Thursday, May 27th, 2010

Webinar: Learn How to “Save Energy Now” (and Money Too!)

On Thursday, June 3rd, SPI will host a one-hour webinar beginning at 11:00 am EST to discuss the benefits of the Department of Energy’s Save Energy Now initiative.  This webinar is exclusively for SPI member companies.  Register now!

In today’s current economic climate, companies are looking for ways to save money. But I bet not everyone has heard about the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Save Energy Now program. The goal of DOE’s program is to help American businesses, factories and manufacturing facilities save energy. A key part of the program is that DOE conducts an energy assessment to help manufacturing facilities identify immediate ways to save energy and money. Oh, and did I mention that DOE does this at no cost to the company?

The assessments focus primarily on energy-intensive systems such as pumps, fans, processing heating, steam and compressed air. The program offers several energy assessment options:

  • For large plants: The nation’s largest, most energy-intensive plants can apply to receive a three-day system assessment. These on-site assessments are led by DOE’s Energy Experts who use DOE’s software tools and technical information to target a specific system area. Assessments also provide hands-on learning that can help a company’s staff gain knowledge to multiply the benefits of the assessment.
  • For small and medium-sized plants: DOE’s university-based Industrial Assessment Centers (IAC) conduct one-day assessments at smaller plants. Teams of highly trained IAC faculty and engineering students apply the same DOE software tools and technical resources to identify key savings opportunities throughout your plant.
  • For all plants: Contacting the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) Information Center is the a great option for any plant, large or small, if you are ready to boost energy savings and improve productivity. Whether or not you receive an assessment, here you will find expert technical assistance and guidance on how to make the most of the Save Energy Now portfolio of resources.

The Save Energy Now energy assessments have helped U.S. manufacturing facilities save an average of $2 million, or 8% of their total energy costs which is pretty impressive. Companies have saved real money with this program, and you can too!  I encourage companies to look into this opportunity by registering  for our upcoming webinar!

Friday, February 12th, 2010

“Green Police” Capture Unfair Biases But Miss the Truth

President's Post

Anyone who knows me well knows that I am a big fan of the Indianapolis Colts. But it wasn’t the New Orleans Saints victory over my hometown team in the Super Bowl that upset me the most last Sunday evening. No, what got me miffed was that preachy “Green Police” Audi commercial that I saw during the fourth quarter. (See Barry Eisenberg’s blog post for the details on the ad and why our industry was not amused.) 

A splashy ad that paints plastics with a broad “environmentally unfriendly” brush gets me riled up because it places a premium on being funny rather than true. The “Green Police” ad reinforces the same tired and, frankly, ignorant biases against plastics that my SPI team and I have been trying to educate people about since I became president of the association.  In 2008 and 2009 combined I personally gave about 50 presentations seen by approximately 10,000 people that centered on how plastics contribute to a more sustainable world. But in one fell 60-second swoop, more than 100 million people saw an ad that preyed on preconceived notions of plastics. (According to the Nielsen Co., more than 106 million people watched the Super Bowl, making it the most-watched program in U.S. television.)

But unfair bias works both ways and I believe the ad also magnified the negative perceptions people have about environmentalists being crazy extremists. The New York Times called the Audi ad a “misguided spot that put the ‘mental’ in ‘environmental.’”  Scott Cooney, author of Build a Green Small Business:  Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur, writes that the Audi ad:

…quickly turned into yet another perhaps well-intentioned ad that casts environmentalists, frankly, as wack-jobs… Perhaps the most offensive, to those of us in the sustainability movement was where an army of “Green Police,” prowling through people’s trash, finds a battery and storms the house of the offender. While I suppose the ad execs who came up with it thought they were brilliant, I would only imagine most in the sustainability movement, like me, groaned at the implication that people who care about the environment are psychotic enough to prosecute people who choose plastic at the grocery store or don’t compost their scraps.  Ugh, Middle America just took another unneeded step away from feeling that sustainability is cool, easy, and normal.

