NASHVILLE, TENN. — Owens Corning is making a strong push for a single trade show — and a single trade association — for the U.S. composites industry.
The supplier did not exhibit at International Composites Exhibition '98 in Nashville, an annual show sponsored by the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc.'s Composites Institute. The show was held Jan. 19-21.
Owens Corning's top composites official said his company made a statement to the industry by not exhibiting.
``Unless we're willing to walk the walk and stay away, we're not going to be taken seriously,'' said Heinz Otto, president of Owens Corning's composites business.
Owens Corning isn't just stopping at the one-show concept. Otto also is pushing for a single trade association.
``We need to speak with one voice,'' he said, noting that Owens Corning has initiated talks with the Composites Institute, the Composites Fabricators Association and the Society for the Advancement of Material and Process Engineering about a possible merger.
Catherine Randazzo, executive director of the institute, cautiously supported the idea of a single composites industry group.
``SPI believes we ought to move forward with one trade association, but the issue is how to do that,'' Randazzo said at the show.
Randazzo said her group is ``willing to provide the resources to work toward a national composites trade alliance'' that would bring all interested groups together, but would fall short of an actual merger.
Other such groups could include SAMPE, CFA, International Cast Polymers Association and the National Marine Manufacturers Association.
Like the Composites Institute, CFA of Arlington, Va., also sponsors a trade show, which was held last in November in Orlando, Fla. Starting in 2000, the CFA and CI shows will be combined into Composites America 2000.
And the move couldn't come too soon for Owens Corning and a number of other suppliers.
Economics also played a role in Owens Corning's decision to attend, but not exhibit, at ICE '98.
``In all candor, ICE hasn't been a very effective show for us,'' Glen Hiner, Owens Corning chief executive officer, said Jan. 17 at a housing industry show in Dallas. ``It's a very inefficient way to spend our money.''
Hiner also supports the idea of combining shows.
``I believe myself the shows are too frequent,'' he said, adding that he would prefer that the combined shows occur only every other year.
He cited the success and excitement of NPE, held every three years in Chicago.
``The industry really ought to get some sense and look at the frequency of shows,'' he said, adding ``it's really a waste of energy'' to have frequent exhibitions.
Other suppliers consider the ``single-voice'' concept good.
``Some sort of closer working relationship is inevitable,'' said Charles McClasky, vice president of business development for Reichhold Chemicals Inc.
McClasky, like many other industry members, has been involved in both CFA and CI.
``The value the CFA brings is that their fabricators drive the organization,'' he said. ``Suppliers actually need the true, unbiased feedback that relationship provides.''
CFA is considering the idea of a merger, but is taking one step at a time, said CFA technical services director Robert Lacovara.
``Our position is to do a combined show first, and see how things go from there,'' he said.
After about two years of negotiations, CFA and the Composites Institute met at CFA's Composites '97 conference in November and formally agreed to hold the joint trade show.
``The year 2000 is the target,'' said Douglas Ludwig, who represents CI on a six-member committee with CFA that oversees the single show. Ludwig is national accounts manager of Amoco Corp.'s unsaturated polyester unit.
Possible difficulties in any merged group include the usual suspects: Who would lead, and what would happen to duplicate staff positions. Lacovara also cited the ``fundamentally different'' philosophies of CFA and CI.
Many of CFA's members are smaller firms that do hand layup and spraying. CFA bylaws dictate that the majority of its board of directors represent fabricators, not suppliers, Lacovara said.
Composites Institute processor members tend to use pultrusion, sheet molding compound and closed molding processes. Many fabricators consider the New York-based institute and SPI, its Washington-based parent, to be geared for suppliers and only the largest of fabricators.
Until recently, SPI's dues structure supported that perception. But at the behest of the institute and other business units, SPI now is slashing rates for processor and fabricator members. Ironically, CI now fears it could feel the effects of a deficit caused by the cuts.
But the dues cut has benefited CI's membership.
At the time of the 1997 show, the institute had 376 members. For ICE '98, CI's membership increased to 404, Randazzo said.
The pullout of Owens Corning as an exhibitor cost the institute some revenue, although a larger number of companies exhibited at ICE '98 than in previous years.
More than 130 companies exhibited this year, compared with 109 in 1997, Randazzo said. Revenue from the additional exhibitors ``more than makes up'' for the loss of Owens Cornings' booth, she said.
``But we would have loved to have [Owens Corning] in,'' she said.
Executives of companies that did exhibit said they strongly support a single trade show.
``The sooner the better,'' said Thomas Philipps, senior vice president of Isorca Inc., a research and development firm in Granville, Ohio.
Philipps also wants CI and CFA to merge, but knows it won't come easily.
``There are two things that have to happen. One is, the CFA guys are going to have to swallow their pride. The second is, SPI's going to have to realize there's more [to composites] than SMC,'' Philipps said.
He thinks the institute has to devote more attention to the fast-growing thermoplastic composites area, not just thermosets.
Robert D. Sweet Jr., president and CEO of Creative Pultrusions Inc. of Alum Bank, Pa., said his company exhibits at the Composites Institute show, the CFA event and in Paris at the JEC show, the world's largest composites trade show. He likes just one U.S. show, but said it is too soon to say if the trade groups should merge.
John Taylor, a customer service official who managed Premix Inc.'s booth, called one show ``a good idea.''
``A lot of corporations and individuals don't have the time and money to go to several shows a year,'' Taylor said.
Premix is an SMC supplier in North Kingsville, Ohio.
Composite Process Equipment Inc., a maker of pultrusion machines in Fort Worth, Texas, exhibits at both U.S. conferences, the Paris show and one in China, said President Lee Green.
Green said the United States, the world's largest market for composites, deserves its own major, international show. He also favors a single trade group —one that focuses more on high-volume consumer products than exotic markets such as composite highway bridges.
``Instead of making this as a showcase, build things that are used every day,'' Green said.
Randazzo said the determination of dates and location for the 1999 ICE were delayed due to the talks of the single show with CFA.