World Refractories Association General Assembly in Yokohama: Borgas urges to turn towards the future

Outgoing President Borgas hands over to the first female successor as of 2020

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At the General Assembly of the World Refractories Association (WRA) in Yokohama, Japan, held on Tuesday, President Stefan Borgas (CEO RHI Magnesita) took stock of his two-year term of office. “We have gained momentum over the last two years, and it is essential to keep going,” Borgas urged. “The refractory industry must finally have the courage to make a turn towards the future. If we keep following a set route, the industry will shrink, consolidate and commoditize. So let’s instead take the path of reorientation. Let’s become our customers’ partners who solve their problems. Let’s be the value drivers of tomorrow.”

The refractory industry is under pressure – a fact that has been known since well before the most recent flattening of the economy. Overall, the ceramic industry is not recording any major growth. In addition, artificial barriers are imposed and are having a negative impact on global trade. And last but not least, the CO2-intensive refractory industry is struggling with converting to sustainable production methods. Borgas on this topic: “Humanity needs to drastically reduce its ecological footprint to survive in the long run, and the refractory industry must contribute its fair share. We have already fulfilled our role as a part of society that creates value in the past. Now we have to expand our responsibility and help stop the climate crisis”.

In his keynote speech Borgas addressed the CEOs of the member organizations, looking back on a successful term of office: Since 2017, the WRA has increased the number of its members from 12 to 22 and has itself become a member of the World Steel Association (WSA). To define the substantive direction of interest to the global refractory industry, the WRA established working groups (Digital Data Standards, HS Codes, International Standards, Environmental Standards, Online Repository of Technological Papers). The organization set new highlights with the topic of innovation, hosting the industry’s first Innovation Conference in China in fall 2018. Moreover, WRA objectives and policies from 2020 onwards and the first Annual Report 2018 were drawn up. Further information on these topics is available on the WRA website.

At the end of the General Assembly, the successor of Stefan Borgas was elected. Carol Jackson, Chairman & CEO of HarbisonWalker International will be the first woman to assume the WRA presidency in January 2020. Borgas wished the new President a fruitful term of office and left her with a request: “Please unlock the full value potential of the refractory industry”.

Click here to see the keynote speech presentation of Stefan Borgas

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Interview with WRA President Stefan Borgas - April 2019

On 11 April 2019, On the occasion of the WRA Board meeting in Washington D.C., WRA’s President, Stefan Borgas, CEO of RHI Magnesita, sat down for an interview to talk about the future of WRA and the refractory industry.

Stefan, since January 2018 you chair the World Refractories Association. Time for an interim check. Are you still as enthusiastic as you were a year ago when you took over the presidency?

Of course, the WRA is a great pool of know-how. With joint forces, the refractory industry can represent its agenda better and louder than any individual member. We are determined to be a driving force, not only in our industry, but also in our customer industries.

About “joint forces”: It was your goal to increase the number of WRA members. Have you been successful?

I´m satisfied, but there’s still potential for improvement. The WRA was founded in 2014; when I took over the presidency last year, the WRA had four members, now we are 13. One or the other are still pending. We will definitely not let up. We need to be a powerful player to tackle the challenges our society is facing. We need to be part of the solution and contribute to sustainable wealth globally.

In 2017 the WRA became a member of the WSA, the World Steel Association. Since 2018 the WRA is even an affiliated member. How loud is the voice of the refractory industry there?

We have chosen to participate in four working committees of the WSA: Economics, Technology, Safety and Environment. I have to admit that our degree of recognition is not very high in these circles yet, but believe me, we´re working on it. How I´d like to catch the attention of the steel industry? To start with, production statistics of refractories could be of interest for the WSA. The WRA could therefore help to raise awareness for the importance of refractories in the steel industry.

As the world safety day is just around the corner, finally a question on the subject of security. You are known for strictly enforcing "Safety first" in all areas. Even in meetings, the topic is always on top of the agenda. What's the point?

