Addressing Current Industry Challenges

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The U.S. Department of Commerce's "Technology Administration Reports" page (www.ta.doc.gov/Reports.htm) confirms the leadership of the country in information technology, biotechnology and materials science. The continued leadership of the U.S. chemical industry is important to the economy and to the American way of life.

Do tradition, standard practice, rules and regulations hold us back? How about the war on terrorism and homeland security concerns? Are these issues standing in the way of performance?

The falling stock market has lowered expectations and jolted companies into reviewing mission statements and re-evaluating goals. Clearly, continued U.S. leadership is not guaranteed. Priorities have shifted during the past year.

The implications of war and tighter homeland security are sobering. All of us might do well to review the fundamental basis of the nation's strength and to learn more about what the government is doing. Perhaps now is a good time to reexamine the U.S. Constitution (www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/constitution.table.html) and the Bill of Rights (www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/constitution.billofrights.html). A review of the current U.S. Supreme Court Justices (http://supct.law.cornell.edu/supct/justices/fullcourt.html), the President and his Cabinet (www.politics1.com/cabinet.htm) and the U.S. Congress (http://thomas.loc.gov) also could be useful. You might even take a look at a relatively unknown entity, America's Secret Court: The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (http://fly.hiwaay.net/~pspoole/fiscshort.html), and then reflect on some frequently asked questions about the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, www.eff.org/Censorship/Terrorism_militias/fisa_faq.html.

Can courageous innovation meet the challenges of our changing world? Perhaps companies that have joined the Chemical Industry Vision2020 Technology Partnership (www.chemicalvision2020.org) are on the right track. Launched in 1996 to accelerate innovation and technology development, Vision2020 has developed guidelines or roadmaps to steer academic and government funding and research in directions that will benefit the chemical industry and society in general.

During last month's AspenWorld 2002 (www.aspenworld2002.com), chemical industry executives examined how innovators are overcoming industry-specific challenges that affect their competitive positioning. The details are reflected in the agenda (www.aspenworld2002.com/agenda.asp) that describes the tracks and sessions, as well as the complete program (www.aspenworld2002.com/awonline/aw2002_pre_program.pdf). Coverage includes chemicals, petroleum products, pharmaceuticals, power and utilities, and pulp and paper. The table of contents of the complete program ," 67 pages in portable document format (pdf) ," includes live links that make it easy to locate specific information of interest.

Innovation in the chemical industry also is apparent on the Internet. The results of the 2002 ChemIndustry.com Best Chemical Web Site Contest (www.chemindustry.com/contest/) recently were announced. One winner was selected from each of the categories: "Online Courses and Tools," "Portals and Information Hubs," and "Corporate Sites." The contest judges also selected a number of category "honorees."

The Internet has become an important source for free downloadable computer-aided design (CAD) templates of system components. CADs are used in assembly drawings to test the compatibility of replacement parts with existing systems, or to devise custom solutions for complex problems. You can obtain a CAD drawing online and install it into your application within minutes, compared to the hours or days it could take to draw a component from scratch, depending on the level of detail required.

For example, at the Swagelok.com Web site, www.swagelok.com, you can access CADs for a broad selection of fluid system components, including valves and fittings. You simply specify a certain part through a built-in search mechanism, click a command button to view the part in CAD format, and then click another command to download it into one of many modeling programs such as SolidWorks or AutoCAD.

Other leading parts manufacturers are offering free downloadable CAD templates at the CADRegister.com Web site, www.cadregister.com. The site offers the latest advances in CAD template technology. The CADs are computer-generation-based on the latest set of dimensions submitted to the program, either by the manufacturer or the CAD user. Access to templates is available after free registration. If you want to sharpen your CAD skills, the CAD Forum.com Web site (www.cadforum.com) offers helpful free step-by-step CAD lessons in various industry-standard software.

If computer privacy and security are a concern, you might want to check out EAST Technologies' East-Tec Eraser 2002 at www.east-tec.com. It can be downloaded for a 30-day free trial and can be configured to delete selected files beyond recovery. Lavasoft's AD-Aware (www.lavasoft.nu/index.html) is a free spyware removal utility that scans computer memory, registry and hard drives for known spyware and scumware components and lets you remove them safely. CP

Hodel is

Chemical Processing's Internet columnist. Contact him at aehodel@netscape.net.

 

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