[ID] => 11300
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[post_date] => 2019-07-26 08:55:47
[post_date_gmt] => 2019-07-26 07:55:47
[post_content] => The National Association of Chemical Distributors (NACD) decided many years ago that the only available space in the meeting calendar where it could find a home for ChemEdge, its annual conference and trade show, was mid-August. This would not work in Europe but North America is different and, since its inception, it has become a regular meeting point for the regional chemical distribution sector, where delegates can get the finest insight into regulatory compliance, implementing best practice and promoting safety
From 12 to 16 August this year, more than 400 executives, directors and leading minds in chemical logistics are expected to descend on Louisville, Kentucky, for training sessions, conferences and a trade show tailored to chemical distribution channels.
This year’s ChemEdge promises to be “a balance of great educational content in relevant areas for attendees,” says Matt Glaser, vice-president of education and strategic programmes at NACD. “We have sessions that cover regulatory issues and compliance. We also always have sessions that are directly related to safety. This year, there are also sessions on inventory, warehousing, transport and more.”
These topics will be widely discussed across the floor and are not just limited to the individual presentations: Glaser mentions how previous ChemEdge events have had industry leaders continuing the conversations over coffee, in the hallways of the show or even in the hotel elevator.
NACD’s events committee got to work on the topics for this year’s sessions just 30 minutes after the doors closed on the 2018 event and it has scheduled a diverse range of matters for 2019 on the many facets of regulations and safety. For example, there will be two emergency management and response sessions to provide as much detail as possible for attendees looking to refine their processes when problems occur.
“Covering emergency management in just one hour is too much. Having two sessions allows us to dig a little deeper and get more focus,” says Glaser. The first session will be based on proactive actions, involving a lot of preventative measures, and the second will revolve around reactive actions. “It’s about prevention, ensuring safety of employees and protecting the surrounding community,” adds Glaser. Eric Byer, NACD president, mentions that the onus is still firmly set on safety while trying to allow ease of conducting business, despite the current US government not introducing many new regulations.
“All of our events are about best practices, safety and operational excellence,” says Byer. “We focus a lot on security. One example of a security issue that is really important to us is the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS), which is something we worked hard on last year and have had extended until April 2020.”
CFATS was created to improve security and protection at sites and the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) reviews each and every site in scope annually. The programme covers physical and electronic issues that may occur, such as a break-in or sabotage, ultimately serving as a national standard providing the highest levels of security possible to prevent any incidents.
Byer adds: “Our members have spent a lot of time and money getting security features such as fencing, doors, cameras and training protocols to protect sensitive products at their facilities, and CFATS provides a level of comfort that allows members to feel more secure and safe overall. It can also provide a business advantage against the competition.”
The CFATS project has developed and grown over the last few years, but it requires further effort in educating members of US Congress to its benefits and emphasising how beneficial it has been to the DHS and businesses around the country to ultimately gain long-term investment. “There are a lot of benefits to CFATS and very few drawbacks,” concludes Byer.
RETURN ON INVESTMENT
The problems of recruiting and retaining new talent in the chemical industry have been a well-discussed topic at events around the globe and it is predicted by Glaser and Byer to be a key talking point at ChemEdge this month. Glaser explains how the majority of businesses that attend ChemEdge tend to be relatively small with fewer than 30 staff members, meaning that hiring new staff is not a regular occurrence and losing a long-standing staff member with specific experience can be costly. When a new member of staff is hired, it is pivotally important that the investment in the individual pays off, so ensuring longevity in the role is key to retaining staff.
One solution could be found in shifting the business ethos to meet the demands of the new working generations “with the aim of encouraging people to stay in a job for five or six years, rather than just two or three,” says Byer. It is vitally important that the time, effort and money put into training someone in a specialised role is recouped. Glaser concludes the conversation on worker retention by stating, “You can’t minimise the importance of this topic.”
