The 11th International Aluminum Extrusion Technology Seminar (ET ’16) is the premier seminar series for the worldwide aluminum extrusion industry. The event will be held May 2-6, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.
Craig Werner, chairman of ET ’16, has always been heavily involved with the aluminum extrusion industry, the Aluminum Extruders Council (AEC), and all ET Seminars from 1984 to 2016. Craig has utilized his Penn State Industrial Engineering education and his Master’s degree in Business Administration from Carnegie Mellon, focusing on Industrial Operations, throughout his career.
His early work included positions at Timken and Alcoa as an industrial engineer, followed by 25 years with Werner Co. Craig managed three large extrusion, pultrusion, and ladder fabrication, assembly and warehousing operations for Werner Co. Controlling interest in Werner Co. was sold in 1997 and most U.S. operations were moved out of the U.S. in 2007. From 2007 to 2014, Craig consulted with extruders around the world on optimizing the extrusion process before joining Kaiser Aluminum as VP Extrusion Technology in November 2014.
Craig has authored 13 ET papers (in 2008, 2012, and 2016), including two voted best of the Management Issues track. He has been involved with editing, moderating, track chair, and leadership roles in every ET since 1984. Craig speaks regularly at AEC events and on AEC’s behalf and also chairs the Business Excellence Steering Team.
Both you and your family have been associated with the ET events since its inception. Tell us about how you’ve seen the ET events grow and evolve over the years.
The Werner family was one of the founding members of the AEC and has been involved with all 11 ETs from 1969 to the present. The previous ET Seminars were chaired by Maurice Roberts, followed by my uncle and mentor Bob Werner (Werner Co.), Bob Peacock (Almag), Jim Sanderson (Kaiser), and now by me, representing Kaiser Aluminum and building on the technical leadership of both Kaiser and Werner Co.
ETs have been held in five different U.S. cities: New Orleans, Atlanta, Chicago, Orlando, Miami, and now back in Chicago. The first ET Seminar (New Orleans) established the tradition of technical excellence that has endured for the past 47 years. We can thank the incredibly dedicated group of volunteers who work on ETs throughout the four-year cycle for this. This team of experts have been involved with many of the ET Seminars. While we recruit excellent “new blood” for each ET committee, we are lucky to have the experience, wisdom, and knowledge of our returning committee members to ensure we both learn from the past and continue to progress.
The inaugural ET event in 1969 was a technical business meeting of experts, coming together to share their knowledge for the longterm welfare of our industry. They met in a conference room and shared their mimeographed papers in three ring binders. Electronic copies of all ET Proceedings are available from AEC, but I’m proud to have been handed down Bob Werner’s original set of papers in a three-ring binder.
ET ’77 and ’84 were held in Atlanta, where tabletop displays by suppliers, bound Proceedings and even more emphasis on networking opportunities were added to the “ETformula”. Bob Werner’s ET’88 committee choose Chicago as the venue, adding a large exposition hall to enable greatly improved networking and communications between extruders and their suppliers, who now had the opportunity to showcase their tools, materials, equipment and other offerings in a more professional setting.
Subsequent ET events have followed the four-year cycle now familiar to us all, and introduced electronic distribution of papers (CDs, memory sticks and downloads) as well as the ET Showcase, highlighting innovative extrusion designs and products that rely on extrusions.
In all your years being a part of ET, what is one shining moment that comes to mind when you look back on the event?
I’m not really sure I can answer this question. There are too many to focus on just one.
I joined the industry full time in 1983 (with summer jobs at Werner Co. and Alcoa from 1977 to 1981). I began working on ET’84 in early 1983, acting as one of the many “volunteer editors,” which Bob Werner “coerced” into service.
Along with the training and mentorship I received from the second generation of the Werner family and our technical experts, reading and editing those early ET papers allowed me to gain insights into our industry and technologies at a truly remarkable rate. I joined the ET Committee in the late 1980s, even before then Bob involved me with much of the behind the scenes work and paper editing.
I have attended all ETs except for the 1969 and 1977 events, participating with editing, committee work, moderating duties, track chairmanship, authoring ET papers and now as ET ’16 chair. Choosing one “shining moment” from the 1,000+ papers, approximately 150 presentations that I attended and innumerable hours with suppliers and other extruders at networking opportunities is impossible, but I’ll do my best to address the spirit of the question.
Most important to me is the honor I feel in having played my small part amongst the giants of our industry that come together every four years to share, benchmark and network. Without ET (and AEC) I never would have had the opportunity to have met and spent meaningful time with technical visionaries and leaders who have developed so many of our industry’s advancements and selflessly shared with others for the overall development of our industry.
