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NASF’s Management Conference 2009

March - 2009
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The NASF Management conference began on Monday February 9th with a half day presentation called “Selling Has Nothing To Do With Selling”, presented by Richard Farrell of Tangent Knowledge Systems. While I was not very impressed with the concepts presented in this session, mostly because I have to believe that if those of us in attendance didn’t already know these concepts, then most of us would not still exist in the current economy.

Regardless, I do believe that a speaker getting us to discuss the concepts of increasing sales and customer service can be very productive. Throughout the course of the event I personally had several very enlightening discussions because of this speaker, and have gained some unique insight on the topic from a different perspective as a result. You can download an overview of the “Selling Has Nothing To Do With Selling” presentation on our bulletin boards and decide for yourself what you think. Make sure to share you thoughts with us the rest of the members.

Tuesday morning began with an impromptu supplier meeting where some of the difficult issues the NASF is currently facing were discussed. It seemed to be the general consensus that extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. Some new, and good ideas were proposed as a result of that basis. One example of this was the idea of creating a committee within the AESF to take the lead in developing and maintaining surface finishing specifications, which is not a short term solution by any means but is still one of the newer ideas I’ve heard in a while from this association. I’ll be sure to follow up on this and share more information on the Finishing Talk Boards as it develops.

Shortly after this committee meeting, we switched pace for an insightful presentation by past NASF president Ray Lucas. Ray discussed his well known and very informative overview of his company, Valley Chrome Plating and their journey to zero discharge. If you are not familiar with the concept of “zero discharge” I highly recommend you take a look at this presentation as it provides a very nice snapshot of a system layout and the associated benefits as they may apply to your shop. Some of these include conservation of H20, elimination or drastically reducing discharge to POTW, and the ability to re-use chemistry. Finishing Talk members can download this presentation on our bulletin boards

Next up was an update from the Policy Group presented by Christian Richter who provided some of the big picture issues that our industry is currently facing in Washington, some trends that are currently playing out in Washington, and an overview of new key personnel in Washington.

According to Christian, it sounds as if the jury is still out on how President Obama will treat the Metal Finishing industry. It was pointed out that he currently has a 67% approval rating, which may mean that this is a common sentiment across the country. He said that from what he can see - it does seem that the President is doing his best to govern from the center with a true effort at bi-partisan politics, and has a sincere desire to balance change with jobs.

It also sounds like the jury is still out on Lisa Jackson, the new EPA Chief. She was described as a fairly pragmatic decision maker on one hand, and the same person who recently handpicked Lisa Heinzerling on the other. Heinzerling is the person who wrote the brief for the Environmentalist to argue in the Massachusetts vs. EPA – which is where the decision was made that ruled that the EPA must mandate CO2 emissions, which has proven to be devastating to many US manufacturers.

Christian briefly described the nightmare referred to as the California trifecta including Nancy Pelosi, Barbra Boxer, Henry Waxman…. who have stated that the “entire country should be run more like the state of California”, and who simultaneously do not seem to have any sort of alignment with manufacturing or much less - the metal finishing industry’s agenda.

Carol Browning the new White House Energy Czar – (Clinton's EPA chief), has been put in charge of transforming the Department of Energy, while working more hand in hand with the EPA on issues like climate control and global warming.

Cass Sunstein of the Office of Information and Regulatory affairs…. (which is the office where all rule making goes before it gets finalized). Cass is a controversial person (disliked by most environmentalists), who is liked by Industry because of his practical views on how government can help or hurt industry. He has written many interesting articles including one on why OSHA is unconstitutional, and another on why cost benefit analysis have to be applied to regulatory decisions in Washington….. I'm liking this guy already!

Other issues touched on by the Policy Group presentation include:
Chrome is under attack again – and this time from multiple sources including the EPA and OSHA. Environmentalists have filed nearly 20 law suits against EPA this year – one of which has the EPA going back to review the current Cr emissions standards in the plating industry.

The OSHA chromium exposure limit is also being reviewed because of the lawsuit filed by the Public Citizen group, and the United Steelworkers group, which is being argued at the US Third Circuit Court of Appeals with a decision expected by March 2009. The worker exposure standard could be rewritten and several groups are currently arguing to lower the new standard to and unobtainable .2 mgpl…. You can expect to see more of this topic again in the near future.

Congress and the EPA are being forced by the Europeans, because of their global initiatives, to overhaul chemicals laws. A panel is currently being formed to discuss the future of these Ni regulations at Sur-Fin this year with the goal of having proportionate representation in these future discussions in order to regain our footing as leaders, rather than constantly reacting to the European initiatives.

Christian wrapped up his presentation by reminding us how crucial it is for us to attend the Washington Forum this April to meet with our legislators to inform them of how critical the decisions they face this year are to the health and future of our industry. He also suggested that we set up our own meetings (with their assistance and guidance) in order to create personal relationships and reoccurring dialog with our individual representatives.