The Society of Plastics Engineers must continue to reach out globally, even as it comes off a rough 2001, officers said during SPE's Annual Technical Conference.
Terence J. Browitt, last year's SPE president, quoted Dickens to describe last year. ``It was the best of times. It was the worst of times,'' he said May 6.
After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, people stopped traveling, which cut into attendance at SPE regional meetings. Conference revenue fell 21 percent in 2001 compared with 2000 levels. Seminar income plunged 40 percent.
``All our income sources began to suffer,'' said Browitt, president and founder of Terinex International Ltd., a Quebec resins and color concentrates distributor.
On a more positive note, the membership of Brookfield, Conn.-based SPE has held steady at around 30,000. Running from May 5-9, Antec 2002 lured 3,225 people to San Francisco - more than last year's Antec in Dallas, which drew only about 3,000, according to James Toner, promotions director.
SPE Executive Director Michael Cappelletti said leaders have tightened SPE's belt and learned to ``predict the unpredictable.'' SPE is introducing new products that fit the ``mass-customization'' model - modular products that cover a range of topics, but are easy to use by people seeking specific information. One example was rolled out in San Francisco: a series of books called Plastics Technician's Toolbox.
Claudius Feger, the incoming SPE president for 2002-03, said SPE needs more products, covering more topics, that will be used by smaller, more targeted groups of people. He also said that difficulty finding volunteers in today's time-stressed business world is a major threat for trade groups.
SPE has reduced the number of years of commitment needed for members of its executive committee. The group also has cut its number of committees from 27 to 10, said Feger, who is manager of advanced plastic packaging at IBM Corp.'s T.J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, N.Y.
The group continues its global march forward. SPE recently signed an agreement to work with the Canadian Plastics Industry Association. At Antec, the society also chartered a section in formation for Portugal and a European Thermoforming Division. A representative of the Society of Plastics and Rubber Engineering of Croatia presented SPE with an award marking cooperation between the two groups.
Browitt pushed for the Canadian alliance. He said SPE now is talking to the British Plastics Federation. The society also wants to expand into China and other Asian countries.
``The economies are booming in these areas and they're desperate for U.S. knowledge and technology,'' he said.
SPE also named other officers: president-elect, Donna S. Davis, worldwide applications associate of polymers technology at ExxonMobil Chemical Co.'s unit in Baytown, Texas; senior vice president, Kishor Mehta, manager of design engineering services at Bayer Corp. in Pittsburgh; vice president-treasurer, Len Czuba of Czuba Enterprises Inc. of Lombard, Ill.; vice president-secretary, Nancy J. Hermanson, intellectual capital leader of Dow Chemical Co. in Midland, Mich.; and vice president-international, Randy Lewis of PR Lewis Consulting Inc. of Dorado, Puerto Rico.
Other appointed vice presidents are Rich Bradley, area manager of Great Lakes Chemical in Easton, Conn.; Alex Mora, president of Formula Plastics Inc. of Ontario, Calif.; Eldridge M. Mount III, president of Emmount Technologies of Fairport, N.Y.; Hoa Pham, research and development engineer at Solvay Engineered Polymers in Mansfield, Texas; Timothy W. Womer, vice president of engineering and manufacturing at New Castle Industries Inc. of New Castle, Pa.; Karen L. Winkler, medical industry manager at Dow Chemical Co.'s site in Milford, Mass.