Q&A with Dale F. Bohn
Tell us a little bit about your professional background.
My background is in chemistry and for nearly 30 years I’ve worked for Flint Hills Resources, which is a subsidiary of Koch Industries and a leading refining, biofuels, and petrochemical company. On my first day on the job all those years ago, I was handed an ASTM standards book and I haven’t looked back.
From my early days in the lab learning how to conduct test methods, to my management responsibilities today, ASTM has been a big part of my career and professional development.
Over the years I’ve served on numerous ASTM committees – from asphalt to petroleum — and I was a past chair of the standing Committee on Technical Committee Operations prior to joining the board of directors.
I’ve been fortunate to have great mentors along the way who taught me a lot and whom I continue to learn from.
How did you first get involved with ASTM?
I must admit I was something of a reluctant participant. A colleague named Dick Hatfield urged me to attend an ASTM meeting when I first joined my company, but at that young age, I didn’t see the immediate benefit of going.
But, as my colleague and earliest mentor explained to me, participating in ASTM gives us an opportunity to contribute to the content and quality of the test methods that are critical to maintaining the integrity of industry, and it gives us a chance to help make them even better.
I’m happy to say, once I got there and met the committee members, once I saw the knowledge and capability that they bring to the table, it really made a difference to me. I was honored to be able to sit next to these people and learn from them and share knowledge.
What is the value to your industry – or even other industries – of being at the standards development table?
The main value is to have a voice in shaping the standards of the future. You can be a part of a movement within your industry, or you can play catch-up, or you can be unaware that the movement is even going on.
It’s important to get there early so you can offer your knowledge and your company’s data.
If you’re making a product, the product needs to be capable of doing the job that it was created for, and one of the ways you get to that goal is to create a standard that specifies the key properties necessary. The power of multiple people working in the same direction accelerates scientific learning at a much faster pace.
How does your industry use standards?
From the very start, standards are used in the design and construction of our operating facilities.
Once you’re in operation and ready to start producing something, whatever you produce is tested to ASTM standards using ASTM test methods to make sure it’s fit for its designated purpose and can compete in the marketplace. At the end of the day you need to be able to demonstrate that the material you’re selling is in compliance with international regulations and will be safe for consumers and their property.
In our industry, commerce doesn’t terminate at state or international borders. ASTM specifications and test methods facilitate open commerce and open markets and form a common language among producers and purchasers so they can conduct business. When a test is run and the result is known, there’s no ambiguity about what that means.
Despite this precision, many standards, like performance-based standards, still empower companies to innovate. What are your thoughts on that?
I compare technological innovation to climbing a mountain. There’s more than one way to get to the summit of developing and marketing a competitive product that is high quality and safe. In some areas, performance-based standards are the best way to encourage companies to use their combined knowledge to figure out the most efficient and effective way to move industry forward.
In this application, a standard provides the baseline goal, but participating companies are free to innovate in order to reach that goal in the most efficient way possible — and even move the goal posts. At the end of the day you’re unleashing creativity. You’re unleashing innovation. [Click here for more on this topic.]
Tell us about your impression of ASTM International’s global leadership.
ASTM standards are part of the foundation of global markets for a number of products that are essential to the global economy. Our open and transparent process allows everyone to be involved — we are an organization without borders. When you — as an individual — go to an ASTM meeting, you have a voice, and your voice will be heard, and that is unlike many other standards organizations. ASTM is setting the standard globally.
In addition, ASTM’s memorandum of understanding program has more than 100 participating national and regional standards bodies. That means the knowledge and capability that’s already built into our standards is being leveraged by nations all around the world — by direct adoption, incorporation by reference in their own national standards, and use by their companies.
How do tools like ASTM Compass help Flint Hills Resources manage its use of standards and other services?
Compass is a one-stop shop for our business support needs for standards and other services. It’s where we go to get access to standards and test methods; it makes it easy to understand any changes that have taken place since the last version of a standard came out — and how we need to apply it in our own testing system. It gives us a level of comfort that we’re participating in the market properly. The availability of third-party content in Compass, like documents from the American Petroleum Institute, is also significant in our industry.
We also participate in the ASTM International Proficiency Testing Program, and we do that for a reason — it gives us the knowledge that our data is in line with the data of other testing facilities, and we know we’re exactly where we need to be as we move toward putting a product into the marketplace.
How does your company approach corporate responsibility?
Flint Hills Resources always strives to conduct itself as a responsible business and a good corporate citizen. That starts with always being compliant with all rules and regulations. We are also constantly working to improve every aspect of our business. That way we can continue to create value for society by making products that people need — products that improve people’s lives, while also working to minimize emissions and protect the environment. We never sit still or accept the status quo. We embrace change and encourage innovation.
What would you say to students and young professionals who are interested in getting involved in the standards community?
I would say do it. Most people come out of college and want to make a difference. ASTM International is a great place to do that.
If you want to have a voice, you need to get involved. It can help with your professional development, bring personal satisfaction, and help you hone your skills by working alongside and collaborating with some of the best experts in the world.
And if you’re a student right now, know that student membership is free; it’s a great way to learn about ASTM and take advantage of scholarship opportunities and even participate in standards research and development.
Is there anything you’d like to add?
It is an honor, and a privilege, and a blessing to be the 2018 ASTM chairman of the board. I’m looking forward to meeting more of my fellow members and seeing how the various committees work and contribute to the big picture. If you see me at meetings, by all means introduce yourself. To be a leader of this great organization is beyond anything I could have ever hoped for, so I’m looking forward to a great 2018.
Dale F. Bohn, 2018 chairman of the ASTM International board of directors, is product quality manager for Flint Hills Resources LP, St. Paul, Minnesota, a leading independent refining, chemicals, and biofuels company. In this position, he has responsibility for product quality and customer support, including development, formulations, testing, and process support for petroleum and other products, as well as training, regulatory compliance, and quality assurance oversight.
Bohn has been involved with the work of the committee on road and paving materials (D04) since he joined ASTM in 1996. He serves on multiple D04 groups and has been chairman of the subcommittees on emulsified asphalt specifications (D04.41) and emulsified asphalt test (D04.42). Bohn is also a member of the committees on petroleum products, liquid fuels, and lubricants (D02) and gaseous fuels (D03), and works on several D02 subcommittees, including the executive subcommittee. He served on the ASTM Committee on Technical Committee Operations from 2006 to 2011, including a term as COTCO chairman.
Bohn, an ASTM board member since 2012, served as chairman of the Finance and Audit Committee in 2015, and chairman of the board of the Safety Equipment Institute, an ASTM International affiliate, in 2017.
After graduating in 1989 from the University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point, with a B.S. in chemistry, Bohn became an asphalt chemist and subsequently technical leader for Koch Materials Co. In 2005, he became technical leader at Flint Hills Resources, and moved into the northern region quality manager role in 2008. He assumed his current title in 2011.