OIT Times: Closing Plenary Session--Are U.S. Basic Industries Endangered?
March 27, 2001
Richard McCormack, publisher of Manufacturing News, moderated a somber discussion by respected industry statesmen. Hank Barnett, Chairman Emeritus of Bethlehem Steel, praised the technology progress already achieved through the IOF partnerships and underscored the need to continue incremental improvements. But he warned that the viability of U.S. steelmaking is in jeopardy unless existing trade laws are enforced. Barnett suggested that basic materials industries face a common risk from foreign dumping and should jointly press for enforcement and a Federal strategy that integrates energy, environmental, and trade issues.
On a brighter note, Pat Gruber of Cargill Dow, LLC spoke of the immediate global success of new products made with advanced technologies that use abundant, inexpensive, renewable materials. He indicated that further technology development in distributed generation, alternative materials, and use of biomass may help address many current industry challenges.
Paul Mikkola of Hitchiner Manufacturing noted that the metal casting industry faces increased offshore competition as well as energy and environmental issues. He believes industry will benefit from increased use of lean manufacturing, incremental technology improvements, and educational initiatives at the university level.
Richard Lawson (recently retired) from the National Mining Association said no new mine has opened in the U.S. in about seven years and exploration has dwindled. He remarked that increased domestic energy production requires a reordering of priorities on regulatory issues and a public education effort. He noted that voluntary partnerships have contributed to major advances in combustion efficiency and environmental performance, yet the public is largely unaware of these achievements. He sees a need for continued technology improvements and better public outreach.
Henson Moore of the American Forest and Paper Association commented that some paper mills are moving offshore and others can make more money by selling their energy contracts than by manufacturing paper. Through the IOF partnership, however, the industry is on the cusp of a major breakthrough in black liquor gasification. Pilot plants are under construction, and the technology could make the industry a net energy supplier.DuPont exercises responsible care and openness with communities as a way to grow value while reducing the environmental footprint. To date, the company has reduced priority air emissions by 75%. This has been achieved by such changes as shifting the focus from volume to value. For example, efficiency improvements were realized by changing the base of payments for car paint used by Ford from gallons of paint used to number of vehicles painted.