Donna Davis looks at a grocery store T-shirt bag and sees change - and a challenge to keep on learning throughout life, through the Society of Plastics Engineers.
Davis, SPE's new president, pointed out that some segments of plastics processing - like the bags - are leaving the United States and Europe for China and other low-cost Asian nations.
``How do we retool? Obviously it's a life-long learning process. Life-long learning is a requirement for us as professionals,'' she said in a May 5 speech outlining her goals at SPE's Annual Technical Conference.
Proof is all around us.
``If you go to the grocery store and get a T-shirt bag to carry home your groceries, there's a 40 percent probability now that the bag was produced in Asia. And even manufacturers in the U.S. are importing bags, because it's cheaper for them to idle their equipment in the U.S. and import bags from Asia and sell them under their brand,'' she said. ``In fact, they are also packing up their equipment and sending it over to Asia, so that they have lower-cost labor.''
The number of North American resin jobs has declined, said Davis, who works at ExxonMobil Chemical Co. New resin plants also are being built in Asia to be close to low-cost feedstocks, she said. Mergers and acquisitions have cut the number of positions in research and development and other areas, she said.
Membership also has been declining at Brookfield, Conn.-based SPE. But Davis said the quick-changing business landscape is a big reason to join the society.
She pointed to another challenge: fast-changing technology. People change jobs more often than in the past. ``They have to be able to quickly get up to speed on some fundamental information about our industry.''
SPE members can attend conferences or local training sessions. Users of the group's Web site can conduct literature searches, take online seminars, find a consultant or post a question to an on-line discussion group.
Davis is a worldwide applications associate in polymers technology at ExxonMobil in Baytown, Texas. The chemical engineer joined SPE in 1987.
Davis replaces Claudius Feger as SPE president. Feger stressed the personal contacts from volunteering. ``It is a fact that the success of managers is predicted from the number of people they know, and not from the schools they attended,'' he said.
Feger is manager of advanced plastic packaging at IBM Corp.'s research center in Yorktown Heights, N.Y.
SPE also named other officers at Antec 2003: president-elect, Karen L. Winkler, commercial Six Sigma manager for the engineering plastics business of Midland, Mich.-based Dow Chemical Co.; senior vice president, Len Czuba of Czuba Enterprises Inc. of Lombard, Ill.; vice president-treasurer, Nancy J. Hermanson, intellectual capital leader at Dow Chemical; and vice president-secretary, Timothy W. Womer, vice president of engineering and manufacturing at New Castle Industries Inc. of New Castle, Pa.
Other appointed vice presidents are Richard J. Bradley of Great Lakes Chemical Corp. of Easton, Conn.; Vicki Flaris of Mount Olive, N.J.-based BASF Corp.; Randy Lewis of PR Lewis Consulting Inc. of Dorado, Puerto Rico; Peter Lipp of Krauss-Maffei Corp. in Florence, Ky.; Eldridge M. Mount III of Emmount Technologies of Fairport, N.Y.; Hoa Pham of Solvay Engineered Polymers in Mansfield, Texas; and Rick J. Wilson of Integrity Plastics Inc. in Denver, Pa.