Q&A with Kenneth F. Yarosh, 2012 Chairman of the Board
My current role is very different from my previous technical positions in the organization, but it allows me to transfer many of my skills into a purely business role. I work with my team to develop strategies to improve the operations of our specialty chemicals business, which is based in silicone products. These products serve various industries: life sciences, healthcare, electronics, automotive, chemicals, solar energy, construction and so forth.
Dow Corning has developed a portfolio of projects and initiatives to improve how we deliver services to our customers and distributors. One of my responsibilities is to determine how we can best capture, share and deliver our technical and product knowledge, especially in emerging markets like southeast Asia and eastern Europe. I am also focused on improving the operational efficiency and productivity of our organization through the streamlining of our business processes, such as supply chain management.
In 1988, Dow Corning opened a sealants testing laboratory in Atlanta to support customers who use our construction sealants in the eastern United States. I quickly became aware of the importance of ASTM standards when I began working there.
The many different materials that make up a building have different coefficients of expansion. The entire system has to be allowed to expand and contract or else it cracks, and that's where the sealants come in - they have to be flexible to allow expansion and contraction so that water doesn't enter the building.
It was typically required by the building specification that the sealant manufacturer test its sealants for adhesion, compatibility and stain resistance to various building substrates - such as aluminum framing, granite, glass or concrete - in contact with the sealant. My company also required that these ASTM tests be performed prior to the issuance of a warranty. We would be testing materials from 50 to 100 buildings every month, so it was critical that we understood the ASTM test methods and how to interpret data from these tests. It all formed the basis of our recommendation for approving our sealant for adhesion to this material.
Early in my career I learned the value of ASTM in doing my job. One of the first things that I did when I began to work in building construction was to read and understand ASTM standards. I read all of the relevant standards from ASTM Committees C24 [Building Seals and Sealants] and E06 [Performance of Buildings], paying particular attention to the guides and practices. Also, I studied many of the ASTM special technical publications on the subject; later I became active on those committees and attended the symposia that produced those STPs. The information that was available from ASTM was invaluable for me to learn about sealants and their proper function in building design.
That was a very satisfying time in my career. As I became expert in the technology and its application, I was able to leverage this expertise as I visited building construction sites, manufacturing facilities, architectural firms and consultants, showing them how to use standards to discriminate among products so that they could make educated choices when specifying a job. To me, that's a primary driver of standardization - differentiating products so that educated decisions can be made among them.
In late 2002, I was asked to relocate to Belgium to manage the technical service team for Dow Corning construction in Europe. During my time there, I managed a diverse and talented team of technical experts throughout Europe who provided technical support similar to what I was doing previously in the United States. During this time, I learned about construction in Europe and how it is similar to and how it differs from construction in North America. I was able to visit many customers throughout Western and Eastern Europe, the former Soviet republics and the Middle East.
ASTM standards, though broadly respected, were generally not used with the exception of portions of the Middle East. European standards are driven by the European regulatory process, which is very different from the United States and most other areas of the world. My team in Europe worked very closely with their specific country and European regulatory bodies.
I was able to attend some European standards development meetings, and what I found frustrating is that they were not able to use appropriate and often better ASTM standards due to their regulatory restrictions. I also observed that the standards development process there was driven by material manufacturers and government officials without considering the voice of the customer. To me, the fact that ASTM requires that every committee be in balance, meaning that the majority of committee members are user or general interest members and not producers, helps to ensure better quality standards.
My first experience with ASTM was when I attended an ASTM C24 symposium in the early 1990s, and I began regularly attending C24 meetings shortly thereafter. I recall at the time how overwhelming the ASTM process seemed. It is amazing to see how ASTM has automated and streamlined its process since that era.
The first person who helped me to understand the significance of standards development was Jerry Klosowski. Jerry, who has since retired from Dow Corning, had been active with ASTM since the 1970s and is still active on our committee today. Jerry helped me understand the process and how we can advance our priorities through the committee process. Tom O'Connor, since retired from SmithGroup, is another person who has influenced me throughout my time with ASTM. Tom led the development of many of the structural glazing standards in our committee. [See O'Connor's feature article on structural sealant glazing.] Through the leadership of Jerry and Tom, Committee C24 has developed a unique culture of cooperation that persists today.
As I mentioned before, I made a study, in the early years of my career, of ASTM standards and symposia papers. These documents were written by experts in the field, and I found this was the single best way to learn about how to use my company's products correctly. At the time, Dow Corning kept files of all the ASTM papers. Today, for anyone who is starting fresh in any industry, the ASTM Standards and Engineering Digital Library is a great way to gain a basic understanding of what the state of the art is. If you're not using that tool to discover not only the newest information, but the history of where your technology has come from, you're truly missing out. That's what ASTM is all about - knowledge, and I can't think of a better repository of information on the work that ASTM committees have done than the digital library.
