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SME Speaks: How to Create and Sustain a Successful Chapter

Juergen BoenischToronto No. 26 was founded in 1939 and is one of the oldest SME chapters. Over the years, our past chairs, executives, supporters, and predecessors have done a remarkable job of arranging countless and impressive events, plant tours, technical education, social gatherings, and workforce development.

Like most SME chapters, Toronto No. 26 has been affected by the changing manufacturing environment and dwindling membership numbers. The global Society membership loss exceeded 50% over the past six years, and in 2009 alone, more than 10% of chapters dissolved.

Nevertheless, Toronto No. 26 managed to reverse its declining membership trend in 2007, and has since increased its membership by 30%.

How is it possible to increase chapter membership by 10% every year? It all starts with a small number of people who want to improve a given situation, and who feel obliged to contribute to their community or society at large. Most likely you will find this group of people in your chapter or surrounding area; often one person who wants to change the world is the key.

At Toronto No. 26, we had a nucleus of people willing to roll up their sleeves and start working to bring the chapter forward. In addition, the senior executives and past chairs actively supported our efforts. Remember, the single most important aspect of forming a great chapter is the people you work with.

To improve, "Follow the Process." Like a house needs a foundation, chapter enhancement requires following a certain process. Following the process means forgetting about the obvious problems, such as membership loss. We need to start thinking differently, because we cannot solve problems using the same approaches and tools used to create the situation in the first place. If we want to stand up against the ever-faster-changing world around us, we clearly need to step out of our comfort zone and start questioning the obvious.

It also means treating the apparent problem as a consequence of something else and realizing this "something else" might not even exist today in its original form. One example is classical manufacturing. From mainly metal-bashing, manufacturing expanded into other industries, such as pharmaceutical, medical, food, construction, finance, and energy, even to business service. Is your chapter following this shift?

As your company has no single "improvement screw" to turn, there is no single chapter-enhancement screw either. But don't we often search for exactly this single screw in extensive chapter meetings and discussions?

We need to find the "something-else" screws which, if turned, will affect your chapter in a positive way. How do we find these screws? By asking current and potential future stakeholders, who will most likely confirm any new directions and trends, and where to take the chapter in the future.

For our chapter, the stakeholders included current and past chapter executives, members, industry representatives, chapter supporters, and representatives from education, the public sector, and business immigration. Representatives from local specifics, industries, and relevant trend sectors, e.g., health or energy, should also be considered.

Probably the most important step in a chapter-enhancement process is the visioning process. The vision process provides the answers to the question: "If everything is ideal, three to five years from now, what would your chapter be doing and what might it look like?" A clear, sound, and compelling vision provides the required guidance and energy to bring people together and to focus on the defined targets.

A little over three years ago, Toronto No. 26 started our visioning process with 35 stakeholders. In two sessions with an external facilitator, we created our five vision principles and the corresponding vision statement: "Leading Manufacturing Innovation through People." The vision principles drove the strategy and objectives for a three-year and one-year plan with tasks, responsibilities, and timelines.

This vision, based on the input and involvement of your stakeholders, is a crucial step in chapter revitalization. Here, new ideas will emerge and unseen possibilities will become visible. While the overall vision does not change very often, the strategy and objectives need to be revisited every year to verify priorities and to adjust tasks as needed. One interesting part of your new vision is how it will integrate nicely with SME's overall vision.

In 2006, Toronto No. 26 launched its first special tech group (STG)—the Human Side of Lean. These groups provide a neutral platform for open information exchange around a certain subject of interest, mostly on a monthly basis. Today, we have eight STGs with a chair and vice-chair; each group operates fairly independently.

Over the years, the number of active supporters increased, and we were able to install 10 committees. These committees are working on strategically important aspects, such as professional development, professional networking and career, training and education, sponsorship, student chapters, senior member offerings, IT and marketing, affiliations, and youth support. As a result, participation in our monthly executive meetings has increased from less than five people to 12–15 people.

Today, the chapter holds training sessions, plant tours, workshops, speaking engagements and presentations, technical education, bestpractice sharing, social gathering, networking and career events, youth support, and more. There are approximately 100 activities per year, or close to two events per week.

These chapter events attract members and nonmembers, but also increasingly CEOs and presidents of small and medium-sized enterprises and middle management of larger corporations, and provide an important, crucial link to industry. Companies promote our events and have started to identify themselves with SME. The impact can also be seen in the increasing number of SME/AME/Shingo/ASQ Lean Certification courses and exam participants, currently estimated at 30 for 2010.