A hurdle that needs to be overcome in the industry to improve recruitment and retention is changing the wider perception of the chemical industry. “Changing the negative image is the biggest challenge we face,” says Byer. There has historically been a negative image associated with the industry, but this image hides the truth. Glaser and Byer are both eager to highlight the many outreach programmes and educational events that businesses across the chemical industry take part in each year to showcase the true colours of the industry.
Part of the NACD Responsible Distribution programme involves community outreach where conversations with local groups are encouraged, local sponsorships are developed for sports teams or facility developments and much more, including hosting chemistry-based challenges for students. The large amount of time, effort and resources being attributed to improving the industry image by NACD members cannot be emphasised enough.
Byer points out that there has been a large increase in the number of smaller family-run businesses having senior partners retiring. When this happens, the business is usually either handed down a generation, or the family is bought out and the company is merged into a larger business looking to capitalise on local markets. “We’re seeing a higher number or mergers and acquisitions – which is challenging – causing the talent pool to keep shifting around,” says Byer.
The movement of talent exacerbates the ‘brain drain’ in the industry and NACD is proactively introducing training programmes that encourage staff to remain in a company for an extended period. “The hope is that the new staff go through these programmes that the companies pay for and the individuals feel that the value is there as they’re in an organisation that believes in them as they’re investing in the training for their future,” says Byer.
NACD provides support and training through its ‘Emerging Leaders’ programme where networking opportunities within the younger members of the industry are nurtured. Training in everything from business finance to logistical methods is provided and the peer conversations are dissected to find suitable solutions to industry-wide issues that move operational safety forwards. “We’ve had over 60 graduates out of this programme over the last six years,” says Byer. “Complacency is not a part of what we do. We are always, as an industry, looking to grow and expand our operational and safety records.”
Digitisation in the chemical supply chain is completely unavoidable and it’s here to stay. ChemEdge will have a closing discussion hosted by the Kaizen Institute’s Mike Micklewright about utilising digital innovations to downsize documentation systems. Having this as one of the final points for attendees to mull over at the end of the show emphasises just how important digitisation has become. Glaser believes that the topic of digitisation will rear its head prominently in the sessions covering inventory practices, warehousing and transport logistics: “There will be a flavour of digitisation overlapping into several of the sessions.”
“We are definitely in the digitisation world,” says Byer. “I think the electronic route is quickly replacing the paper one in everything from logging driver times to e-commerce purchases. These things are happening far more now than they were a year ago and I believe that it will be even more so in a year from now.” The conversations at ChemEdge have shifted from a mentality of ‘getting prepared’ for digitisation into ‘we’ve begun accommodating digitisation and want to utilise it’. Both Glaser and Byer feel that the proportion of businesses discussing their digitisation goals will keep increasing in the coming years as more platforms are being created and the number of digital solution users continues to grow.
The addition of digitisation has made it easier for businesses to share and analyse data, particularly when looking to improve on safety and discuss different methods to handle responsible distribution. Byer mentioned NACDU – NACD’s online university – as a key way in which digital solutions are being embraced to not only develop a greater understanding of regulations, continue education, but also improve operational systems within the community.
“One of the key takeaways from ChemEdge is that a lot of the sessions are interactive and there is opportunity to learn some best practices and methods that are considered cutting-edge in the industry while also meeting colleagues,” says Glaser. “There is the opportunity to say, ‘I learned a lot at the show and there are two or three things that I might be able to implement in my own businesses that will prove beneficial’. We hear all the time at subsequent shows that people have implemented new ideas in their workplace that they picked up from ChemEdge.” The interactive sessions and programmes allow business members “prepare for any regulatory inspections that may come through,” adds Byer.
Registration is still available online for ChemEdge 2019. Specialist training sessions begin Monday 12 August and the opening of the main ChemEdge event is Wednesday 14 August at the Omni Louisville Hotel.
[post_title] => ChemEdge: The time is right
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[post_name] => chemedge-the-time-is-right
[post_modified] => 2019-07-26 09:00:22
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