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Boiler Q&A: Safety, Recruitment Still Top ABMA Agenda

Jan. 11, 2018
CEO Scott Lynch sees energy in innovation, education across boiler industry

Scott Lynch knows associations. Before being named President & CEO of the American Boiler Manufacturers Association (ABMA) in June 2014, he spent 15 years with SmithBucklin, the world’s largest association management company. That practical expertise has served him well in helping to steer ABMA energetically into a swirling sea of old challenges and new opportunities. 

The 130-year-old group now finds itself with a three-year strategy that Lynch led to adoption in January 2016. Since then, volunteer working groups have focused on four priorities: “industry promotion; workforce development; advocacy & partnership; and knowledge & value.” Of course, these topics still take a backseat to the issue of safety, which remains the organization’s founding ethos. All were on Lynch’s mind when we caught up with him as he prepared for the ABMA Annual Meeting this month in Indian Wells CA. 

HPAC: Scott, thanks for your time at the busy start of another year. First off, not many associations can claim to have 13 decades under their belt. So, congratulations to ABMA. What do you think makes the group as relevant to its members today as it was in the late 19th century?

SL: ABMA was founded in 1888 to bring a strong focus on safe manufacturing and operation of boilers. A boiler, if not manufactured, installed and operated properly, can be a very dangerous piece of equipment. Over the years, we have expanded and diversified our programs and services, but safety continues to be a high priority. 

ABMA represents the boiler industry on both the ASME and National Board Inspection Code (NBIC) committees, which oversee the standards and codes for the manufacturing, installation and operation of boilers. Recently, ABMA prioritized its outreach even more to those working with and operating boilers to ensure safety continues to be a focus and efficiency opportunities are realized. And we have re-positioned our magazine, Today’s Boiler, to talk directly to this community. The latest issues can be accessed by visiting our website: www.abma.com.

HPAC: As we enter 2018, what do you find yourself looking forward to the most? 

SL: ABMA hits the ground running in the new year with our 2018 Annual Meeting in mid-January and the 2018 AHR Expo the following week, where we exhibit and promote our members and the boiler industry. However, I am most looking forward to the 2018 Manufacturers Conference that will take place October 2-4 in Tulsa, OK. This is the only ABMA event open to non-member participation with the opportunity to engage with the leaders in the boiler industry. 

In December, I had the privilege to visit our seven members in the Tulsa region who have agreed to host the conference. It was exciting to see the innovation in their products firsthand, along with a passionate workforce. Our Tulsa members are ready to showcase one of the major hubs of the boiler industry. The conference will include tours by hosts Victory Energy, Tulsa Fin Tube, and Webco Industries, and also highlight our other co-hosts Zeeco, John Zink Hamworthy, Cust-O-Bend, and E-Tech. A video promoting the upcoming event will be available in late January and will be posted on the ABMA website along with Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. People can find it by using the hashtag #ABMABoiler

HPAC: How is ABMA planning to address the critical issue of next-gen recruitment in 2018? 

SL: The workforce has been deemed a top issue by the members of ABMA and as an association, we have made it one of our key strategic areas of focus. Recruitment has always been a challenge for our members, but with the baby boomers now retiring, it is getting closer to a crisis. 

Many of our companies have jobs open at all times and need qualified workers. This is especially true in welding and engineering. With that in mind, ABMA established the Randy Rawson Scholarship program to promote careers in boiler engineering and fabrication. Since its inception, ABMA has awarded more than $150,000 in scholarships and recognized 16 worthy students this past year. 

In 2017, we launched the “I am ABMA” campaign, which profiles members and includes some of our young leaders to show their impact in the boiler industry. In 2018, ABMA will be partnering with the American Welding Society (AWS) and Lone Star College in Houston to recognize the first recipient of the ABMA Welder Workforce Endowed Scholarship. In addition, we will be continuing our effort with Lone Star College on the creation of skill set profiles for various levels of welders. We see these profiles as a first step in working in partnership with schools to ensure curriculum and expectations match industry needs. 

HPAC: We have heard a lot lately about ‘quick ship’ custom solutions in the market, as an alternative to boiler rentals? What is driving that trend? 

SL: Our boiler manufacturers pride themselves on investing in their customers and working together to ensure the best product is built for their specific application and unique challenges. This is a great option when changes are on the horizon, but can be challenging when a solution is needed immediately. Keep in mind, some facilities can lose millions (of dollars) per day in a downtime. Historically, a company would rent a boiler while figuring out a longer-term fix. But the “quick ship” products now entering the marketplace seem to be a hybrid option that may work for specific applications. 

HPAC: Coming from outside this industry, what has surprised you the most over the last three-plus years, as you’ve been immersed in boilers? 

SL: Not surprisingly, when you work every day for a specific industry, you learn so much about its impact. For me, I have learned how much the boiler industry impacts our lives each day and the huge opportunity ahead of us to share our story. Our boilers are usually purchased as part of a combustion system that creates hot water or steam for various applications. This might not sound exciting, but think about an emergency room that cannot sterilize its equipment, a power plant that cannot produce energy, or a college dormitory with no heat or hot water. 

Our members continue to push the law of physics by increasing productivity and simultaneously lowering source use and environmental impact. Just over the last 25 years, significant advances have occurred in emissions reductions, high turndown burners, smart technology and specialty boilers like bent tube. 

If you have an older boiler, our members can assess the opportunties with your current system and offer solutions that will have a significant impact on productivity, decrease environmental impact and create a long term savings on your bottom line. A listing of our members and their products and services can be found in our 2018 Buyers Guide which can be accessed through our website, www.abma.com

This article also appears in the Boiler Systems Engineering (BSE) special section in the January 2018 issue of HPAC Engineering magazine.