Dow Corning has 18 employees who participate on 10 different ASTM International committees. These members are from China, Germany, Taiwan and the United States. I should note that ASTM standards play a huge role throughout Asia; the Asian nations are very comfortable with ASTM standards due to the influence of the West in the design and construction of their buildings. In addition, there are 68 ASTM members from our two shareholders, The Dow Chemical Co. and Corning Inc.
Dow Corning has always been supportive of its employees' participation in standards development. There is never any question of the importance and value that this work brings to the company. The results are clear - many employees work in standards development and write technical papers, and this enables us to advance certain initiatives and priorities. Dow Corning also values standards that are developed in the consensus process, among competitors and product users. It is much more cost-effective to take a standard off the shelf than to develop your own standard, and it's a more effective way of showing your compliance to industry norms.
Two of my colleagues in particular have played key roles in supporting ASTM. Andreas Wolf, from Dow Corning GmbH in Wiesbaden, Germany, has been chairman of the four most recent ASTM C24 symposia, held in conjunction with the RILEM [International Union of Laboratories and Experts in Construction Materials, Systems and Structures] Technical Committee of ISO [International Organization for Standardization]. Each symposium has brought technical experts from around the world to use ASTM as a forum to share their latest research on sealants and adhesives. Another longtime colleague of mine, Larry Carbary, based at Dow Corning corporate headquarters in Midland, Mich., chairs two ASTM C24 subcommittees and most recently completed a term on the ASTM Committee on Technical Committee Operations. Larry is now serving as chairman of COTCO.
Standards are fundamental to the need of every manufacturer to support the claims that they make for their products. The challenge comes when we want to claim, for example, that our sealant has improved adhesion to a particular substrate or better durability in harsh environmental conditions; we must have standards that allow us to measure our products fairly. By having meaningful standards, we can more accurately measure and compare products and ideally differentiate performance.
Throughout my time with ASTM, Dow Corning has used the committee process to advance standards that allow a producer to measure product performance and to share this information in a useful manner with customers. Examples of this include the development of standards to measure sealant compatibility, sealant staining of porous substrates, the use of sealants with exterior insulation and finish systems, and the use of sealants in structural glazing and protective glazing applications.
Structural glazing is the common building design that uses silicone sealants to structurally attach glass on a building, independent of mechanical attachment. Through the development of robust test methods, practices and specifications, we have greatly reduced the risk of these designs.
Although I have been active in product commercialization and innovation throughout my career, it was after I returned to the United States to manage our product development team that I fully appreciated the role of standards in product innovations. Throughout all of the diverse innovation projects was a common theme of using standards to define our product development guidelines.
During this time, I also led a global technology program and worked with manufacturing plants and technology centers around the world to understand specific market needs. ASTM and other international standards helped us be more efficient in our product development work because we could scope and define up front the performance parameters of the sealant being developed. Standards allow us to communicate and measure our progress in a common language globally. By having established test methods, we can innovate more quickly by focusing on product development and not the development of new test methods.
In short, standards allow faster innovation. If you have the test methods up front, you can innovate more quickly. If you don't have the standards to begin with, innovation can be a much slower process.
Dow Corning Corp. is committed to developing materials and solutions that help address some of the most pressing needs of our society. It means acting responsibly in our own operations to protect the environment and our own people. When investing in sustainable initiatives, we focus on three factors: how will people be affected within Dow Corning and the communities served, how will the environment be impacted and finally, can this investment be made in a profitable way for our business. As it relates to sealants, this approach could impact the raw materials used, the way a sealant is manufactured, the manufacturing site and its proximity to the market, as well as factors such as a sealant's physical properties.
In July 2011, ASTM partnered with the Adhesive and Sealant Council to hold a Sustainability Summit in Chicago, Ill. During this two-day summit, key industry stakeholders gathered to discuss sustainability for sealants and adhesives. From this activity came various initiatives to summarize and share the benefits of sealants and adhesives in improving packaging materials, transportation and building performance.
Also, within Committees C24 and D14 on Adhesives, we will be developing terminology and standards to better define and guide people on the use of sealants and adhesives in sustainable designs. To me this is an excellent example of how a partnership between industry and ASTM can advance sustainability.
