Ceramic Industry

<strong>INSIDE <em>CI</em></strong>: Year in Review

December 1, 2006

While stopped at a red light a few days ago, I shrewdly surmised that the driver of the car in front of me was a running enthusiast. The car displayed several bumper stickers. The first one I noticed said, simply, "run." At first, I wondered if this was meant as a warning, a direction to flee, but then I saw another sticker that read, "I ♥ running." Ah-ha: a runner. This person is clearly an irrational personality, but not really dangerous to others. I breathed a sigh of relief. The third sticker said "26.3 miles and still smiling." Uh-oh. Anyone crazy enough to torture themselves-and enthusiastically, at that-is probably pretty dangerous. The green light saved me, though, and I went safely on my way.

However, I can't quite wrap my mind around the 26.3 mile concept. Running a marathon must take forever! I get impatient if I have to drive 26 miles. Who has that kind of time? Patience has never been my forte, and I must say it seems to get worse every year. Don't even get me started on the lines at the grocery store.

My point here is this: Were I a New Year's resolution kind of person, I would resolve to be more patient. However, I gave up making New Year's resolutions several years ago, after it dawned on me that I was just no good at keeping them. I still have not lost the 20 lbs I intended to shed at the turn of the century. No tidy, well-organized scrapbooks have emerged from the stash of family photos haphazardly entombed in plastic containers in the basement. And as well-intentioned as I might be, I don't attempt one new recipe each week. Not even close.

Every December, though, I do try to take stock of what worked and what didn't throughout the past year. I ponder various projects, evaluate their effectiveness, and use that information in the planning of other undertakings. "Live and learn" might be a clich‚, but it's certainly valid advice.

The market overviews featured in this issue of CI provide a look at the industry as a whole-what did 2006 bring, and what lies ahead for 2007 and beyond? In each of the five markets covered (advanced ceramics; whitewares; refractories; glass; and brick/structural clay), Contributing Editor Christine Grahl uncovers successes, disappointments and glimpses of what the future might bring. For example, the outlook is bright for portions of the whitewares industry, with segments such as tile and sanitaryware experiencing growth that is expected to continue for years to come. Many dinnerware and pottery producers, however, faced with fierce global competition and the accompanying pricing pressures, are struggling and must focus on design innovations if they hope to compete.

While there are many positive signs for our industry and the economy as a whole, challenges certainly remain-some more daunting than others. I'm not suggesting we all make official New Year's resolutions on the subject (because, if you're like me, we'd never keep them), but trying to understand what worked in the past, and focusing on continuous improvement for the future, is a sure recipe for success.