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Climate Change In The Finishing Industry

January - 2010
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For decades leading climatologists and atmospheric scientists have warned us of a progressive change in the climate thought to be due to an increase in greenhouse gas concentrations.
 
The majority of thinking people understand this although they may be uncertain as to the urgency and possible relevance of these purported trends.  Recently the media has uncovered commentary excerpted from the purloined email messages of a few scientists that, at the very least, cast some suspicion as to the veracity of some of their data analysis.  Few of us, I’m certain, have had the time of luxury of reviewing these comments in their full context.

Whether you trust the positions taken by the overwhelming majority of climate scientists or the pesky pundits ever pervasive in the media, you can’t dispute the seismic shift in the global climate of the finishing industry.  Regardless of how long you have been in the industry, never have we experienced such a revolution in how and where we manufacture our products. I don’t need to remind any of you of the economic tsunami that we have all endured over the past 15 months.  Global in magnitude and far-reaching across every economic activity and all commerce, this crash affected not only the well-established industrialized Western economies, but also those of the emerging markets in Asia, Brazil and Eastern Europe.

Surprisingly the developing countries have rebounded much more quickly than the established ones.  China emerged rather swiftly from the economic crash and its economy is expanding as fervently as it was before the recession.

Hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs have vanished from North America and Western Europe in a major migration to countries boasting labor costs only a fraction of those in the West.  In spite of the high productivity prevalent in Western cultures, these low labor rates preclude a realistic recovery of the majority of jobs lost.  In addition, regulations governing the environmental impact of our industry have become more aggressive worldwide.  The developing nations however, experience a significant lag in the enactment and enforcement of the strictures that impact our bottom lines.

It is paramount that we keep engaged not only with local and domestic issues, but it has become imperative that we have to view our business in an international sense.  What happens in the finishing industry in Beijing or Brasilia affects what happens on Main Street.  The enactment of a new regulation by the European Union impacts our businesses overnight.  And staying engaged means plugging ourselves into the new methods of communication and participating in key associations not only locally but globally.

So how can we survive?  We must recognize this sea change and aggressively pursue alternate strategies.  My friend and colleague, Paul Fisher, presents a new found manner in which to reach customers and colleagues.  The use of Facebook, twitter and other social/professional networking media is the new way to stay connected.  Furthermore we can no longer remain complacent and comfortable in our regional professional associations.   Paul recognizes the need to join forces across cultural and geographic to promote and foster an equitable and fair debate regarding regulations faced by the finishing industry, rather than letting trends and policy be developed on the other side of the world and waiting for them to come to us.

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Another change, minor though it is, pertains to this publication.  I will be taking over the reins as editor.  My background is decidedly technical in nature as I have been a formulator and manufacturer of powder coatings for over 30 years. 

Delivering a relevant message to the finishing industry has been one of my passions for the past few years.  In addition to my industrial pursuits I was the technical editor of Finishing Today magazine in 2006 through 2008.  So I will be bringing my humble insights to you in each edition of Finishing Talk.

Kevin Biller, Editor
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