Monday, August 30th, 2010

Hey Students, Plastics is a Great Career!

This week I read in a fantastic article that one of our SPI members (Bob Janeczko, CEO of Innovative Injection Technologies) and his wife donated more than $1 million for plastics engineering scholarships at the University of Wisconsin-Stout (UW-Stout).  The couple noted that the donation is their way of providing long-term support for UW-Stout and strengthening a growing career field. After seeing the article and reflecting on my own niece, who just left this week for college, I began to wonder “are college students today thinking of plastics as a career?

Although the plastics industry is the third largest manufacturing sector in the U.S., when talking with students, “plastics” doesn’t seem to be the top career choice for most of them.  Even as someone with a plastics engineering background, I recognize that many of us in the industry fell into plastics versus making a conscious decision to go to school specifically in this area.

Students need to know that in the U.S. there are a number of schools with strong plastics programs, including University of Massachusetts – Lowell, the Pennsylvania College of Technology, Pittsburg State University and the University of Akron, among others.  We also need to let students know that great plastics industry jobs are out there.  In fact, according to information provided by Ferris State (another school with a strong plastics program), “our plastics program has consistently had 100% placement at excellent annual salaries.”  We know in talking with SPI member companies that they are hungry to find more students with a plastics education.

As an industry we are working to help get the word out. The Plastics Ambassador Program was launched last year to educate and mobilize individuals within the plastics industry to discuss the benefits of plastics in their local communities.  SPI is conducting a pilot of the initiative, training employees and encouraging them to promote plastics through community events such as PTA meetings, city council meetings or by sponsoring a PlastiVan™ school visit. The PlastiVan™ program travels to schools and companies throughout North America, educating people of all ages about plastic’s chemistry, history, processing, manufacturing, sustainability and application.

This opportunity is a great way also to reach out to students, to let them know about the opportunities in the plastics industry and to cheer about why plastics is a great career.  Future graduates – we welcome you with open arms.

Sunday, May 30th, 2010

Memorial Day

SPI offers the following post by a member of our staff in observance of Memorial Day — a day set aside to honor those men and women who died in the service of their country, protecting and preserving the freedoms we enjoy.

In 1973 I was a junior at Juniata College in Pennsylvania. The Vietnam draft lottery rolled up and, like all my friends, I went to the local radio station – WHUN – to read the telex, carefully watching the scrolling birthday assignments. I did not win.  My number was pretty low. This meant that in a year or so,  I could be “in country”  — and that did not mean in the United States. 

I waited for the letter that would let me know where I should report for my preliminary physical. Some older acquaintances had gone to war and died, some were back in pieces, or perhaps worse, with post shock — what we now call post-traumatic stress disorder.  Emotionally it was a time of high anxiety — something like waiting and hoping to hear that your high school girlfriend was just late and not pregnant. But worse.

And then, suddenly, it was over.  The draft was gone. Poof.  I was released.

As I finished college, (mostly) finished graduate school, found a career and a life, I put all of this behind me.  Well, not so much.

Today I work with these men who are just a little older than me.  I’ve met dozens who served “in country”  and did extraordinary and horrifying things. Despite the shattering experiences, many still walk among us. Guys named Frank, Mike, Joe and Tom — they are a bit worse for wear, but wry and real. 

They did things we cannot comprehend. War is different now: satellites, unmanned drones, robots and distance weapons quite often take the harsh immediacy provided by our eyeballs out of the equation. Not for them.  They were up close and personal. You don’t want to know.

I have tried to say this to each one of them: I am grateful. I am honored to know you and deeply thank you for your service for us all. Sometimes I tell them that I feel guilty.

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