I’ve worked in the plastics industry for more than 20 years and I am so proud of the innovative contributions our industry has made to the automobile industry. That’s why Audi’s ad leaves many of us industry veterans feeling as if we’ve been slapped in the face by a loved one. ”Truth in Engineering” is the name of the advertising campaign Audi launched in 2007 and it is the tag line at the end of the “Green Police ” ad.  I wish Audi had given “Truth in Advertising” equal billing.

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

Can You Hear the Hum, Orlando? (Sung to the Tune of “Fernando”)

carpet Have you heard the news?  After being held in Chicago since 1971, NPE is moving to Orlando in 2012. Of course, as a regular reader of this blog you already knew that.  Are you someone who doesn’t adjust well to change or who just wishes you knew more about the Orange County Convention Center prior to NPE2012? Well, three concurrent SPI events taking place the third week of March will provide you with an opportunity to get a sneak peek at the new NPE venue: the Spring 2010 National Board Meeting, the Thermoforming Committee Conference and the Equipment Council Annual Business Conference. All are being held at Rosen Shingle Creek – mere minutes from the Convention Center.  (Members attending the Equipment or Thermoformers meetings may attend any portion of the National Board Meeting for no additional charge.)

Attendees of these meetings will have multiple opportunities to learn more about the Orange County Convention Center, the vendors who will be assisting you during NPE2012, and the hotels and restaurants of the surrounding area.

Looking in detail at the Equipment Council Annual Business Conference, being held March 16-18, there will be an impressive lineup of guest speakers; an SPI Advocacy Update from President Bill Carteaux and Senior Vice President, Government Affairs and Public Policy Jon Kurrle; and plenty of scheduled tours/events at the Orange County Convention CenterRegister for it today!

And if you are not yet excited enough, one creative SPI staffer (wisely remaining anonymous) has penned “Orlando,” sung to the tune of Swedish pop group ABBA’s biggest selling single “Fernando.”  So, cue up this video of “Fernando,” and sing along with our NPE-inspired lyrics below:

Can you hear the hum, Orlando?
We remember mere months ago the anticipation of this
In humid August, Orlando
You were wooing us with promises of cheap Pepsi
We could hear the distant rumble
Of the arrival of tons and tons of plastics machinery

The anticipation is growing, Orlando
Every day we get closer to 2012
We are so excited, Orlando
Our show will continue to grow and thrive
And we’re not ashamed to say
The thought of so many exhibitors makes us want to buy!

There will be something on the floor that day
Another molded part give-away, Orlando
Rows and rows of machines
Some extruding, Orlando
Though we never thought the show would move,
There’s no regret
If we had to do the same again,
We would, my friend, Orlando

Now the deal is sealed, Orlando
Get ready for Expo Gene.
Can you hear the hum Orlando?
Are you ready to help us continue to go green?
We can see it in your support
How proud you are to have us through 2015.

There will be something on the floor that day
Another molded part give-away, Orlando
Rows and rows of machines
Some extruding, Orlando
Though we never thought the show would move,
There’s no regret
If we had to do the same again,
We would, my friend, Orlando

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

TV Documentary, Partially Shot at NPE, Puts Focus on Plastics Careers


According to the National Association of Manufacturers‘ National Center for the American Workforce, there is a “broadening skills gap….taking an increasingly negative toll on America’s ability to compete in the global economy” and the challenge will be more severe as Baby Boomers in the manufacturing sector retire with no skilled employees to replace them. In fact, more than 80 percent of U.S. manufacturers report an overall shortage of qualified employees and 46 percent of small and medium manufacturers report that finding qualified employees is one of the most serious problems facing their company.

In an attempt to illuminate plastics careers to the next generation of students, a new episode of Degrees That Work, an award-winning documentary television series co-produced by Pennsylvania College of Technology (Penn College) and WVIA-TV, is devoted to our industry. With past episodes devoted to nanotechnology, welding and fabrication and advanced manufacturing, the series was developed to build awareness of careers that may not be familiar to the public but offer ample opportunities.

