Tuesday, 20 November 2012

November 2012 Presidents Column

Dear Members,

As this is my 7th column, I’ve reached the anniversary of my first communication last November. Certainly it seems that in regard to the Institute that a lot of “water has passed under the bridge” and now is the time to commence tying the loose ends to ensure stability of the Institute going forward.

The Annual Conference was attended by around 48 people, with the prize for best paper awarded to Johan Richaud from Vesuvius; an excellent paper demonstrating that design has significant influence on refractory performance, if only refractories can keep up!

The evening meal at the Kenwood Hall was superb, not only from the point of view of the service etc; but also the conversation and conviviality, it was with much regret that I retired early to prepare for a trip to the US.

This unfortunately meant that I missed the training day with an attendance of nearly 50 people plus trainers. There’s been a lot of good feedback and I’ve found it particularly pleasing that my team have been challenging some of our established statements on data sheets and other literature.

The training day continues to be a focus for our training activity and we trust that this will be sustained for many years into the future.

Unfortunately it appears that the course at Swansea University will not run next year due to a withdrawal of funding, a great disappointment for the Institute and I thank all those who’ve worked so hard to make it a success.

It is therefore fundamental that the training day maintains our presence in the training environment. At Executive and General Council meetings a consensus has been reached that the Institute’s training focus will be the training day.

This is not “written in stone” and if suitable opportunities are presented we will certainly consider them, however I appreciate that within the Institute membership are consultants and other organisations providing training regarding refractories and therefore we do not want to hinder their activities.

This is a sensitive issue; there is a balance between the objectives of the Institute, legacies of past initiatives and a genuine desire to act in the interests of all the membership.

It would be appropriate however to look at “growing” the training day and perhaps include site visits and enhance the practical aspect; this potential requires review by the relevant personnel and I hope that in the very near future we will hold an extraordinary Executive meeting to cover these aspects.

Unfortunately the evolution of the website has been delayed chiefly due to business travel, however I have confirmed with the Executive council that the old site will cease at the end of November.

Regarding other Institute news; Mr Keith Andrews has been appointed Senior Vice President and therefore assumes the responsibility of organising the 2013 Conference on the path to the Presidency; we all wish him the very best and naturally I’ll help him as much as possible in his new role.

The Journal continues at six editions per year and although challenged by cuts in advertising budgets and increased postal costs; it has effectively managed to remain cost neutral which is a significant achievement by the Journal committee.

The Journal content is consistently high quality and at this point I would like to extend my thanks to all the companies and organisations which support it both with advertising and editorial content, you are all intrinsic.

In regard to the UK branches, the programmes for Sheffield and Stoke are now in full swing and I hope that a South Wales meeting will be organised shortly. Overseas we are encouraging the re-energising of the activities of the South African Branch and I hope to hear shortly of the activities in Australia.

Please note that if any branch has news items or event notices, John May will gladly include it in the Journal.

Dates for your diary; National Dinner Dance 2013 will be held on Saturday the 11th of May at the Wychwood Park Hotel, Weston, Crewe and the National Conference & Training Days on the 25th and 26th of September at  Kenwood Hall in Sheffield.

Wishing you all a successful conclusion to business in 2012 and albeit early, my best wishes for Christmas and the New Year.

Chris Windle


Friday, 16 November 2012

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Refractories Engineer Issue 1 1972

We have recently created an electronic copy of the 1st ever edition of the Refractories Engineer.

Dated September 1972, the forty year old journal makes for interesting reading.  

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Sheffield Branch News

Sheffield Branch News

Please find below a link to the IRE’s Sheffield Branch Programme for 2012/13
Sheffield Branch Programme 2012/13

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Stoke Branch News

The Stoke Branch of the Institute are trying to increase the numbers attending thier technical meetings by sharing them with the North Staffs Branch of the ICTa, this is proving to be a success.

Please click here for the programme for the North Staffs Branch of the ICTa.

Friday, 14 September 2012

September 2012 Presidents Column

Dear Members

This is my 6th column and indicates that a Presidential year has passed. It is therefore appropriate that I reflect on the achievements in the past year and look forward to the events which will unfold over the next year of office.