This is a difficult question to answer due to the diverse range of industries and governments around the world that our members are engaged with. Through my years with ASTM and particularly on the board, I have a much greater appreciation for the impact ASTM has on society. I would hope that all ASTM members have an understanding of the benefit that ASTM standards bring to facilitate market access and trade and improve product quality and safety.
As the people who understand these benefits best, our members can be the strongest advocates for ASTM, whether it is within their company or their industry organization, or when they interact with their customers or government officials. Each member, as a stakeholder for ASTM, should communicate to their respective industries the value that the ASTM standardization process can bring to their industry.
One simple example is the fact that the Adhesive and Sealant Council has a link to ASTM International on its website, thereby recommending the use of ASTM for standards development. Furthermore, ASC does not involve itself in developing standards - they and the industry they serve know that ASTM is the place to go for that particular need. That's a basic example of a successful relationship with a trade organization.
In recent years, there seems to be a trend toward the perception that standards should be free to the public since they are used in regulations. I fear that there will be pressure by governments and special interests to seize standardization for the good of the public. In my opinion, this would destroy the "free enterprise" model of voluntary consensus standards development employed by ASTM International. There has been a lot of discussion by the board about how to approach this issue, and I know good work will be done internally to meet the needs of industry and government while preserving ASTM's business model.
Another challenge for ASTM will be to continue to identify new opportunities for standards development. These opportunities may be within existing committees or in entirely new market segments that are in need of standardization. I think ASTM will also continue to be challenged with thinking broadly and across the various committees to identify emerging trends. Sometimes these broad, emerging mega-trends are not easily identified through the narrow focus of an ASTM committee. Since ASTM is essentially a bottom-up organization driven by its members, a process to continually identify these broad opportunities will need to be established and institutionalized. I think that the establishment of ASTM Committee E60 on Sustainability, which encompasses the needs of several sectors, is an example of how this can be done.
I also see that as companies continue to reduce costs, travel expenses to attend in-person ASTM standards development meetings will be challenged, and my fear is that ASTM will not have the right technical experts in the room developing standards. To ensure that the best standards are being written, ASTM needs to continue to invest in tools that allow participation by all interested stakeholders. This approach also facilitates greater global participation in the standards development process.
I would view success for ASTM in coming years to be measured by continued growth into new market segments. I would measure success by broad and growing participation of its members. I would hope to see the trend for greater global participation continue to rise as it has consistently for the past decade. I would also look for the broader use of ASTM standards globally, particularly in emerging and developing markets. Although I think this will not be easy, I would like to see ASTM standards used extensively throughout Europe in the development of European regulations and laws where appropriate.
I believe that ASTM has a very bright future and I look forward to the opportunity to serve as ASTM chairman of the board this year.
Kenneth F. Yarosh is a global service line manager for the specialty chemicals business of Dow Corning Corp., a global silicones and silicone-based technology firm headquartered in Midland, Mich.
Yarosh joined Dow Corning in 1985 after earning a B.S. in chemistry from Elmhurst College, Elmhurst, Ill. In 1987, he opened Dow Corning's regional sealants testing laboratory in Atlanta, Ga. From 1988 to 2002, Yarosh was a technical service specialist working closely with construction specifiers and sealant contractors on new and restoration building projects in North America.
In 2003, Yarosh became the European technical manager based in Brussels, Belgium, for Dow Corning's global construction industry. In this role, he managed technical professionals who provide support for silicone sealant, coating and water-repellent products used in building construction applications. In 2006, Yarosh relocated to Michigan to manage Dow Corning's sealants and adhesives product development group for the Americas.
A member of the ASTM board of directors since 2006, Yarosh was chairman of the Finance and Audit Committee in 2009. He is currently chairman of ASTM Committee C24 on Building Seals and Sealants, and previously served as both vice chairman and secretary. He works on a number of C24 subcommittees, and he is also a member of Committees D14 on Adhesives, E06 on Performance of Buildings and E60 on Sustainability.
Yarosh participates in many interlaboratory studies and has worked on several key standards for the glazing and weatherproofing industry. In addition, he serves as a global liaison between the sealants industry and Committee C24, and he is principal author of technical papers for C24 and E06 symposia. In 2005, Yarosh received the ASTM Award of Merit and title of fellow for his contributions to Committee C24. He has also been honored with Certificates of Appreciation in 1998 and 2000, and with the C24 Sealants Hall of Fame Award in 2001.
Yarosh has been a member of the Construction Specifications Institute, the EIFS [Exterior Insulation and Finish Systems] Industry Members Association, the Glass Association of North America, the Sealant Waterproofing and Restoration Institute, and the Adhesive and Sealant Council. He has also been a director for the Exterior Design Institute and the Protective Glazing Council.