Toronto No. 26 participates in the majority of Canadian manufacturing tradeshows. We also work closely with SME Canada to actively promote SME events within our network. This promotion generates more SME awareness, attracts new members, raises sponsorship, and ultimately reflects in increased revenue for SME and our chapter.

Currently, we are also working on implementing a lean certificate for students at the secondary school level. This certificate will be supported by the SME Education Foundation, industry, and the Ministry of Education.

All of these activities represent doing "something else" right, and the consequence of doing so is a successful chapter.

Local chapters are essential to growing our membership. Chapters operate at the front line and feel the pulse of industry. Chapters understand best what is needed and what the areas of interest are. They can effectively influence member and industry engagement, can act as interface to education, and their work will lead to membership growth and development. Local chapters need to act as a bidirectional communication highway between frontline reality and SME as an organization, being the ears and voices of the Society.

By following the process and getting out of our comfort zone, chapters can be created, enhanced, and sustained, as shown by Toronto No. 26. To learn more about us, visit Good luck with your future efforts.


Sustainable Manufacturing:
An Essential Component of the Global 'Clean' Economy

Silvia Leahu-Aluas, MSME, MBA

Sustainable Manufacturing Consultant

Eileen P R Burstein, MSME

Engineering Consultant

Sustainable manufacturing is part of a larger concept, sustainable development, which emerged in the early 1980s in response to increased awareness and concern over the environmental impact of economic growth and global expansion of business and trade. The US Department of Commerce defines sustainable manufacturing as "the creation of manufactured products that use processes that minimize negative environmental impacts, conserve energy and natural resources, are safe for employees, communities, and consumers and are economically sound." Expanding on this definition, the authors suggest that sustainable manufacturing is a business practice of the industrial sector. It extends all the company's processes and decisions outward into the social and natural environments in which it operates and which it affects, with the explicit objective of reducing or eliminating any negative impact, while pursuing the desired level of technological and economic performance.

How is sustainability different? Sustainable manufacturing is more comprehensive and systemic than green, eco-manufacturing, eco-machining, or clean production. Sustainable manufacturing addresses all three components of sustainability: environment, economy, and society. While it includes all the environmental concerns, such as pollution, material toxicity, and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, it is not limited to those concerns, nor is it a component of an environmental management system. Another important distinction is the inclusion of time as a component of sustainable manufacturing, shifting the focus from extending the viability and longevity of the business to assessing and owning the entire life cycle of a product or service.

Sustainable manufacturing uses both technological and nontechnological solutions, from selection of materials and production processes to organizational mission, structure, and performance reporting. It shifts the focus from "end-of-pipeline" solutions such as disposal of waste, cleanup, and recovery, which is a liability approach, to the very beginning of the pipeline at the product or process design stage, which is an opportunity approach.

Why is it important? There are several significant drivers for adopting sustainable manufacturing as a core component of any company's strategic initiatives. The current global economic crisis has exposed the fragility and, in some cases, nonviability of existing business models targeting economic growth without assessing the negative impacts outside the company's boundaries. The pressures from all categories of stakeholders, customers, investors, employees, suppliers, competitors, communities, local and national governments, international regulatory bodies, and nongovernmental organizations compel manufacturers to address the sustainability of their products and processes. Manufacturing operations are directly impacted by the scarcity of critical resources, including energy, raw materials, and water, as well as the price volatility caused, in part, by increased competition for and increased extraction costs of depleting virgin materials and nonrenewable resources.

What is its value? Substantial changes for engineers are implicated by this new practice. Reallocation of time in product lifecycle management to the R&D stage allows for the use of lifecycle analysis (LCA) and lifecycle costing (LCC). With the establishment of sustainable design practices, and as the availability of information related to sustainable decision making becomes readily available, the time and costs required to reduce or correct adverse effects of product production, distribution, and use will decrease or be eliminated. Increased cooperation between design and manufacturing engineers is required, including the use of virtual manufacturing techniques before launch to full production. The current practice of DFM becomes design for sustainable manufacturing. Optimization models will be aimed at different targets than simply minimizing cost. New models will minimize GHG emissions, energy use, water use, material use, and use of restricted materials.

New sustainable practices will require innovation and the creation of new materials, components, machines, and controls. Production process design will include new attributes including minimum energy and material content; maximum reusable, recyclable, and recycled content; and maximum longevity and repairability. Production processes such as welding, milling, casting, grinding, and stamping will be characterized by sustainability criteria. Rather than focusing only on low-cost sourcing, the new practice will include criteria such as low-energy or lowcarbon footprint sourcing.

This article is the first in a series focusing on current trends and future opportunities surrounding sustainability and its impact on manufacturing.


This article was first published in the July 2010 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine. 

Published Date : 7/1/2010

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