Southern Metal Finishing

Re: Metal Finishing Magazine on Consolidation

17 July 2006 - Metal Finishing Magazine
NASF Formation Inches Closer to Reality
Three groups vote to move forward with merger

The drive to reorganize the three major industry associations under one banner took a step closer to becoming a reality. Board members of the American Electroplaters and Surface Finishers (AESF), the National Association of Metal Finishers (NAMF) and the Metal Finishing Suppliers Association (MFSA) all voted last month to approve the reorganization under the National Association of Surface Finishers (NASF).

Reorganization advocates, encouraged by the latest development, are optimistic the merger will come to fruition. Mainly, they cite the almost unanimous voting patterns that resulted in the consensus achieved on June 29, 2006. Now, they say, it's just a matter of formality, meaning over the course of the next two months, members of the MFSA and NAMF are expected to hold another vote, with the AESF Council of Delegates (CoD) having the final say during a session to be held at SUR/FIN in September. At that time, the Surface Finishing Industry Council (SFIC) will also vote to officially accept the documents.

"The SFIC is made up of leadership of the three associations, and given the fact that the groups have already approved the documents then the SFIC will just rubber-stamp it," said the group's president Bill Saas (Taskem). "Beyond that, there are two membership votes that will involve voting reps from the MFSA, which will cast a paper ballot, and the NAMF, which will do the same. What's needed there is a simple majority, and we're pretty confident those votes will be favorable."

Current AESF president Fred Mueller, careful not to jump the gun, was more subdued: "It should be taken for what it is a step closer," he said. But at the same time, he said he really liked "all the cooperation."

Ditto for people like Tony Revier (Uyemura), former president of the MFSA."I think it's all very favorable; it's a good vote of confidence that certainly the board has recognized the needs, the benefits and the advantages of our consolidation efforts, and the fact that the timing couldn't be better to put the associations together to really face the problems and issues and challenges we have going forward with our industry," he explained.

Mike Kelly (ASKO Processing), past NAMF president and president of the transition board, believes consolidation is the only way to go. "As a business job-shop guy and having been active in the NAMF management associations for 28 years or thereabouts it's the wisest and most effective thing we can do to maintain this industry and sustain what really needs to be a much stronger, unified association," he said. "I know that's hard for some people who want things back to the way they were when we were separated, but we really need to join our forces together and look for all the efficiencies that can be gained whether that be leadership, technical support, education, putting on good, high-quality tradeshows and technical conferences."

Other pro-merger principals concurred. Peter Gallerani (Integrated Technologies), an SFIC transition member and someone who was instrumental in the initial planning retreat that put the reorganization plan in motion, points to the positives. "I think things are progressing very well so far," he said. "We're all feeling very optimistic that the reorganization is going to go forward."

Not so fast, say those who staunchly oppose the consolidation. AESF member Paul Fisher (Southern Metal Finishing), summed up the development as "public relations hype" coming out of the pro-consolidation camp. By no means, he said, is the reorganization set in stone. "It's not a done deal until the delegates vote," Fisher warned. (Sixty-six percent of the approximately 90 CoD members expected to vote on the proposal at convention must give their approval if the reorganization is to pass.) I have a roster that shows it's very questionable that it's going to be approved."

Fisher, an influential figure in the plan to derail the reorganization, is not alone. As one of several like-minded delegates on the council (he carries three votes in his branch), he cited additional proxies as well as approximately a dozen people who are working to stop the merger. (MF identified other AESF loyalists, including members of the Orange County Metropolitan branch, which last November voted against the consolidation as presented.)

Fisher, who has been travelling around the country drumming up awareness of his alternative business plan and support for anti-merger movement, has been galvanized by what he's seeing and hearing. I've been invited by various branches (Chicago, New York, Philadelphia), and all the Florida branches are getting together to have me as a guest speaker to review this business plan we've prepared," he said. "I think that in and of itself says a lot. Because of the spin and PR on this issue, it's smart for [consolidation advocates] to make those types of comments because they have so much invested in this."

The complex dynamic of this contentious issue is evident in the variety and validity of the viewpoints being bandied about. Even those who are behind the reorganization believe it's important to address the genuine concerns of those who are not in favor of the merger. "I think AESF members want to make sure they understand the benefits to them," Mueller theorized. "They are, like most of us, a little reluctant to change. It's leadership's job to explain the situation as best as they can, and when September rolls around it's the choice of the branches."

Uyemura's Revier a 30-year industry veteran who has been an MFSA and NAMF member understands those who want to maintain the status quo. "Certainly there's always going to be those out there who don't believe this is the right action to take, and some of them are traditionalists," he said. "But the industry has changed, and we have to change with it."

