[Image above] Credit: ACerS

More than 90 attendees converged in Columbia, S.C. June 5–8 to take part in the combined meeting of the ACerS Structural Clay Products Division, ACerS Southwest (SW) Section, and Clemson University’s National Brick Research Center (NBRC). A record number of 18 companies sponsored this year’s meeting.

National Brick Research Center meeting

The meeting kicked off with the NBRC Spring Executive Committee meeting on Wednesday morning. NBRC director John Sanders, testing services manager Mike Walker, and other NBRC staff provided the members with updates on current research and other updates on the Center.

NBRC Director John Sanders leads the NBRC’s Executive Committee meeting. Credit: ACerS


Technical sessions

On Wednesday afternoon and Friday morning, attendees heard from 12 industry experts on a wide range of topics, including topics on energy, such as powering a brick plant with the sun at Palmetto Brick, results of an energy efficiency project at Meridian Brick’s Muskogee, Okla. plant, faster drying and firing considerations, and an update on energy savings at the kiln. Other topics included advances in automation and robotics, thin brick processing and testing, tools to determine extrudability, advances in die technology, OSHA’s silica rule, and an overview on clay brick standards.

ACerS SCPD chair John Dowdle and SW Section chair-elect David Ziegler welcome attendees. Credit: ACerS

George Campbell of J. C. Steele & Sons updates attendees on thin brick testing. Credit: ACerS

William Whitfield shares Meridian Brick’s energy efficiency project. Credit: ACerS

Mary Ann Keon of Acme Brick leads an important and interactive presentation on OSHA’s silica rule that went into effect on June 12, 2018. Credit: ACerS

Brick plant tours

On Thursday attendees toured two brick plantsCarolina Ceramics and Meridian Brick, both located in Columbia. At Carolina Ceramics, CEO Michael Borden and plant manager Grady Hansen greeted attendees, and, along with other staff, guided attendees through the plant. Carolina Ceramics has the flexibility to produce a wide variety of sizes and colors using the combination of shale and kaolin raw materials and various additives. Colors range from light buffs and greys, red and brown colors, to flat set flashed products on which they have built their reputation. Carolina Ceramics currently has one plant dedicated to producing FBX quality brick and the second plant producing rustic products to simulate brick produced hundreds of years ago. After the tour, Carolina Brick treated attendees to a much-appreciated barbeque lunch.

Michael Borden greets attendees at Carolina Ceramics. Credit: ACerS

Michael Borden explains plant operations. Credit: ACerS

SCPD chair John Dowdle presents a certificate of appreciation to Michael Borden. Credit: ACerS

Attendees enjoy the barbecue lunch provided by Carolina Ceramics. Credit: ACerS

At Meridian Brick, attendees were greeted by operations manager Jason Smith and proceeded to tour its Columbia 4 Plant, which was built in 1972 and is located on a 400-acre site just off I-20 adjacent to the Broad River. The facility has a rich history and established commercial architectural line featuring unique colors and textures drawn from three supporting mines totaling over 900 acres. The site also utilizes a dual saw to cut brick for its Authintic Brick line.

SW Section chair Japa Castro and SCPD chair John Dowdle present Jason Smith with a certificate of appreciation. Credit: ACerS

Attendees receive instructions from Jason Smith before the start of the tour of Meridian Brick’s Plant 4 and its thin brick production facility. Credit: ACerS

A pallet of Meridian’s thin brick is ready for shipment. Credit: ACerS


Networking and awards

Meeting attendees reconnected with old friends and built new relationships each evening in the hospitality suite, at the suppliers’ mixer reception on Wednesday and during a reception mixer which preceded the awards banquet on Thursday. Danser Inc. sponsored the pre-banquet reception and also took on the role of host for the hospitality suite.

During the banquet, ACerS president Mike Alexander greeted attendees and presented Global Ambassador Awards to two deserving recipients—John Sanders and Fred McMann. Sanders was recognized for his leadership, commitment, and dedication to the advancement of the brick and clay industry through ceramic education, research, and his support of ACerS Structural Clay Products Division meetings. McMann was recognized for his dedication and leadership in ACerS Southwest Section and his outstanding efforts in the organization of numerous SW Section meetings.

John Dowdle (Prince Minerals LLC) received a certificate of appreciation for his service as SCPD chair by incoming chair Luke Odenthal (Acme Brick). Japa Castro (Columbus Brick Company) received the SW Section Past Chair Award from Harland Dixson (Acme Brick) and John Spence (Acme Brick). Glenn Holladay (Materials & Ceramic Chemicals Inc.) received the SW Section Harry E. Ebright Award.

Mike Alexander presents ACerS Global Ambassador Award to John Sanders. Credit: ACerS

Mike Alexander presents ACerS Global Ambassador Award to Fred McMann. Credit: ACerS

Luke Odenthal presents SCPD certificate to John Dowdle. Credit: ACerS

John Spence and Harland Dixson present SW Section plaque to Japa Castro. Credit: ACerS

Brian Christenson presents the Harry E. Ebright Award to Glenn Holladay. Credit: ACerS

To view more photos, visit this link on Flickr.

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