David Bizley, Editor of World Cement, sat down with John Kline, Chairman of the IEEE East Coast Virtual Conference, to hear his thoughts on the impact of the pandemic on the cement industry, this year's virtual conference, and more.
David Bizley (DB): The global pandemic has impacted almost every sector of society. What kind of effect has coronavirus had on the cement industry?
John Kline (JK): Beyond health and safety measures, we have seen restrictions in travel, operating remotely, changing of shifts, and a reduction in capital expenditures. Markets have been impacted differently with some cement markets within North America being ahead of 2019, while others lag behind.
DB: Obviously, many events have moved online this year in order to deal with pandemic restrictions with the IEEE East Coast Technical Meet being one of them. What can attendees expect at this virtual event?
JK: This virtual conference will be held over three days with two simultaneous tracks being held. The whole 24 hr/48 session programme will be recorded and available to participants for 14 months after the conference. One track is dedicated to training with a strong focus on how to perform. The other track is more general knowledge and new technology. We also have a virtual trade show with over 30 sponsors setting up virtual booths that can also be visited until the end of December 2021. Many of our sponsors will be updating their virtual booths on a quarterly basis.
DB: As industries have adapted to work around pandemic restrictions, we have seen an increase in remote working, video conferencing, and a continued drive towards all manner of digital solutions. Post-pandemic, do you see these trends continuing in the cement sector?
JK: Unfortunately yes, these mechanisms that are deemed necessary to prevent the spread of the pandemic, can also be seen by some as cost cutting opportunities. While some people appreciate more time at home with the family, many interactions have also demonstrated that the lack of person to person contact and interaction is being missed by many.
DB: Looking ahead, what do you see as the greatest challenges facing the cement industry over the coming years?
JK: The greatest challenge will be to meet the climate change initiatives and targets being set by the industry and for the industry by others. Decarbonising an industry that generates most of its carbon footprint through the actual manufacturing process (as opposed to just energy use) will be extremely difficult. We see great ideas being developed globally, but the magnitude of the cement and concrete industry combined with the culture of slow adaptation of new technology makes hitting 2050 targets a daunting challenge.
DB: How can organisations like the IEEE East Coast Subcommittee help the cement industry meet these challenges?
JK: Many of our presenters are coming from the manufacturing side of the industry. They are presenting new technologies and practical experience that has been proven in their plants. The IEEE prides itself on being the world’s largest technical organisation and that presentations are presented in a professional and non commercial manner. The IEEE has been on the forefront of presenting technical conferences for the cement industry with over 60 consecutive years of conferences.
The East Coast Committee is a subset of the US National committee (IEEE-IAS/PCA Cement Industry Conference). Our objective is normally to hold smaller local conferences that can be attended by local plant personnel at a fraction of the cost of the larger National Conference. The East Coast Committee presents conferences in the 4th quarter, every two years in the Eastern United States and Canada. We have a corresponding West Coast Committee that holds similar conferences in the Western US and Canada on odd numbered years.
We are taking advantage of the fact that we are going virtual this year to open our doors to the world. There is no reason why participants from other countries can not advantage of our programme. We do ask a small participation fee of US$25 to help cover our costs as we are a non-profit organisation that does accept any commercial assistance beyond setting up booths in our virtual trade show. We are offering a special to plants that can sign up an unlimited number of people for US$150 per plant.
Read the article online at: https://www.worldcement.com/special-reports/20102020/world-cement-interview-ieee-east-coast-virtual-conference/