demands change into the future. The promise of nanotechnology, as well as the regulatory challenges associated with it, are both important considerations for management and technical experts in the industry.

PF: Please tell our readers a bit about the U.S. Department of Defense electroplating and surface finishing environmental R&D workshop.
CR: This is a first-time workshop on the Pentagon's R&D agenda with respect to metal finishing. Some finishers want to know whether emerging alternatives such as thermal spray and other technologies are functionally and environmentally superior to traditional wet chemistries like hard chrome and cadmium. The Pentagon needs good information to make decisions on how to prioritize its coatings research needs in the future, and the workshop will bring together experts to help shape an appropriate R&D agenda for the defense community and the defense manufacturing base.

PF: How would attending the Washington Forum help U.S. finishers understand and deal with globalization and offshoring?
CR: As I mentioned, we'll have some competent observers of manufacturing and the global scene with us to discuss critical trends, opportunities and challenges for finishing firms, and we'll likely have a good exchange with decision-makers here as well. People continually ask, where are things headed for me and the industry in the surface finishing business? The information and discussion in this venue should not be missed.

PF: Anything else you’d like to tell our readers before we wrap this thing up?
CR: I hope people plan on joining their colleagues in Washington in May. Thanks!