Revier, who points to segments outside the metal finishing community (i.e., diecasting) that have experienced the same issues, focuses on the upside. "Hopefully, when [opponents] see the real advantages and momentum and effort behind this, they'll realize that collectively we can do a better job," he said. "Obviously, the hard part is working out all the details and the finances and how the organization itself is structured, but I think we're making some real progress in that respect. You have to first make that bold move, and then a lot of things fall into place."

Taskem's Saas is in agreement. But at the same time, he alluded to some of the valid concerns and end goals addressed in Fisher's business plan. These include AESF's return to solvency, reacquisition of SUR/FIN, more focus on educating membership as well as recruiting members, better marketing assistance for branches, the reduction of management fees, and the development of strategic alliances with major corporations that have vested interests in the metal finishing business.

"All the things [Paul] hopes to accomplish on behalf of AESF I believe can, and will, take place under NASF's reorganization structure," Saas stressed. "All of the programs he feels are near and dear to AESF's mission can, and would, be implemented under NASF."

Saas, however, noted a stark difference. "Paul's saying we (AESF) can make it on our own, that we don't need to hook up with other associations whose goals are contrary to ours," he explained."That's a point of disagreement. The benefits of coordination and speaking as a single voice far outweigh the potential of the AESF."

Truth be told, Fisher doesn't disagree that the new organization could theoretically reach the same goals as AESF could achieve on it own. He just doesn't believe "the fix" requires the dissolution of a long-standing institution such as AESF a group on the cusp of celebrating 100 years in existence.

"I don't doubt that [NASF] could achieve all those things at all," Fisher stated. "But the question is, Why should we have to dissolve to accomplish this? AESF is an individual, membership-based organization; what the [merger proponents] are trying to do is create more of a corporate-based association. I think the industry needs this type of individual collaboration from our association to continue to do the research and development and educate future metal finishers. Otherwise, you're just going to get caught up in the other details and the mission will become secondary, third or fourth in the level of priorities. It will just be one crisis to the next."

For more the rest of this story by Reginald Tucker of Metal Finishing Magaizine please click here

Southern Metal Finishing

Re: Metal Finishing Magazine on Consolidation

[color="DarkSlateBlue"]It looks like Metal Finishing Magazine is trying to keep it fair and balanced and stay unbiased in their reporting on consolidation........  below is the latest posting from their website.[/color]

No [color="Black"]Issue is Too Hot for Metal Finishing to Handle[/color]
By Reginald Tucker, Editor

Several reader e-mails and letters concerning the proposed AESF reorganization and the drive toward the formation of the NASF provide the basis for this month's editorial:

Reader No. 1 writes: "You have, in the past, editorialized on the so-called benefits of consolidation with MFSA and NAMF. Why not publish an article for an independent AESF that would clearly point out the benefits of independence, which up to now have not been editorialized in a trade magazine? Or are you too concerned about losing advertising revenue from MFSA members? Do you not believe in allowing equal time?"

Reader No. 2 states: "As one of the most active branches in the AESF we would like to see the case for preservation of the AESF published. The pro-dissolution forces have had overwhelming access to the industry press for several years. Our branch, and numerous AESF members who have written to me in private, feel that it is not too much to ask that the case for preservation of the AESF, as prepared by a proponent, be presented in the industry media at this crucial time."

I'm a firm believer in the premise that says: "No one is beyond reproach." And that includes the trade magazine press especially the trade magazine press, in fact, given both our responsibility to the industries we cover as well as our dependence on the survival, viability, and success of those industries. It's a line that we straddle every day.

The readers are justified in requesting that this issue be more evenly flushed out in the media during this "crucial time," considering the upcoming and pivotal Council of Delegates vote at SUR/FIN (see "NASF Formation," MF, July/August), as well as the flurry of branch meetings and association conferences leading up to this historic event. I'm sure they speak on behalf of scores of industry members who would be hard pressed to cite an issue that has incited so much passion, emotion, and discussion. Regardless of where one stands on this matter, you have to admit it's inspiring to see readers share such a passion for preserving an organization that has stood for many years and is supported by so many individuals.

Bottom line: You can count on Metal Finishing magazine to be increasingly diligent in presenting more evenly balanced editorial content regarding this contentious subject. The previously aforementioned feature, which also appeared in our e-newsletter and on the MF Web site, is a step in that direction but it's just one step. A follow-up story in the very pages of this edition reports on ongoing developments in the reorganization process, juxtaposed with opinions from dissenting voices.

As I stated in my debut editorial, Metal Finishing welcomes letters, e-mails, and phone calls from industry members seeking to voice their concerns. Whether it's a comment regarding the proposed reorganization or an entirely different matter altogether, no issue is too hot to handle. Besides, sometimes it takes a little heat to break the ice.