2020 Vision and beyond

16 December 2020

We have come to the time of year when I check back against my New Year’s Resolutions. I see that for 2020 I said I was going to work more from home and spend more time with my family. I think I can tick those off – although it is not quite the way I had anticipated achieving them.

2020 has clearly been a very different year for us all. As the first talk of the pandemic was arriving, EEMUA had been having a good year. Our seminar on corrosion, held in Chester in February was a sell-out success, and our stand at the StocExpo storage tank exhibition in Rotterdam in March was the most visited at the event. But this was our last face to face event as lockdown started across the world.

Bizarrely, we had talked about a pandemic during a review of our risk register in 2019. I remember some discussion about what would, and would not, be possible. Things were not light-hearted when we implemented the plans we had – but we were glad we had plans even if, sometimes, they required a few adjustments.

In common with many organisations, we have found that COVID-19 has accelerated many of the developments we had planned, or that were already underway. The investment in our online meeting and event platforms has paid off, as our seminar programme has continued online. There have been the odd bumps in the road; almost literally as someone digging up the road outside the house of one of our presenters put his shovel through the power cable mid-sentence. Audience numbers have grown, as has the geographical spread from which attendees come, so the reach out to all parts of the world has been a highlight of 2020. Our expanded free to all webinar programme has helped further our members’ reach and deservedly expand their reputations as experts in engineering good practice.

It has not just been events that have gone online. Working Groups and Technical Committees have accelerated along the route they were already on. Members are getting the most out of their membership by participating to influence direction in matters important for the industry. The Committees and Working Groups are great ways for subject matter experts to hone specialisms that they rarely have an opportunity to sharpen; and running them online removes barriers of travel and inconvenient timing from the chance to gain real insight, supporting people in the industry in their work and careers at a level above training courses. The move of the EEMUA Council’s meetings online gives a similar opportunity to all Members to help determine the strategic direction of their Association.

We had already dipped a toe into online learning. The suite of e-learning modules continued to be popular with members, and two new modules were added – on pressure systems and process safety. We went far deeper with the new blended learning course – Mechanical Integrity Practitioner Certificate – which continued virtually unaffected. The lessons we had learned from MIPC® were used in a massive effort directed at complementing our classroom course portfolio with live, online options. Within a matter of weeks, we were able to deliver our entire portfolio live online, including the exams – an immense achievement by the team.

The Summer was spectacular in terms of project delivery, with the new e-learning, the move online, and a clutch of new publications.

But this achievement came at a cost and, hand on heart, we must admit that some focus was lost. While many technical committees and projects thrived, a few fell through the cracks as resource was diverted to shift items online and complete the final push on projects and courses. 2021 must be a year of ensuring that everything is followed up on.

We were still able to hold the Early Years Industry Award 2020 which recognises the efforts of new starters within the engineering field in EEMUA Member companies, demonstrating their communication skills, engineering application and leadership in their specific specialism. The well-deserved winner was Morgan Tiley of Calor Gas.

EEMUA has shifted to ensure that, even under the new conditions, we deliver to our Members, and the wider stakeholder community – in terms of our usual specialist offerings in tank storage, pressure systems, alarm systems, cyber security, and many others; developing areas such as energy transition; and in new areas such as safely delivering outages under COVID safe regimes. I hope that we will return to face to face interaction, and opportunities to visit our Members and hear from them in their working environment.

That is not my only hope for next year. We have a busy schedule lined up, including our first online Conference on February 4th. While it will not be possible to meet in person, I will try to catch up online with as many people as I can.

Other plans reflect Members’ interests expressed to us through both formal and informal means. We aim, for instance, to put a spotlight on EEMUA’s relevance in the transition to renewable energy and sustainability, as well as our ongoing work in ageing plant.

2020 has been a year when we have learned that the most important thing about plans is that they should be flexible, so those we have for 2021 come with several options, depending on the virus, and how the world has responded to it. One thing that is not optional is keeping our Membership at the heart of what we do and remembering our key goal: “helping you improve safety, efficiency and compliance.”

As ever, I realise many of you will be working over the holiday period, but I hope you have a chance to spend some good times with your friends and families.

On behalf of the Association, thank you for your support in 2020, and I look forward to working with you in 2021.
Stefan Kukula
Chief Executive / EEMUA