Introducing Mr. Cullen L. Hackler (58), the executive vice president of PEI (the Enamellers Association in North America), to the IEI Journalist and the World Community of Enamellers by means of IEI web site pages let’s start from the very beginning.
Q: What can you tell me about the history of PEI?
A: PEI was established in 1930 in the state of Illinois. The institute was primarily founded by the US frit makers, some of the steel mills and several active porcelain enamelers.
Q: What about the structure of the Institute; we are specifically interested in the objectives and trends in your association?
A: Our objectives continue as they have been for many years. PEI is dedicated to advancing the common interests of porcelain enamelling plants and suppliers of porcelain enamelling technology, materials, equipment and supplies.
Through its major programs and services, PEI focuses on three primary objectives:
1) to showcase and promote innovations in materials, technology and processing to help improve the overall quality and efficiency of porcelain enamel operations,
2) to promote the product generally and to encourage its use in all possible applications and
3) to advance and protect the legitimate interests of the industry and its individual members. With an active committee structure of representatives from all segments of the industry, PEI is geared to provide valuable, timely programs and services to executives, managers and operators in our membership base.
Q: Can you explain more about your Association in terms of membership, representation and categories?
A: PEI members are corporations or businesses; we do not have individual memberships but allow employees of member companies to participate, as members, in all institute functions. Porcelain enamelers represent the following industry segments: major appliances, plumbingware, water heaters, barbecue grills, hearth products (i.e. wood burning stoves, fireplace inserts), architectural, signage, graphic arts, electronics and other specialty products. In addition we have suppliers of frit, raw materials, equipment, technology and chemicals for porcelain enameling.
Q: How many founding members joined at the beginning and how many are the members at present time?
A: When founded PEI had about 20 members; we have 75 member companies today.
Q: What about PEI’s current strategic direction? We are sure that the activities and services of interest for your members are various and complex. How do you go about meeting them?
Internet web site
The PEI website (www.porcelainenamel.com) is generally structured to provide information: specifically, technical data on the product/material, information and links to member companies, consumer information (example: care and cleaning information), a list of PEI publications, links to other organizations and general information about PEI.
Technical information and updating
Over the years, PEI has built a good library of publications on the art and science of porcelain enamelling ranging from the A. I. Andrews book (Porcelain Enamel) to our complete set of Technical Manuals and many other brochures, videos and pamphlets.
Technical meetings, round tables etc
The annual Technical Forum (including our Back-to-Basics workshop) remains the highlight of our technical meetings, and we also conduct an annual business and marketing meeting. We have added a Technical Forum plus B2B in Mexico on an every other year basis which was held in 2004 and 2006. Additionally, we conduct the B2B training workshop at other times during the year at varying locations around the US/Canada/Mexico.
Working Groups, technical committees
Our committees generally meet 1 – 2 times a year with the exception of the Tech Forum planning committee which meets on a more frequent schedule.
Many years ago, PEI developed numerous standard tests which remain in the Technical Manuals. Over the past 20 years we have written all of the relevant tests as active ASTM standards. PEI members are active in maintaining current standards and developing new standards as a part of ASTM committee B08.12 which relates to porcelain enamels.
Publishing activity (magazines, house organs, brochures)
We publish, electronically now, our First Firing newsletter 6 times per year with a variety of current information for our members and the industry. Our Tech Forum proceedings are published by The American Ceramic Society for each forum attendee and as a part of their overall series of “Ceramic Engineering and Science Proceedings.”
Since PEI functions as a clearinghouse for information on P/E, technical advice and support is available from the staff or by reference to industry experts or consultants.
Commercial advice is handled similarly to technical advice.
PEI has conducted several seminars on “what’s new in porcelain enamel” for our large appliance members. Currently we are working very actively, having established a new subsidiary company (Glass Technology Development Corporation), to exploit a novel porcelain enamel coating on reinforcing steel for concrete, whereby the steel and the concrete are actually bonded to each other.
Q: Our compliments on your strong strategy and an impressive technical activities but what about your commercial approach to porcelain (vitreous) enameled products?
A: Promotion (web sites; magazines; contact with other associations, advertising
PEI has done and continues to advertise porcelain enamel to both the industry and to consumers. Over the years, we have used cable TV, magazines and the internet for advertising. We partner with a major retailer (Sears) and a major appliance manufacturer (Whirlpool) to provide information and training about selling the value of porcelain enamelled products to people who sell appliances to the consumer.
Cooperation with schools/universities; architects, opinion leaders and designers
We work to provide information to designers and architects – we offer a free, architectural CD-ROM. PEI has had varying degrees of contact with universities and their ceramic or materials engineering departments. We also have some exploratory work underway in the area of finding applications for P/E in the world of nanomaterials.
Q: Mr. Hackler is kindly invited, here at the end of the interview, to give a global evaluation of PEI, considering the past, the present, but having also a look to the future:
A: Porcelain (vitreous) enamel has a good future on a worldwide scale. PEI continues to work to be a viable source of information on the technology, materials, equipment and supplies for anyone interested in porcelain enamelling. Although manufacturing shifts will continue, PEI is working to find new applications, materials and products to help support our current and future members in North America as well as others around the world as porcelain enamelling evolves into the 21st century.