The point is to give top priority to the issue of safety. This applies the WRA as well as all its members. "Zero accidents" must be our clear goal. The more attention the topic gets, the better. And it is well known that the attention span of meeting participants is highest at the beginning. But this is only a small tip. Much more important is the real reduction in the number of accidents.

So what is the WRA able to contribute to improve the situation?

The first step for improvement is always evaluation. This means in the first step that each member company has to record its own safety figures. From the sum of the data the WRA can gain valuable results. The issue of safety is one where we urgently need to work together. Competition considerations must take a back seat here. This is about avoiding accidents. Every accident is one too many. This is precisely why safety will always be number one on my agenda. … So please ask me that question next time right at the beginning.


WRA President Borgas: “Innovation takes courage and vision” - World Refractories Association: General Assembly and Conference on Innovation in Beijing

On November 15 and 16, the World Refractories Association met at the Extraordinary General Assembly and Conference on Innovation in Beijing. In addition to the representatives of the member companies, top-class experts met and discussed the future of the refractories industry for two days. For more information read our press release here.


World Refractories Association Board meeting at Ceramitec

The Board of the World Refractories Association met on Thursday 12 April on the occasion of CERAMITEC in Munich, Germany. The new WRA President Stefan Borgas opened the meeting by presenting the future orientations and objectives of the World Refractories Association (see the inaugural letter). The WRA Board Meeting offered an opportunity to present the progress of the work developed by the WRA notably regarding statistics, customs codes revision and safety data collection. The next WRA Board and General Assembly will be organised on 15-16 November in Beijing in China followed by a WRA Innovation Conference.


RHI Magnesita’s Stefan Borgas is the new president of the World Refractories Association (WRA)

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Brussels/Vienna, 16 January 2018 – Stefan Borgas, CEO of RHI Magnesita, was elected new president of the World Refractories Association (WRA) and took office in the first days of January this year. He will assume the presidency previously occupied by François Wanecq, former CEO of Vesuvius plc, for two years.

Borgas and the RHI Magnesita delegation directed their gratitude to Mr. Wanecq for his work and dedication as inaugural president of the WRA and thanked the whole Vesuvius team for the seamless handover they facilitated together with the WRA secretariat. “It is a great honor and pleasure for me to chair our industry’s global association. I will continue with my team to work hard to further promote the interests of the refractory industry worldwide and expand its global network”, said Stefan Borgas.

Focus on new members, agenda setting, safety and global raw material situation

After the successful merger of RHI and Magnesita in October 2017, the combined group RHI Magnesita set itself the ambition to be “the driving force of the industry”. Stefan Borgas sees this as a connecting factor for his presidency at the World Refractories Association. “RHI Magnesita and the WRA ¬ want both to drive positive change and innovation not only in the refractory industry but also in our customer’s industries. This means adapting to changing customers’ needs and the new technical or commercial requirements.”

Besides strengthening the role of the association founded just in 2014 as a counterpart to other world industry and customers organizations such as the World Steel Association, Stefan Borgas strives to increase the number of WRA members to unite as many producers as possible. In a next conceptual step, local members’ interests and global sector issues will be aligned to create a generally recognized industry agenda. Among the obvious main issues, Mr. Borgas will put a special focus on innovation, safety and safety data collection and the tense global raw material situation driven by stricter environmental regulations in China as thematic priorities for his presidency in 2018.

The next WRA Board Meeting will be held in the course of the CERAMITEC from April 10 – 13, 2018 in Munich, which is one of the leading international trade fairs within the industry and an annual meeting place for experts and decision-makers in refractories.

To read the full press release, follow this link.

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2nd World Refractories Association General Assembly 

The Second World Refractories Association General Assembly took place on 27 September in Santiago de Chile, in the context of the UNITECR 2017. The WRA General Assembly offered an opportunity to present the initial work developed by the WRA since the 1st General Assembly in Vienna in 2015 regarding statistics, customs codes revision and safety data collection. About 40 participants attended the event and exchanged on the future orientations and objectives of the World Refractories Association. The third WRA General Assembly will be organised in the context of UNITECR 2019 in Yokohama, Japan.