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I’ve been so lucky. More than a decade ago, Ceramic Industry asked me to write the Kiln Connection column, and it has brought me great friendships and a wealth of knowledge. Starting out, I thought that I could provide a small service to the ceramic industries, sharing kiln design knowledge and experiences. As with all new endeavors, what I thought would happen and what ended up happening turned out to be two different things. When I look back at my consulting career, and the literally hundreds of installations that I have visited, what stands out is not so much the varied technology (which I love), but rather the great people I have worked with over more than a decade.
A fun part of my job was writing Kiln Connection columns—which I hoped were useful to Ceramic Industry’s broad audience—but the real beneficiary to my humble contribution turned out to be me. Through hundreds of emails leading to many consulting assignments, I’ve met so many talented and curious (take that however you like!) people, and acquired—and helped them acquire—increasingly sophisticated technical skills. But the most important thing that I learned is that when you provide people with high-quality training, they become more interested in their work and improve their performance. As skills increase, a passion for the work and all that it entails develops. A passion to do well wins out over a handful of college degrees and a thick booklet of procedures designed to tell employees what to do in every circumstance. In short, devotion will manage the most of the details, and then you just have to get out of the way to allow great things to happen.
The field of ceramics, the science and art of kiln design and operations are great endeavors. Though this science is thousands of years old, it is still possible to be a pioneer, inventing great things in this area. One need not be Thomas Edison or Albert Einstein to do great things in our field; the best ideas, applications, and inventions are yet to come. How exciting this has always been to me, and how exciting it is to work with others who realize this to be true.
For me, however, my consulting days are done, at least as a full-time profession. I would like to thank a number of great people with whom I have worked over the past 12 years, who have hired me, helped me and became friends. These people mean the world to me, and I will miss my regular visits and our camaraderie. Some have helped me take the long view about running a company well; some have challenged me to do better work. Still others have become the best of friends inside and outside of work. They work for varied companies—Superior Clay Corp., Kohler Co., Harris Potteries, Acme Brick, Dal-Tile, CISA SA, Haeger Pottery, Akron Porcelain, Tri-State, ANH, Ceramica Antique, Ceramic Industry, and many, many others. The people serving in those companies know who they are, and I am indebted to all of you for the fun, hard work, and seeing us all grow better at what we do.
Where am I going? I have accepted an opportunity to become president of Swindell Dressler International, and I look forward to continued growth and innovation in the kiln business. See—I told you I was lucky! Please keep in touch, and thanks again for your readership and input.
Any views or opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not represent those of Ceramic Industry, its staff, Editorial Advisory Board or BNP Media.