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