August 2019, Vol. 246, No. 8


NACE President Looks to Attract Young Professionals

Terry Greenfield, the new president of NACE International, whose earliest exposure to the organization dates back to his days of doing contract work at the Kennedy Space Center, anticipates an especially hectic year in office.

However, based on his previous board experience, along with the passion and energetic demeanor he exhibited during this year’s NACE Corrosion 2019 Conference & Expo, the veteran tactical corrosion professional appears to be more than up to the task. 

As a principal consultant at Consulex, Greenfield primarily handles forensic work, consisting of analyzing coating failures and explaining the reasons behind the problems he encounters. It is from that perspective that he has taken such a keen interest in asset management.

“I’ve kind of been one of the evangelists for coating asset management which considers the coating as an asset itself based on the cost and installation,” he said, during a break at the conference, held March 24-28 in Nashville, Tenn. “I stress managing assets more effectively for greater economic viability and long-term service lives.”

In this interview, Greenfield, who has nearly 40 years’ experience in the protective coatings and corrosion industry and has served on various NACE committees, discusses the urgency of attracting younger professionals to the industry, the need to communicate financial ideas more clearly and his own excitement at the possibilities of NACE International and the Society for Protective Coating (SSPC) joining forces in some capacity. 

P&GJ: How did you get started in the industry, and what was the career path that led to your current position at Consulex? 

Greenfield: I got my start, along with my brother, in the contracting business. We were working with the Kennedy Space Center on a lot of ground-support equipment, such as the space vehicle launch towers. We worked in coatings and corrosion control. While doing that work, we were first exposed to NACE International.

The NACE International Coating inspection program was still in its infancy and still being introduced into the government sector at that time, and we both became NACE Level 3 certified inspectors. Over time the contracting business developed into an engineering and inspection firm. It’s funny, we worked together back then and now, after 25 years, we are back together under Consulex.

I’ve also worked in offshore natural gas in the South China Sea with BP China, which was Arco China at the start. At every phase, NACE International became more influential, and it was at that time, too, that I became an instructor in the program. So much of my involvement in the industry has been related to my involvement with NACE International. I’ve been chairman of the STG 04 for surface preparation, which drives the joint standards for surface cleanliness with NACE and SSPC, and several other committees. That interaction led to many opportunities.

Primarily, Consulex is a corrosion-engineering firm offering all the services through the field. I mostly do forensic work when coatings fail and explain why they failed, and ultimately, to help determine who’s going to bear the financial burden for the failure.


P&GJ: What are your top priorities as president for the coming year? 

Greenfield: It’s funny when people ask, “What’s your legacy going to be?” I’ve been involved on the board now as treasurer and vice president for a six-year period, so we’ve really experienced a lot of changes and priorities. There have been some good decisions made by boards over the past five years that have put us in a good direction, so the biggest priority is “don’t mess that up.”

One of the most exciting developments for me, though, is working with SSPC to merge our organizations. That is a big priority I’d like to see accomplished. What we’ve really tried to focus on are the synergies there. Ultimately, any potential merger will have been member-driven. It was not initiated by NACE or SSPC staff members looking to building a bigger business.

Frankly, there would be a lot of value if the programs and services we both provide to industry came from a single source. I use the word “merger” to qualify that we see it, if it happens, as having two strong brands, two organizations, in very good shape right now, which would make it an opportune time to come together in an effort to provide a better outcome.

My other big priorities are helping to achieve some of the goals we’ve set as a board, particularly those concerning the body of knowledge we already possess. The information we have has great value, not just monetary value, but value to members and society in being able to leverage that information. Frankly, curating that body of knowledge has not been a priority simply because it hadn’t ever been really considered before. We knew the information was there: papers, articles. But actually having that information in a system where it can be easily searchable – that has become one of our big priorities as well.


P&GJ: Can you tell us a little about the NACE Task Group 564 development of the “Standard Framework for Establishing Corrosion Management Systems?”

Greenfield: I was on that taskforce, and it made sense to look at a standard that is kind of the overarching methodology of how you would establish a corrosion management system.

Many people who say, “I have a corrosion management program,” truly have a corrosion engineering program instead. A lot of things go in on the front end – looking at material selection, the processes, getting everything in place during the design-build phase – then once it’s commissioned it may not necessarily be that complete of a program. Whereas, corrosion management looks at that post-commission and how it includes corrosion engineering. But it’s the overarching aspect that looks at what we need to do to ensure that there is a determined life-cycle.

The biggest advantage with the standard is it creates a common language. I think that’s important for us as an industry. It lets us improve and build on what we’ve learned with a consistent understanding. There are going to be other task groups that develop sub-set programs from that standard. There is a group working on pipelines, for example.


P&GJ: Is NACE looking to implement any new services in the near future? 

Greenfield: I think this access of information we discussed is kind of a longer term service. I’m not sure how quickly that’s going to be provided. There are always, on the educational side, new programs. NACE International just implemented a new educational program, “Corrosion Under Insulation.” It’s just been piloted and is moving forward.


P&GJ: How is NACE progressing in terms of training and recruiting the next generation of technical professionals? 

Greenfield: I’m going to preface this answer a little bit. One of the things we do during this meeting is talk with a lot of other organizations: ICOR, CSCP from China, the South African Corrosion Society, the European Federation of Corrosion. I’ve watched some of their presentations, and they all had a section on recruiting young professionals and how to get them involved.

Even changing our awards dinner this year [making it more of a standup-style event to encourage interaction] was an effort to create venues that appeal to younger professionals. Look, when we were that age, we didn’t want to go to a standard banquet dinner either. So, we are looking at ways to make it more friendly and give young professionals some venues they may enjoy attending. 

