I now understand that a number of people who regularly read my blogs are also regular readers of the other bloggers on this site. One of my fellow bloggers, Steve Gill, has recently posted a couple of blogs that have clearly hit a special note with a large cross section of our industry, judging by the lengthy discussion threads that have followed and taken the discussion through several deviations from the original story but all on the same general theme.
But a recurring theme among those posting comments is a discontentment with trade associations and accusing them all of being "unrepresentative" and "out of touch" with an industry that is struggling to move with the times with all the innovations in social media and IT office technology, along with the technological advancements of the RACHP equipment. In a ham fisted attempt to open up this theme so I could discuss the benefits of membership, I upset one of the national associations. I'd like to try and put the record straight.
Last year I was honoured to be asked by the publishers of this magazine to give the opening address and offcially open the ACR Show in Birmingham. I was given a free choice of what I wanted to make my speech about and I chose to extol the benefits of trade association membership, so I certainly can't be accused of being "anti" trade associations. But all trade associations are suffering a bit just now from this perceived lack of representation by engineers at lower than board room level generally and this concerns me, especially during this still precarious economic climate.
The strength of our industry is best made clear when the various different factions within our sector can come together and lobby together, presenting a united front. In the UK we do this regularly via the ACRIB format representing the contractors' and manufacturers' bodies as well as the IoR, Cold Storage Federation, etc. In Europe we have AREA (representing contractors), EPEE (representing manufacturers), and the EHPA (for heat pumps) as well as GCI-UICP for the other mechanical contractors. Other countries also have joint industry forums for this purpose.
These trade associations all represent their members to the best of their ability and I've been honoured and proud to take part in a number of these associations' meetings and committees over the years, and had the great pleasure to meet and get to know several well known industry people at the same time. I think these people all understand that I have a passion for this industry that drives me to get involved - probably too involved at times. But what I've noticed most is that almost all of these people are also very passionate about our industry. We don't always see eye to eye on every issue, as you'd expect, and as such not every standpoint is truly representative in the broadest terms but is more a compromised position based on a median viewpoint.
It's perfectly logical to expect members within trade associations to disagree at times, just as not everyone within a company will always agree on the right way forward. Indeed, I've found there are a great number of engineers and technicians from big companies that are strongly opposed to the new flammable, or old high pressure, refrigerants coming into common use for them in large retail applications despite their companies promoting these gases. Similarly many engineers and small contracting businesses are fully embracing the concept of additional training for alternative gases to HFCs, even in the knowledge that this will inconveniently cost them money, because they understand that this represents up-skilling - something that should never be sniffed at.
So I ask any readers of this blog or any other to go easy on the trade associations please - they are all trying to represent the best compromise positions for their members during very trying economic conditions.