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Lead Feature

Focusing on new technologies in tough times

Charlie Crew, President/CEO of Sabic Innovative Plastics


In this issue’s lead feature, we speak to UK-based Ken Braney who has been selected as the next President-elect of the Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE) in the US. When he takes up his appointment in 2010, Ken will be the first European-based President of SPE.

Braney has been an SPE member since 1995 and served as Treasurer over the past year, prior to his most recent post as Senior Vice-President. He also chaired SPE Europe from 2005-06 and chaired SPE's European thermoforming division for four years. Braney is the Managing Director of UK-based Thermoforming Solutions and was previously with US thermoforming machinery maker Brown Machine as Director for Europe, Middle East, Africa and India for 13 years.

PRA: As the first European-based professional to head a US association, you have the advantageous knowledge of two different markets. How do you intend to apply this knowledge to lead SPE?

Braney: From its inception, SPE has had a global mandate and has included global members. While its main headquarters is incorporated in the US, SPE boasts sections and members all over the world. Our sections in Japan, India, Korea and many in Europe are more than 25 years old.  As the plastics industry has further globalised, that mandate is more important now than ever before.  My election as President-elect only underscores how SPE is reaching out around the world and how important our efforts, to attract and retain members from all geographies, industries and technology sectors, really are in today's global marketplace.

PRA: With the current worldwide slowdown that has had an affect on the plastics industry, especially in the US, what is your opinion of where the plastics industry is headed to?

Braney: The plastics industry around the world, and especially in the US and Europe, has already undergone a lot of consolidation. Growth in Asian markets underscores how globally linked all markets for plastics are. There is no question that demand for many of the products in which plastics are used is driven by consumer and industrial demand and will be affected by any economic slowdown. However, the industry is very lean and continues to make investments in new technologies. 

SPE's technical journals and ANTEC paper submissions are up tremendously this year, proving that there is a great deal of innovation being pursued by our industry, even in tough times. In fact, global issues on energy, global warming, sustainability, human health and a number of other areas provide a ripe environment for plastics to expand into new markets. In short, our industry won't be immune to any global economic slowdown but fundamentally we are a lean, innovative and necessary industry and I have no doubt that we will emerge stronger when conditions improve.

PRA: Your appointment comes at a challenging time, what are your goals/objectives for SPE come 2010?

Braney: SPE, like all professional societies, is transforming into a new era where on-line communities and content are trumping, or at least merging, with traditional ways of doing business. New social networking and better on-line delivery of content on a global scale is required. The entire leadership of SPE is clear that investments into these areas need to be sustained and even increased, even as revenues from more traditional areas such as publishing or conferencing may decline. This is only made harder during difficult economic times but is frankly never easy to achieve. SPE intends to emerge from any economic slowdown with more technical content on plastics than ever before, delivered in a way that will appeal to a younger and more global membership base.

PRA: How do you see SPE broadening its horizons to Asia?

Braney: Asia is obviously an important market for plastics research, converting and consumption.  As mentioned before, SPE has a long history with many Asian markets but lacks a deep membership base in a number of key markets. SPE is essentially a small organisation with an operating budget of around US$5 million. Our strategy in Asia is to continue to work with local Asian organisations to bring SPE educational programmes to the region and reach new audiences from membership through these activities.

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