October marks the 100th anniversary of the Society of Chemical Manufacturers & Affiliates (SOCMA). Founded on October 28, 1921, in New York City, the group originally was named the Synthetic Organic Chemical Manufacturers Association. At the time, European companies dominated the U.S. market for dyestuffs and other specialty chemicals. However, SOCMA’s 36 founding members, most of which were dyestuff producers, felt American companies could successfully compete. Indeed, the group’s key objective was “... to take such collective action as may be proper for the establishment and perpetuation of the organic chemical independence of the United States of America.”
SOCMA renamed itself in 2009 to better reflect the full breadth of the batch and custom manufacturing value chain, says the group. Because its acronym was so well known, the group came up with a new name that allowed retaining the acronym while still reflecting the evolution to a broader membership. (ISA followed a similar path, going from the Instrument Society of America to today’s International Society of Automation.)
SOCMA, since its inception, has focused on three areas: manufacturing and operations; advocacy; and commercial growth.
In manufacturing and operations, key areas of emphasis include facilitating continuous improvement in environmental, health, safety and security (EHS&S); and delivering and fostering best practices in operational excellence.
As one example of its efforts in these areas, two decades ago SOCMA worked with member companies to create a training curriculum for plant operators at batch manufacturing facilities. A modernized version of its Chemical Operations Training Tool, which debuted in 2019, has benefited 700–1,000 staff at more than 20 companies.
Today, the tool includes a digital learning module that companies can use to build or supplement their existing programs for new operators or for refresher training of long-term employees. The latest version, which was released this year, features a system for recording and tracking training progress; integrated 3D animations of process equipment; and additional material on areas such as hazard communication, lockout/tagout and confined space entry.
Another notable effort is ChemStewards, the group’s flagship environmental health and safety program that was launched in 2005 to promote safety and environmental compliance at facilities.
SOCMA also bestows “performance improvement awards” in five core aspects of ChemStewards: stakeholder communications; product stewardship; EHS&S in planning and operations; employee training and engagement; and resource management and waste minimization.
Advocacy includes providing industry perspectives to legislators and regulators.
Commercial growth encompasses a variety of efforts aimed at fostering the sharing of business intelligence. SOCMA ran the InformEx trade show until 2005 and recently returned to the trade-show arena with its 2020 purchase of the Specialty & Custom Chemicals Show, which next will take place in Fort Worth, Texas, starting on February 28, 2022.
This column only can highlight a few things, so for further details, go to www.socma.org.
SOCMA clearly has played an important and positive role in bolstering the prospects and performance of the U.S. specialty chemicals industry.
The official centennial celebration is scheduled for October 21 in New Orleans during SOCMA’s annual conference. Let’s hope this also marks the start of another auspicious 100 years.