In previous columns I’ve considered the aims of the Institute to “disseminate information”, “encourage the exchange of information and ideas amongst the members” and “foster and promote the skills and science of refractory engineering”. To achieve this I wanted to augment the mainly axial relationship with the members where information is exchanged predominantly through the Journal with an interactive one where members can converse on a wider basis through the website.
The re-vamp of the website has been instrumental in this philosophy and especially the forum to encourage debate. Please note that although the website is now fully operational, we should consider it as subject to continuous improvement and consequently if you have any ideas for additions please let me know (cwindle@dsf.co.uk).

The General Council met in July and set a deadline of the end of August for the launch of the new website. Consequently in order to adhere to this deadline the text has been chiefly my own and whilst this has enabled the task within the time limit please browse through the various “introductions” and if there is anything you would like to add, please let me know.

In the last Journal John (editor) mentioned an electronic Journal format and this is certainly possible. Whilst this hasn’t been a topic of discussion at the General Council for some time, I think that it is nether the less an interesting development.

The back issues of the Journal on the website are appropriate for handheld devices although a member has pointed out that the column layout of the Journal is awkward to view as you need to constantly scan up and down the page. Consequently I will propose to Council that we look at a Journal electronic friendly format to sit alongside the printed version, it would be very easily distributed by e-mailing an access code to those who may want it.

I hope that this would satisfy all member requirements and I’ll keep you advised of progress.
As we approach the National Conference on the 26th of September and looking back over the past year it would be remiss of me not to consider the financial situation.

Whilst there is loss to our account this year the “devil is in the detail” and I would therefore direct you to the comments made by Paul, Chairman of the Executive Committee, in the draft accounts.

There is unfortunately insufficient President’s column space to go through the key essential “one-off” costs through the year, however after considerable discussion at the General Council I am assured and therefore hopefully you are that the Institute is in a sound financial situation.

We have unfortunately had to write-off some “bad and doubtful debts”, however Jayne (treasurer) now starts with a clean sheet.

So, looking to the next year, hopefully we’ll see the website forum grow and an e-Journal launch.

In regard to the overseas branches, I’ve noticed that we’ve received very few news articles for the Journal recently and I would like to encourage the branches to submit anything which is suitable for wider distribution. In my first year of office, I’ve had very little interaction with South Africa and Australia and this is something that I’d like to reverse this year.

The Institute continues to grow at a steady rate with new members ratified at virtually every Council Meeting; we are also losing members for various reasons, however I feel that we are in a net positive situation and hopefully this statement can be validated by Jayne in the near future when the SAGE database is complete.

It is a challenge to keep track of the membership especially as our industry in recent years been through so much rationalisation. However with our policy of one member one invoice hopefully we’ll have the most definitive list of membership possible on the SAGE system. On behalf of Jayne I request that if you receive the Journal and haven’t yet received an invoice for Membership please let Jayne know jaynewoodhead@ireng.org , although all available membership lists have been merged and we’ve strived to be as accurate as possible inevitably someone could have dropped through the net.

Look forward to seeing you at the National Conference on the 26th; I hope you’ll enjoy it.

Chris Windle


IRE Stoke Branch 2012/13 Programme

The 2012/2013 Programme of Events for the Stoke branch of the Institute of Refractories Engineers is now available.

Click here to view in PDF format

This document is also availble in the IRE forum

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Thursday, 2 August 2012

July Refractories Engineer

Available now - The Refractories Engineer July 2012

Draft Accounts

A copy of the Draft Accounts for the year ending 31st March 2012 will be available on the IRE Forum.

The forum is free to use but is restricted to IRE members and requires registration.

National Conference & Training Day

National Conference 2012
“Refractories Converting Minerals to Economic Wealth”
26th September 2012 Venue: Kenwood Hall, Kenwood Road, Sheffield S7 1NQ

Training Day
Properties of Refractories
27th September 2012 Venue: Kenwood Hall, Kenwood Road, Sheffield S7 1NQ

View more information and booking form

Notice of the 51st IRE AGM.

