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Chairman's Message

AWD and the future of Welding Distribution by Adrian Hawkins

Back in 1974 when the AWD was started, I commenced my Welding career with BOC. For the past 37 years, I have been closely involved in some way or other with the Welding Distribution industry working both for BOC and as MD of Weldability Sif.

Like many of our Members of a similar age, I have been watching major Industrial Centres being converted to Retail Parks and although many people that I respected 37 years ago advised me that the welding industry was dying, here we are today still actively involved.

In the past 20 years successive governments have made the financial services industry, pivotal to our Country's success and sadly in 2007/8 we all became acutely aware, which direction that monopoly of concentrated effort took us. Over the past 15 years, Manufacturing as a proportion of our GDP has fallen from 20% to 12%, but strangely the value of output is currently at an all time record high. Today there appears to be a new mindset amongst politicians that we cannot depend solely on the financial services industry as the cash cow to fuel the UK economy and at the same time we desperately need to restate our Energy objectives and keep these in line with our commitment to reducing our Carbon footprint. Consequently there are major plans afoot to build some 11 to 15 Nuclear Power Stations and 30,000 wind turbines and it is believed that this will require a minimum of 20,000 highly skilled welders.

On joining the AWD National Executive some 2 years ago, it was apparent that the Association had a need for a modern modus operandi and taking all of the changes about to hit our country and industry into account, it was clear that we needed to change as an Association to provide the support so urgently required to take full advantage of what will, over time, be a major re-investment in manufacturing and training skills, with a large part directed at the welding industry in particular.

So your National Executive has set about making these changes and of course the first major change had to come about within our own organisation. As you have heard from our National Secretary Dave Ellwood, who was responsible for implementing these changes, the name has slightly changed and the Association has become a limited company.

Clearly we had to move away from being a one person centred association providing a handful of complicated Member benefits and the odd Conference and Regional meetings, to a diverse and valuable collective, an organisation with a multitude of skills.

We needed to see how the organisation could work as a team of mostly voluntary individuals all driving in the same direction hence the need for a new style AWD organisation.

We are blessed with many Member Company types and we needed to provide a format for all our Members to be kept informed and connected, at the same time as being encouraged and involved. Our new structure and website now provides a number of methods for a Member to make contact and access the AWD.

A strong part of the AWD is the 'Welding World' brand which is now being trademarked and is clearly being promoted by our magazine and exhibition. This is collectively where we all 'live' and tangible evidence of what we can offer. Phil Tranter, our new National Vice Chairman has been working with Martin Clarke our Association Editor and myself on the Marketing Committee over the past 12 months, and will be heading up our Marketing intentions for the AWD in the future.

From our recently circulated organisation chart, you will clearly see where the AWD secretariat role is in this new system and the day to day activities that they undertake independently and with guidance from the National Executive and Council. We are delighted to announce the appointment of Wendy Barber as Membership Manager and Wendy will be in contact with every existing Member and potential new Members regularly over the coming weeks and months.

Please bear in mind that the National Executive and Council give their time freely to the AWD in support of the Welding Distribution Industry and it is therefore vital that we hold both a clear mandate and vision alongside the paid services of the Secretariat, Accountant, Editor, Advertising Manager, etc.

So now the future...

Our Industry is lacking in what I call 'Great Press' by which I mean that it is not very well represented. Sure there are many Companies who have superb products and great ideas and each of those do a wonderful job in promoting their range, but as an industry we are not very good at selling our process, our career opportunities, our image, or ourselves.

We have many hazards within our industry like, explosive and flammable gases, hot and heavy materials, electrical and UV - IR safety hazards, welding fumes and gas fumes, metallurgical challenges just to name a few! Our process takes place in the dark and in some of the most difficult environments, yet without it, many engineering projects regardless of the intention to design welding out, very much need to keep the welding process in. Welding can be used to enhance our lives in so many ways and the production of Energy is a great place to start.

Consequently we need to act as an Association representing the needs of our Members and to take control of promoting all that is good about our industry, eradicating some of the bad practices and with the long term benefit of more welders, more professional welders and the promotion of best practice and best products, we can all win.

To this end the AWD needs to create a support base which can consist of accessing Parliamentary assistance and discussion, product and process research and support, lobbying the government and industry power bases and the creation of a series of Working Groups to assist with the following areas of expertise. The National Executive is therefore calling on all Members who have an interest in developing these for the long term benefit of our industry to assist with,

Education & Training (ET)

Where we intend to:
1. Develop an AWD Professional Sales Diploma (PSD.AWD) and this will be combined with a TWI CSWIP qualification to ensure that we recognise our own quality personnel. I can confirm today, that the AWD is working closely with the TWI to evolve this aspect and we will launch this education program during 2011.
2. We also have an urgent need to develop positively, Members training and demonstration facilities, regional Skills Centre training facilities and their combined training direction with the AWD website remaining a great place to present these opportunities from. The AWD is represented on and working with the AWFTE and this objective has real synergy.

Contact can be made with the AWD ET Committee by email to et@awd.org.uk

Product Standards & Quality (PSQ)

Where we intend to:
1. Advise Members on the relevant product standards now applicable within the industry as they change or are implemented.
2. Study key products for sale within the industry and receive comment from Members and advise Members of products failing tests.
3. Set 'Codes of Practice' for the selection, use and maintenance of safety wear, welding equipment, hire machines etc. These could become highly respected and revered and can assist Members in explaining the correct principles to follow and maintain, just like CP7 has evolved for Gas Equipment inspections.

Contact can be made with the AWD PSQ Committee by email to psq@awd.org.uk

Membership Benefits (MB)

Where we intend to:
1. Clearly identify exactly what Members want from service providers.
2. Introduce new services which deliver value.

Contact can be made with the AWD MB Committee by email to mb@awd.org.uk

Please let the Membership Manager, Wendy Barber know if you have any interest or would like to recommend someone from your team to take an active part in any of these working groups.

We truly believe that it is possible to bring together the resources of our industry in an easily accessible way. The Welding process is full of complexity and by its very nature deters involvement, but by providing access to knowledge, training and technical assistance we can remove many of the barriers to entry and encourage our industry to grow dramatically.

The future of our industry is therefore very bright indeed, given the points I have made here today we trust that, with your assistance and continued support we can make the AWD the true voice of the Welding World and create an environment for prosperity for all those involved.

I would like to thank you for your patience and support and look forward to working with you in the future.