Never do today what you can put off until tomorrow. That could be one of the slogans of the rubber industry. Problems like air pollution, scrap tire proliferation, production overcapacity and import infestation never were addressed until each became a crisis.
Here's a future crisis, well into the making. The time will come when a rubber product maker needs a rubber chemist, and there just won't be any available. The time to deal with the situation is now.
Better yet, yesterday.
The problem starts at the university level, where rubber chemistry isn't a profession that attracts many candidates.
There are several reasons for that, as described in a number of stories in this issue.
For example, the universities say they get little funding for rubber research at the graduate school level. That means students work with materials other than rubber, and promising chemists are lost to the industry before they even begin.
And why would someone want to go into rubber chemistry? The rubber industry is a mature, basic industry that lacks the glamour of other sciences. At least that's the perception.
The industry's image is further battered by continuous downsizing as companies relentlessly try to become low-cost producers. A business always in a state of flux doesn't sound too secure to the new chemist.
What can the industry do? More funding of university programs, more involvement in stirring up interest in rubber science is vital. As Frank Kelley, dean of the College of Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering at the University of Akron, said, the industry has to ``make more rubber lovers.''
Rubber companies should heed that advice now, before they end up with an empty chair where a rubber chemist should be sitting.