Notice is hereby given that the 51st Annual General Meeting of the

Institute of Refractories Engineers will be held at

12.30 on Wednesday 26th September 2012 at Kenwood Hall,

Kenwood Road, Sheffield S7 1NQ UK

President Mr C Windle will preside

View AGM Agenda

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

President’s Column July 2012

Dear Members,

The construction of the new website is progressing well and all the technical attributes have been included. At this stage, additional content is required to cement the technical building blocks, however the primary objective is to have an informative, interesting and browser friendly site to keep people returning to view it.

We have two registered names
http://www.irengineers.co.uk/ and http://www.ireng.org/ ; we have also specifically created a link which is solely for the e-directory.

At the moment we have included past journal editions dating back to 2006 although the web designer (Mr Ian Gould) is keeping to the edict of two copies behind the current issue. I would invite all members to research this resource and browse at will with the revised easy read format; it’s just like opening a book!

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Mr Miles Aykroyd who created the original website and has maintained it diligently over many years.

I would also like to thank Mr John May (editor); I’m advised that John has been responsible for the Journal for ten years now and has taken it through a dramatic evolution over those years resulting in the excellent publication that we have today.

The Annual Meeting “ Refractories; Converting Minerals to Economic Wealth “ to be held on the 26th of September and the training day on the 27th looking at “Refractory Properties” have been organised and details can be found within the Journal.

There is already considerable interest in the training day and I would encourage early booking to avoid disappointment.

Please note that the venue has changed to Kenwood Hall in Sheffield, a fantastic location surrounded by 12 acres of parkland, for further detail go to

Whilst we look forward to the Annual Meeting and associated AGM, an event at which members can network, debate and reflect on the industry as a whole, the branches are “hard at work” putting together a programme for the coming year.

It is very encouraging to see that Stoke have already arranged their meetings; hopefully through “conference sharing” technology a joint meeting with Sheffield branch will go ahead. I will report how successful this was in a future Journal.

My final duty in this month’s column is to thank the Journal for the consistent and excellent coverage that it has provided for the Furnace Solutions conference. In another role as Chair of the Melting Technical Committee (MTC) of the Society of Glass Technology, this coverage along with other publications has helped establish the conference as an international “must attend”. After 7 years as Chair of the MTC I’ve stepped down to concentrate on IRE activities, however there is potential for interaction with the Society which I will pursue.

I look forward to seeing you at the Annual Meeting.

Chris Windle

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

The Refractories Engineer

Archived editions of the Refractories Engineer  (The Official Journal of the IRE) from 2006 can now be found at the following link

This will be incorporated into the new website when complete.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Presidents Column May 2012

Dear Members,

I have to start my column this month with a notice that the website for a time will be blank screen accompanied with the message “under construction” with a link to the “old” website. Please be assured that this is only a short term issue as the new site is created and that the e-directory will not be affected.

The format of the new website has been circulated to all General Council members following March’s meeting. Many new potential features have been considered, however some are either too costly for their relative effectiveness ( an “app”) or may not reach the membership in a useful manner (Facebook alerts).

A member forum through which topics can be discussed was well received by the Council, albeit there were concerns about who would have access and how it would be administrated, these will be resolved.

In addition the use of a blog format for news items should encourage more interaction with the site as there would be multiple access, for example all branch secretaries and it is easy to update a blog as it is essentially e-mail format.

Although we have an Institute website, it is fundamentally a member website and therefore please advise me of anything that you feel would be worthy for inclusion. I cannot promise that all these ideas will make it onto the site, however I will ensure that all ideas are presented to the General Council for consideration (cwindle@dsf.co.uk).

For example; are there other sites that we should link to, or perhaps could we consider membership renewal via the website etc?

On consideration of electronic communication, I would like to make a plea for all members to supply their e-mail addresses to Jayne (if you haven’t done so before).  I appreciate that some members want to keep their e-mail confidential and naturally we respect this, however if you want to keep up to date with Institute activities then e-mail is an excellent way to reach you (please note that your e-mail address will be kept confidential through the use of the “blind” carbon copy function).