Our keynote speaker [Jack Uldrich, a global futurist] made some good points. Generally, when we look at the makeup of our teams, you see a lot of older people, and they have a view that doesn’t necessarily reflect the view of how young professionals see things. We are considering the possibility of creating a board seat to represent that element within our membership. That way we will be more likely to understand their perspective.

I see a lot more activity within technical groups as far as reaching out to include young members. Part of it, too, is how different age groups interact. At my age, we are used to interacting through face-to-face meetings, maybe through telecoms; that’s what we’re used to, but younger professionals tend to be more comfortable with remote access. I’ve heard younger professionals say if we could do events like section meetings as live Facebook events, they would participate. I would like to explore that idea.

In the educational programs, we are looking at how they are delivered and trying to understand how this generation learns. A friend’s son went through a program at a major university and did most of it online, for example. He could take a class with a professor from India online at 1 a.m., if he wanted to. Younger people are used to dealing with that new world, and it’s not 9-to-5, necessarily.


P&GJ: To that point, have your members experienced any difficulty in finding enough qualified workers for the projects they are involved in? Does that differ between the U.S. and other regions?

Greenfield: I think a blanket answer to that is “Yes.” At NACE International, we run the range from engineers to inspectors, both white collar and blue collar, and I think we are seeing a change in experience levels.

Speaking to the inspection field, at one time most of those who stepped into that world had experience in the field and were just getting certification and training to build on that and evolve. Today, we see younger people coming in as a new career, and they don’t have much experience. As a result, qualifying that person may be challenging. In most cases, when you talk to people in the corrosion industry and ask, “How did you get here,” they often answer that it was not planned on their part. They say it was the job or opportunity that opened up.


P&GJ: Has the increased cost of any materials of late, steel for example, affected the amount of work your members are getting? Does that seem likely?

Greenfield: We all know what drives oil and gas, as well as pipelines. It’s the price of the commodity. Sure, steel, for an example, is a commodity and there is a price involved that affects the cost of building pipeline infrastructure, but it is an absorbable cost. Obviously, regulatory approval is among the biggest issues in determining whether a project goes forward. 


P&GJ: What do members view as their biggest challenges over the next couple of years? 

Greenfield: Encouraging young membership, as we spoke about earlier, is essential, and we really recognize that. It’s in the NACE Foundation’s charter to find and inspire people in college to want to be corrosion engineers. We see that in the programs the NACE Foundation develops and makes available, even at the high school level.

When you were young you may have made the decision to be a journalist, but first you had to know there was the position of journalist to choose for a career. We are trying to make these positions more visible through the NACE foundation – explain what a corrosion engineer does.

There are exciting elements to these jobs: you get to work in a lot of exotic locations; there are challenges to solve; the work has variety; there are things to investigate; there is even a level of intrigue. It can be a lot of fun, but if you don’t know the job exists, you can’t make that decision. Instead you become a structural engineer or a civil engineer.


P&GJ: Do you feel operating companies have stepped up their own efforts to protect their facilities from corrosion in recent years?  

Greenfield: If I’m going to get in trouble with an answer, it’s going to be on this one, so I need to qualify that this is strictly my opinion. Based on what I’ve seen and how I’ve worked I’d say “No.” Unfortunately, so much of what gets done in the corrosion world is driven by regulatory standards and those minimum requirements.

We as corrosion engineers understand what we have to do to maintain asset integrity and the longevity that’s possible, but it comes with a cost. Now, if you look at the cost and it’s amortized over a long service life, it is a relatively small cost – especially compared to the cost of failure. We as corrosion professionals don’t know how to speak in financial terms very well – we speak technical, and that’s one of our challenges. 

You shouldn’t just work toward the minimum requirement. You have to be willing to make the capital investment. That’s not just in material selection; that’s in the inspection, installation, CP systems, coatings and whatever else may be needed. It’s the commitment to strive for longevity. It has benefits – it pays rewards.

It’s interesting that institutional investors are now looking beyond just profit. They are looking at how companies are dealing with things such as sustainability and diversity. They are looking at how the company is positioning itself. At NACE, we have a task group that is going to be working with the overarching umbrella of sustainability of our assets.


P&GJ: How do the primary concerns of members differ in North America vs. Europe and other regions? 

Greenfield: That’s a difficult one, but I can look at it in a couple ways. The other regions [outside North America] always feel their representation isn’t as strong, even though we try to consider all members being of equal value. If you look at the membership, over 50% of our members are from North America, though.

I think, for example, the challenges of our members in China are a lot different than the challenges faced in North America. On the coating side, it can even involve how different governments view volatile organic compounds (VOCs). North America and Europe have learned to deal with it one way, and we have some processes in place.

On the regulatory side in China, they don’t have the same understanding, so they impose measures on our members that are pretty difficult, ultimately paying a pretty significant tax for the use of coating materials with VOCs. I would imagine similar issues happen in other areas around the world. We try to work more to establish best practices and a commonality in how we all look at the various aspects involved – whether its pipelines, transmission towers, paints or whatever.


P&GJ: What would you say to someone considering delaying or skimping on corrosion-fighting efforts as a means to tighten their budget? 

Greenfield: I’d say that’s a bad decision. Considering the potential consequences, it could be the worst decision.

We tend to focus on the technical root cause of failures. But do you know what the real root cause is? There’s typically a human decision somewhere along the line that is not a good decision. If the budget needs to be trimmed, you should look at areas that don’t concern asset integrity.  P&GJ

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