Composites groups can remain separate
In the Feb. 2 issue, the Viewpoint and cartoon on the editorial page emphasized that certain trade associations should merge their activities. The Society for the Advancement of Material and Process Engineering was identified as one of those organizations.
It should be understood, SAMPE is quite different from the associations mentioned. We are a professional society with individuals as members; the mentioned associations' members are companies. SAMPE and other composites groups have a common goal—the well-being of the industry.
It would, therefore, be unfeasible for SAMPE, as a professional member organization, to operate under an umbrella of either the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. or the Composites Institute.
It has been SAMPE's objective for several years to have societies or groups with common interests co-locate meetings and shows. This limits company outlays for meeting costs, travel, etc. and the attendee can go to sessions given by any of the co-located groups.
Our participation with CFA in Orlando, Fla., in October 1997 was based on this concept and proved to be a huge success.
The annual SAMPE Symposium/Exhibition in late spring will continue to be held with other groups. SAMPE feels this meeting's focus is on advanced materials and finding ways to introduce those materials into end products, whereas the fall meeting with CFA emphasizes glass-reinforced systems and end products for commercial and industrial markets.
SAMPE agrees that the various composites organizations should act in concert and, where possible, will enthusiastically support these efforts. But as you indicated, our society, because of its unique situation, must act cautiously as we move in that direction.
Charles L. Hamermesh
CFA thinks there is room for like groups
The Feb. 2 Viewpoint called for an appeal to the ``greater good'' in the form of a unified organization to represent the entire composites industry. The writer seemed ``inclined to believe that the industry is better served by keeping close ties'' to the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc.
As the current president of the Composites Fabricators Association, I would like to take a moment to add my reflections to this matter in the context of the history of CFA, as well as renew the organization's unwavering dedication to its mission.
In 1979, there was no organization serving the educational needs of industry fabricators. Over the last 19 years, CFA has matured into the largest trade association representing manufacturers of commercial and consumer composite products, because it has maintained its commitment to providing fabricators with the educational tools and knowledge to build quality products; such education allows them to remain competitive against alternative materials and adjust to ever-looming environmental regulations.
Our mission will not change. I understand the significance of our latest economic cycle of joint ventures, partnerships, and streamlined operations all as a matter of survival.
At CFA we feel there is value in having several independent associations, each filling a niche in the industry. Resources are pooled and duplication is minimized in a more natural way. We also feel it's OK to define the lines between associations where collaboration is possible and will benefit the industry — holding a joint conference with the Composites Institute in the year 2000, for instance, or our co-location with the Society for the Advancement of Material and Process Engineering, which already has proved successful.
The industry's approach to collaborative methods of addressing regulatory concerns is another way the trade organizations are working together in a manner that makes sense for the constituencies they serve and the industry as a whole.
CFA and others will pursue negotiations for merged activity when and where it benefits the industry as a whole. This approach is neither overtly conservative, prohibiting the advantages of change, nor overtly liberal, rushing into a bulky bureaucratic arrangement that loses focus and ultimately becomes diluted, missing opportunities to respond to members in a timely fashion.
The Plastics News editorial led with applause for Owens Corning, which had made a decision not to set up a booth at the International Composites Exhibition, sponsored by the Composites Institute. The editorial said, ``Owens Corning wanted to make a point: There is no need for both the New York-based Composites Institute and the Arlington, Va.-based Composites Fabricators Association to hold big, annual trade fairs.''
I would like to point out that the decision between CFA and CI to hold a joint show occurred before Owens Corning decided not to attend ICE '98. CFA's leadership is pleased that Owens Corning believes strongly in both CFA's and CI's efforts to combine one giant trade show for the industry. But this was not a catalyst for our decision.
CFA, again, will not waver from its educational objective, will not make any arrangements that could prove detrimental to fabricators. On the other hand, where partnerships make sense and can show a clear and unobstructed benefit, we will pursue negotiations diligently.