The Annual Meeting “ Refractories; Converting Minerals to Economic Wealth “ to be held on the 26th of September and the training day on the 27th looking at “Refractory Properties” are taking shape. We should have full details in the July Journal, however please put the dates in your diary as I’m sure you’ll find both events extremely interesting.

At this time of year (in the UK) the branch programmes are reaching a conclusion, in regard to the Sheffield branch we have completed the AGM and now look forward to the Golf Day on the 27th of June.

Shortly after this, the programme for next year will be created and I would like to encourage that all branches start to consider their lectures and events, ideally I would like include the various programmes in the September edition of the Journal.

In regard to the overseas branches, once again please advertise your programme through the Journal and if you have any news items then we are keen to print these as well.

It would be amiss of me not to acknowledge the relighting of the blast furnace at SSI Teesside in April; my best wishes to all those involved in this momentous event and naturally all the refractories engineers who have made it work.

Chris Windle


Friday, 4 May 2012

The IRE Forum

The IRE forum is now live and can be accessed via the following link http://ire.myfreeforum.org/index.php or via the IRE’s web page.

Please note that with the exception of one sub forum all areas of the forum require registration and are not accessible to the general public.

As a generalisation forums are usually slow to gain momentum when member numbers are low, so please register, introduce yourself, make a post or two and keep checking back.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

IRE Website

As hinted at in the January 2012 President’s Column there is some planned changes to “encourage the exchange of information and ideas amongst the members”. The new website is under construction and the President is currently canvasing members for ideas.

A member’s forum and this News Blog are to be included to allow members to keep up to date with the latest news and developments and to be able to refer to previous news items.

The old website will still be available until the new website is completed.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Saturday, 3 March 2012

President’s Column March 2012

Dear Members,

I hope and trust that 2012 is turning out to be a successful business year or at least one of consolidation.

The Institute has also undergone a process of consolidation, specifically financially and I am pleased to report a very sound position.

When I took on the presidency around five months ago; the cornerstone of future progression was going to be based on the first and the foremost aim of the Institute “to foster and promote the skills and science of refractories engineering”.

I perceived this to combine Institute based training with improved communication; specifically using the website and my previous column has re-energised these issues.

All activities however require a “due diligence” period and approval at Executive and General Council levels; so progress to the external eye may seem quite slow; however please be assured that our training policy nears completion and I look forward to rolling out the new format of our website to the General Council on the 26th of March which contains blogs, forums and facebook alerts.

The Annual Meeting “Refractories; Converting Minerals to Economic Wealth” will be held on the 26th of September, followed as in previous years by a training day on the 27th looking at “Refractory Properties” (see details under Conference Day); we have moved the venue to Kenwood Hall in Sheffield and whilst the location is a little more difficult to find; the facilities are excellent and the hotel is set in 12 acres of beautiful parkland; definitely very relaxing!

As a commentary on the global economic situation, I appreciate that some industry sectors are reducing output and consequently reduced refractory consumption. This has been very evident in some glass sectors; float glass specifically solar glass has undergone significant volume reduction whereas the container industry remains busy and in fact is growing, possibly due to the removal of overcapacity the effects of which are now being realised.

For the majority of members level of business is primarily related to steel production and forecasts indicate a small downturn globally with significant and now predictable regional variation.

It would appear that this uncertain situation is going to continue throughout 2012, hence my earlier comments regarding consolidation; I hope and trust that all our members successfully reach the year’s conclusion as I am certain that 2013 will be better as Europe resolves member debt burdens.

Our members and therefore the Institute unfortunately do not exist in a politics free bubble; policy often drives our user industries; Solar Photo-Voltaic panels need solar glass; wind turbines, glass fibre; infrastructure renewal, steel; when policy changes and economic incentives are removed these industries often slow and this sends a shudder through the refractory community.

