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Interview Home > Interview

Interview with Ms. Carol Jackson, Chairman and CEO of HWI, and President of WRA


Refwin: Thanks for accepting Refwin's Interview. As the leader of the company, how would you describe HarbisonWalker International (HWI), and what is your plan for the development of HWI?

Ms. Carol Jackson: With more than 150 years of industry leadership and global recognition, HarbisonWalker International is the largest refractory products and services supplier in the United States. Headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, our international network spans North America, Europe, and Asia.

Today, HWI is an innovative, thriving company with an outstanding team of exceptional people passionate about their work. We're focused on being the first and only call for our industry customers, being a sustainable enterprise for our next 150+ years, and being a great place to work for our employees.

Ms. Carol Jackson, Chairman and CEO of HWI, and President of WRA Refwin: What are the most prominent features and advantages of HWI   when compared with other refractories enterprises, or would you like   to  share some key points of HWI's growth?

Ms. Carol Jackson: Along with our colleagues at HWI, I'm proud of the global  recognition our company has earned through its long history. Around the world,  our company and product brands continue to be synonymous with refractory  leadership, reliability, and quality products and services. Our services team of  experts provides the broadest and deepest levels of refractory services in North America.

Our Advanced Technology and Research Center (ATRC) is one of the largest and  most advanced refractory research facilities globally. It continuously delivers  innovations in product development, robotics, and digitalization to transform  business models. We have produced many firsts in the refractory industry, such as our Comanche® product line for steel customers and even the industry's first  podcast series, "High Temperature Times (https://thinkhwi.buzzsprout.com),"  which has become extremely popular.

 We are committed to continuous investment to support our customers' growing needs. In 2018, we opened our South Point monolithics plant, the most technologically advanced refractories manufacturing facility in North America. We have also boosted production capabilities and upgraded facilities across our network. Since 2018, we've completed numerous capital investments at facilities to further optimize production and capacity, product quality, and delivery efficiencies for bricks, monolithics, and cast shapes. In 2021, we announced our plan to build a manufacturing and services hub that will serve the steel industry.  

Refwin: How does HWI layout the global market? What are the major target markets and their positioning?

Ms. Carol Jackson: While HWI is the largest provider of refractory products and services in the United States, focusing on the North American market, we have assets in other geographic regions. Our products are shipped globally because customers bring us to these regions, which is a testament to the loyalty of our customers and the strength of the long-standing relationships we have with them.

Refwin: In terms of procurement, which countries or regions does HWI mainly purchase from? What are your supplier selection criteria and the current challenges?

Ms. Carol Jackson: We are constantly innovating in the areas of raw materials and supply chain. While we source materials from all over the world, we maintain rigorous testing requirements and criteria, and any supplier who works with us clearly understands our expectations.

Just as we have seen with consumer goods, businesses and industries must also possess a high degree of flexibility and agility to manage their supply chains effectively.

Refwin: More and more enterprises attach importance to digitalisation and intelligence. What efforts and attempts has HWI made in this respect? What are the phased achievements?

Ms. Carol Jackson: At HWI, we are committed to being competitive. Advancements in technology, digitalization, and intelligence are vitally important to where our industry is headed for the future. Through our research and development capabilities and collaboration with customers and other partners, we contribute to the future – for our company and a new generation for our industry.

Refwin: As you said, the most rewarding goals for anyone - both in work and life – is to "do what you love and love what you do," what are the shining points of the refractories industry that attract you to engage in?

Ms. Carol Jackson: I've always been fascinated by manufacturing processes and products. Early in my career, I became drawn to working for companies that made things to improve the quality of life. The criticality of refractories to enable manufacturing of all the products and infrastructure that impact our lives makes my role at HWI even more meaningful.

I also enjoy our culture of continuous innovation. Our industry is almost as old as fire itself, so contributing to advancements for the next generation of refractories is particularly rewarding. I am also energized by building a company that is a great place to work for our employees. I'm proud to say that our people truly do live our company values and support one another through camaraderie in all that we do.

Refwin: Since you officially took office as the president of the World Refractories Association (WRA) in 2020, the COVID-19 epidemic has not ended yet around the world. How do you carry out your work and lead the common development of the global refractories industry enterprises during the two yearsWhat do you think are the main responsibilities of refractories enterprises to the industry?

Ms. Carol Jackson: At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we quickly realized that education was needed among all our stakeholders about the essential role of refractories in our critical infrastructure. Over 2020 and 2021, we made a great deal of progress on this front.

As I noted in a recent address to our WRA members, 2021 confirmed for all of us that challenging times call for stronger networks. And as an organization dedicated to proper and effective collaboration, our WRA members have driven cooperation within our industry -- and our customers' industries -- more than ever. Across the world, we've also been highly aligned in our collective, steadfast commitment to our people, businesses, and customers.

Our WRA Safety, Technical, and Communications committees have made great strides to support our industry and are poised to build on this vital work in 2022. At the same time, we'll continue to educate stakeholders worldwide about the essential – yet often unseen – role of refractories in global industry and our daily lives.

Refwin: What development trends do you think are worth looking forward to in the next 3-5 years in the world refractories industry?

Ms. Carol Jackson: It's such an exciting time to be in our industry, which has increased its focus on sustainability and environmental responsibility, including a commitment to solutions for low carbon emissions and recycling, for instance. At HWI, we just announced our new Director of Recycling, who will develop and commercialize a platform of offerings related to recycled refractory materials to help realize customers' long-term sustainability aspirations while supporting our business and environmental goals. We also launched an employee-led Sustainability journey for our company in 2021. Our employee teams have established an ongoing effort to communicate our current practices, tackle the challenges we face as an industry, and create actionable goals for our operations.

We are also excited about developments in raw materials innovations and advancements in elevating the performance of our products and ease in installing and maintaining our products.

Refwin: The rapid development and expansion of a company cannot be separated from the merger and reorganization. Does HWI have any acquisition plan in the future?

Ms. Carol Jackson: At HWI, we are focused on flourishing as a sustainable company for the long term. We're committed to leveraging our success to invest in our company's future. In fact, we've recently announced our plans to support steel industry customers by investing in a new facility that will serve as a manufacturing and service hub for steel customers in the United States.

We're assessing strategic site options, and construction is slated to begin immediately once the location is determined. The new facility is expected to open in 2022.

Refwin: OK, Thank you. Look forward to a more brilliant future for HWI under your leadership!

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