Without ET I may never have known Bob Hains, Fritz Thurneer, Martin Lefstad, Oddvin Reiso, Walter Bennett, Chris Jowett, Richard Dickson, Roger Fielding, Nick Parson, Henry Valberg, Alan Castle, Terry Sheppard, Mar Boers, Wojciech Misiolek, Ivar Hafsett, or many of our key industry suppliers and ET Committee volunteers!
I’m sure that everyone reading this interview has their own list of hugely important contacts that they would likely have not met, nor seen every four years, without ET.
How have you seen the aluminum extrusion industry grow and change alongside the ET events?
I think of the ET events as our industry’s version of “bootstrapping” itself ever further upwards. Companies and universities participate to share, learn, network and reconnect. ET attendees walk away with new contacts, renewed technical relationships and, perhaps most important, practical ideas that they can put into action in their own companies.
Often listening to the presentations or talking to peers results in that very “SPARK” of an idea which can be put to use to solve key problems or point to new technology or research to advance our companies and our industry ever further.
ETs have helped our industry progress through new and improved materials and processes, equipment, management concepts and product design ideas.
An earlier Light Metal Age article I wrote years ago touched on how the evolution of the ET Tracks mirrored and often preceded industrial implementations, focus, and achievements (June 2008). Key areas such as billet process and alloy development, die and extrusion technology, and equipment advances have been core throughout all ETs, but at various times control philosophies/automation, safety, commercial issues/value added, and management concepts/optimization have risen to the forefront.
What current trends and issues in the extrusion industry do you expect to see reflected during the goings on of ET ’16?
There are some very interesting advancements, some revolutionary and some evolutionary, which will be presented at ET ’16. Some of these foreshadow advancements yet to come, while others highlight those improvements already being implemented by the most progressive companies. ET papers, presentations, and exhibits provide the opportunity to learn about industry advancements but also the chance to take a “deep dive” into existing technologies to understand the concepts, technologies and applicability more fully.
There are some great papers that:
- Explain alloy and process controls that will provide dependable product improvements for key industries such as automotive
- Highlight casting technologies that will further enhance billet quality and subsequent extrusion processes and resultant product enhancements
- Assist product designers and extrusion companies to more fully comprehend the total value stream and how to optimize product properties, costs, and environmental impacts
- Utilize novel extrusion equipment technologies from press advancements to billet and handling equipment approaches, which provide enhanced energy efficiency and control
- Detail key die design and maintenance approaches to improve quality and costs
- Provide alternative approaches to finishing extrusions for enhanced performance and environmental impact
- Benchmark key safety concepts used at progressive extruders
- Explain key extrusion variables and measurements to best optimize productivity, quality, and costs
- Offer guidance to enhancing existing equipment and processes
Overall, ET provides attendees the opportunity to see into the future regarding upcoming technologies but also to more fully understand and leverage existing equipment and processes.
What are the kinds of shining moments you expect to see in this year’s ET?
Again, a difficult question for me to answer. I’m so close to the details that it can be difficult to see the forest for the trees.
As with every ET I’ve attended, I personally relish the opportunity to look ahead to future trends, look deeper into issues that affect my company every day and reconnect and network with some of the best people in our industry in a learning, sharing, welcoming environment!
On a personal level — I’ve said this many times, and it applies to many, many other key personnel in our industry as well, but I always look forward to hearing Chris Jowett speak — I think I’d learn something from just hearing him read and expound on the first two pages of a random phone book!
Is there anything about ET that you feel should be changed?
As an ET committee, we always struggle with the concept of enhancing the value of ET to our industry. We have often been asked to provide ET Seminars more often than every four years, but the core of ET, the development of new key concepts, processes, equipment, etc. takes development time. The four-year ET cycle has worked well for universities and corporations because it provides an “impending event” for them to work toward, providing time for the researchers and authors to deliver the level of technical quality expected of ET. Having ET every two or three years, for example, might potentially diminish the incredible value that attendees currently receive and comment on after every ET.
One concept we are exploring is the possibility of offering “Best of ET” papers and exhibition opportunities, so that interested industry members can attend more of a review of key developments at the last ET in between the four year cycles.
On a closing note, thank you for the work that Light Metal Age does, and has always done since its inception, to provide our industry with a high quality, relevant venue to share; your team and the magazine and on line information you offer is, like ET, core to our industry’s ability to compete with other materials and continue to advance.