The Institute hopefully is light relief at these times and a welcome distraction from the day to day to provide thought provoking papers; interesting  branch technical meetings and of course social events.

Following the success of the 50th Anniversary Dinner Dance, there has been considerable interest in staging an annual dinner dance; the first will be next year; venues are now being considered.

In January’s column I noted the recent passing of Mr Raymond (Ray) Stokes and unfortunately it is my sad duty to record the passing of other refractory notaries; Mr Ernest Casson, Sheffield Branch Secretary for many years; Mr John Sawtell, Sales Manager  (retired) DSF Refractories and I’m sure many members recall Mr Ray Duly, Managing Director (retired) of Tecoglass. 

They will all be fondly remembered.
Chris Windle


Sunday, 15 January 2012

Monday, 2 January 2012

Presidents Column Jan 2012

Dear Members,

Firstly,  may I wish you all a happy and prosperous 2012!

I hope that you’ve been able to have a rest over the festive season, although I do realise that for many this time of year is taken as an opportunity to reline, repair or rebuild and therefore the last few weeks may have been spent in the bowels of re-heat furnaces, cements kilns etc; specifically I hope that the good weather holds (in the UK) for those working with castables; it’s really no fun keeping the material and indeed yourself warm (I suspect this is not a problem with our South African and Australian members at this time of year).

Looking ahead into 2012 with the branch programmes in full swing; an annual conference and training day planned for September (26 th & 27 th); the essential foundations for the Institute year have been laid, however we must now build on this platform.

Over the last few years it has become very evident that there is a training need in our industry and the industries that use our expertise; certainly I have experienced a defined shift from customers specifying refractory lining concepts to reliance on supplier recommendation. This process has generally been associated with the demise of customer based refractory engineers and it’s now pleasing that this trend is being reversed, although throughout this evolution I must note that some companies have maintained their refractory interests.

It is my considered opinion that the most successful refractory enterprises are resultant of a multi-disciplinary approach with interaction between supplier and customer. We must therefore be talking the same language and this is where the Institute has a role.

Our training days and other Institute training courses have been well received and consequently our membership has grown. Training is obviously a key component of our future and the executive committee has endorsed the creation of a sub-committee specifically to focus on the Institute’s approach and what kind of “qualification” we could offer (still at an embryonic state).

Unfortunately “refractory engineering” has been chiefly abandoned by further education establishments; diluted by the materials approach which cannot undertake the examination of the vast range of ceramics yet alone the diverse refractories subgroup.

With the considerable knowledge and experience within the Institute membership, I believe we can deliver a high quality of training and thereby support the growth and future of the Institute itself.

In conjunction with the training agenda; I’m keen that we provide easy access to the information data base already available to the Institute and there are a plethora of information technology tools available to do this.

I want to fulfil the aims of the Institute to “disseminate information” and “encourage the exchange of information and ideas amongst the members”; perhaps a member forum to discuss issues. At the moment these proposals are very much at a planning stage, however your ideas are very much welcomed and please feel free to e-mail me on cwindle@dsf.co.uk with your views in this regard.

At this point in my column I want to look toward the past rather than the future. On the 13 th of November 2011 we celebrated the Institute’s 50 th Anniversary; the Jubilee Ball on the 12 th will definitely be a night to remember.

As I was recalling at the Cutlers’ Hall the small group of six who had “generally agreed that the idea (forming of an Institute) in principle was sound”; I didn’t know that recently one of those six had passed away and I would like to send my and the Institutes’ condolences to the family of Mr Raymond (Ray) Stokes; although I never met Ray, he was fundamental to the founding of the Institute and will be remembered fondly by all those who knew him and those who review the “first minutes” published in the 50 thAnniversary booklet.

Once again I hope that you all have a very happy 2012; look forward to seeing you at branch meetings and the annual conference.

Chris Windle

Sunday, 1 January 2012

IRE National Conference 2012

National Conference 2012:
Wednesday 26th of September 2012, Kenwood Hall, Sheffield

Training Day:
Thursday 27th September 2012, Kenwood Hall, Sheffield

Further Information will be made available when possible.