The Chemical Coaters Association International (CCAI) held its annual meeting in Tucson, Ariz., June 18-21. It was hot!! The temperatures were over 100°F everyday, and the program (held in air-conditioned comfort) was fantastic.

The educational content of the meeting was focused on timely business issues and new technologies. The opening session hit on something that we all have an interest in, "Doing Business in China." George Bryant, corporate finishing engineer for Briggs & Stratton, and Dave Oswald, business manager in Asia for Nalco Finishing Technologies Group, shared their insights on the people, the food and the business culture in China. Interest in China runs the gamut from fear of job loss to opportunity for additional business. No matter where you sit on that continuum, it is critical to learn more about the other Super Power in the world.

An end-user panel provided a presentation and Q&A session to express their needs from suppliers. One overriding theme was honesty. Scott Peterson of Atlas Manufacturing said that he did not want a supplier that always tried to tell him what he wanted to hear about price and delivery. As he put it, "I would rather have bad news now than a little white lie." Given accurate information on supply he can plan and deal with it, but if he is counting on you and you do not come through, that hurts a lot more.

There was also an excellent presentation on new technologies featuring some surprising innovations from DuPont Powder Coatings, Wagner Systems, EXEL North America Inc. and KMI. Learning about new technologies is critical to efficiency and keeping up with the demands of our business climate in 2005 and beyond. Each of these companies has something unique to offer that can help the coating industry remain competitive.

Another group of experts provided advice on how to succeed at a trade show. Success at a trade show is largely dependent on proper planning and operation of the display. The panel provided some key insights into how to manage a trade show so that it will provide a great return on investment, as well as how to accurately measure the return.

Steve Houston, vice president of sales for DuPont Powder Coatings, provided an excellent presentation on customer service. As usual, it was extremely informative and very entertaining as well. Using a "point, counterpoint" exchange with a panel of experts, he was able to create a clear understanding of "best practices" for customer service.

Last, but certainly not least, Jerry Trostle of Wagner Systems, gave a very solid presentation on how to maintain good employee morale. Because success and efficiency are closely related to motivated employees, this presentation was right on the spot.

The social activities in Tucson were first-rate as well, particularly a Jeep trip in the Sonora Desert. All in all, the attendees agreed that this was the best meeting that they had ever had. If you are a CCAI member you can go to the association's web site ( and look at the presentations in a PDF file. Go to the members only section, type in the password and scroll to the annual meeting presentations. There is some great material here. If you are not a member, you are missing out on some terrific information. Visit the web site to join, and then access the meeting content. Both members and non-members should think about going to next year's meeting. If it is anywhere near as good as the one held this past June, it will be well worth the time and money.