With an extensive amount of footage shot at NPE2009 last June, the episode follows a group of high school students who are enrolled in a technical education class as they design and create the plastic body for a remote-controlled car to be raced against other high schools at an annual Plastics Experience event at Penn College.  The program also features interviews with national plastics industry experts as well as a visit to K’NEX Brands, a large injection molder that produces popular construction toy kits among other products.

There are only five accredited plastics engineering programs in the country. Two of those – Penn College and Penn State Erie, The Behrend College – are in Pennsylvania.  Get more information about plastics and polymer technology majors at Penn College.  

In addition to Penn College professors of plastics and polymer engineering, other  experts interviewed in the documentary include SPI President Bill Carteaux; Dana Gier, Julie McKenna and Erica Ocampo of Dow Chemical Co.; Dennis Gros of Gros Executive Recruiters; Robert Grace of Plastics News; Greg Koski of plastics.com; Michael Araten of K’NEX Brands and Tim Womer of Xaloy Inc.

You can watch the 28-minute program right here (see above)!  It will actually premiere at 7:00 p.m. (EST) on February 1st on public television stations serving northcentral and northeastern Pennsylvania, and will air several more times on those stations in February. The program will also air on select other public television stations — find your station here and request the program. Educators are invited to download the episode for classroom use. 

This would be an excellent resource for an outreach activity in your company’s community.  Ask Andrea O’Neill, WVIA’s director of education, about free DVDs and  lesson planning guides.

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

The Rise and Fall (and Rebirth?) of Science Journalism

On December 3rd in Atlanta, SPI’s Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Packaging Materials Committee (FDCPMC) will join media analysts and officials from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Environmental Protection Agency and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in taking on one of the greatest challenges currently facing the plastics industry, consumers and the regulatory agencies that seek to protect human and environmental health while promoting innovation: The misreporting and intentional distortion of science in the news media.

There are all manner of booksweb sites, reportscolumns and more web sites devoted to this topic. Prompted in part by CNN‘s decision one year ago to cut  its entire space, science and environment unit, the World Federation of Science Journalists hosted a press briefing  in February titled, “Is Science Journalism in Crisis?

Reporting on science has suffered a marked decline in quality, accuracy and breadth of coverage in recent years for a variety of reasons, many of them economic and political.  Under competition from Internet sources like blogs and online videos, science journalists are often the first to be laid off from traditional news organizations. We’re left with journalists who have little or no science background doing their best to write the occasional science story, often using the very blogs and online videos that are competing for their jobs to drum up hot stories. Instead they should be turning directly to the scientific community and the peer-reviewed journals for science stories.  Unfortunately, the blogosphere and the online video channels, and by extension the journalism that relies on them, are rife with unreliable information and scientific claims of questionable origin.

The end result is that the public is often fed misinformation from trusted media outlets that misinterpret or, worse still, intentionally misuse scientific studies to put out sensational stories.  The danger is that society can be led to divert significant time and money away from serious problems to issues that the most rigorous science available suggests are of comparatively low concern for the health and well-being of people and planet.

Consumers can also be put at risk by news stories that direct them to choose certain products on the basis of poorly designed or biased scientific studies.  Instead of making well-informed product choices and having a reasoned discourse on critical issues like consumer health, the global environment and the efficacy of our regulatory agencies, we’re all busy trading narratives manufactured by struggling media outlets and agenda pushers.

A recent editorial in Nature decried the decline in science journalism and challenged scientists to step up and fill the void directly by blogging and sharing their research through channels that are more accessible to the public than peer-reviewed academic journals.

Those gathered in Atlanta for the FDCPMC Winter Conference will examine ways that they, too, can get involved in correcting misinformation in the news media. Perhaps one way is by helping reporters without scientific backgrounds gain access to clear, easy-to-understand, sound science on the issues they are covering.  Conference attendees will explore the roles that industry, the research community, the regulatory agencies and media watchdogs can play in ensuring that the public receives the full story and can make educated decisions about the products they use, the materials they trust, and the policies they support.  Everyone stands to gain when people are empowered to make decisions based on the best information available.