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SME Speaks: SME's Annual Conference: Your Engagement Opportunity

Barbara M. Fossum



In 1938, SME began a longstanding tradition of gathering its members together every year to discuss Society business and to honor outstanding individuals for their contribution to manufacturing. What was originally known as the "Annual Dinner" evolved into the "Annual Meeting," and then into the "SME Annual Conference." While its title has changed, the two original key elements (the annual business update and the gala) are still a core part the Annual Conference. The training for chapter leaders, which was added some time in the past, has been modified and enhanced to provide value to members for both personal and professional development. The conference continues to evolve with content that addresses member-identified needs.

As the face of the conference has changed, so has the involvement of SME members, specifically the host chapter and advisory board of members to help the SME staff plan the conference, i.e., venue, technical content, speakers, tours, etc. In 2009, for example, Philadelphia No. 15 was instrumental in creating an Annual Conference that was both memorable and informative. This year, Nashville No. 43 is doing an outstanding job of ensuring that conference attendees will walk away not only with substantial manufacturing and leadership knowledge, but also with the essence of Nashville. The personal touch provided by the host chapter is an important element to the success of each year's conference. Nashville No. 43 has even reached out to SME members all over the country to encourage them to attend.

Each year we attempt to make the conference more valuable to members. This year we have increased the innovative aspects of the technology content and have added substantially more leadership and management content. Thanks to the members who helped the staff plan the June 6-8 event in Nashville, TN, we have a great deal to offer attendees. In addition to the learning opportunities, this SME Annual Conference offers you the opportunity to hear directly about the current state of the Society, to impact the future direction of the Society, and to meet face-to-face with and enjoy many of the chapter or technical community members with whom you may have been working with virtually. And remember, you can earn one professional credit per event toward recertification for the SME Certified Manufacturing Technologist (CMfgT) or Certified Manufacturing Engineer (CMfgE) certifications. You can access the simple recertification credit form and process at www.sme. org/certification. Below I have provided some brief conference highlights. You can get much more information at


Conference Highlights



We are very pleased to have Rodney Brooks, PhD, founder, chairman, and CTO of Heartland Robotics, Inc., share his experience with technology changes, and what it will take to remake the US manufacturing base. Brooks is a robotics entrepreneur and a manufacturing visionary. Besides the keynote address, he is being conferred with an SME Honorary Membership for exhibiting professional eminence among manufacturing engineers.


Industry Trends & Developments

SME member representatives from our Technical Community Network, all experts in their areas, will present the latest developments and trends from a broad range of industries, processes, and technologies in a fast-paced session.


Leadership and Management Sessions

A member-only workshop, inspired by the SME Leadership Series: Equipping the New Breed, is conducted by two SME volunteer leaders who will help you develop skills that you can use, professionally or personally, to lead substantial efforts. There are a number of other career-enhancing leadership and management sessions: connecting with a virtual audience; leading product diversification; leading green initiatives; developing a mission and measureable goals; developing an operations vision; tools for culture changes; the roles of motivation, feedback, empowerment, negotiation, persuasion and collaborating in leading and managing; and building a culture of sustainable innovation.


Innovations That Could Change the Way You Manufacture

The innovations that are featured in the INNOVATE track of the conference are from the 2010 list of innovations, which is maintained by the Innovation Watch Committee of our Manufacturing Enterprise Council (MEC), another SME group of volunteer leaders who work hard to keep us all knowledgeable of the value of leading-edge innovations in technology. Some of the innovations being features are nanoporous silicon electrodes, printed RFID tags, smart materials, and bio-based products and materials.


Interactive Tours

You have an opportunity to visit two very interesting facilities in the area; the tours were set up for you by Nashville No. 43. You can tour Gibson Custom, Art & Historic Division where all of the historic reissues, custom, and one-of- a-kind guitars are made. You also can tour the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) of the Department of Defense (DoD), a very large science and energy research laboratory. The tour spans several facilities within the laboratory where you will learn how R&D activities at Oak Ridge impact manufacturing.

In closing, I would like to extend a special thank you to the 2010 Annual Conference advisors: Karen (Culbertson) Clark, P L Severy & Co.; Garret Hendrix, Hendrix Engineering; Edwin Tonne, Metal Working Products; David Csokasy, The DJC Group; and Joe LaRussa, previously with Chrysler Group LLC, but now SME's director of membership, for their significant effort to make our 2010 Annual Conference a big success.

I look forward to seeing you at many of the activities, and I look forward to visiting with you at the "Welcome Barbeque."


Joe LaRussa Named SME Director of Membership

Joe LaRussaSME announced on March 17 that Joe LaRussa, PE, was named director of membership. LaRussa will be responsible for increasing the value of SME membership. His first official day as membership director was Monday, April 5. According to Mark C. Tomlinson, executive director & general manager of SME, "Joe will be a tremendous asset to the SME management team. His work as a volunteer and his understanding of manufacturing at a practical level will assist in the nurturing and development of existing and future members." Prior to joining SME, LaRussa was a project manager–customer quality officer for Chrysler Group LLC. Previously, he was a mobile electronics project manager at Visteon Corp. During his 11-year career at Visteon, LaRussa held various positions in product development, project management, and manufacturing engineering, generating profitable revenue and achieving production cost savings. LaRussa holds a BS in electrical engineering, an MS in automotive systems engineering, and an MS in engineering management. He has been an SME member since 1994, previously served as an SME Membership Consultant, a community advisor for the Product & Process Design and Management Community, and was appointed to the SME Member Council in 2009. In 2008, he received the SAE Foundation's Young Manufacturing Leadership Award.



Rodney Brooks 2010 SME Honorary Member

Rodney BrooksRodney Brooks, PhD, founder, chairman, and CTO of Heartland Robotics, Inc., will be conferred with an SME Honorary Membership during SME's 2010 Annual Conference in Nashville, TN, June 6-8 for exhibiting professional eminence among manufacturing engineers. Brooks is a founder, board member, and former CTO (1991-2008) of iRobot Corp. and the former director of the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and the MIT Computer Science & Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. He serves as a member of the Global Innovation and Technology Advisory Council of John Deere & Co. He received degrees from Flinders University of South Australia and a PhD from Stanford University. Brooks has published many papers on computer vision, artificial intelligence, robotics, and artificial life.



Small New Hampshire Startup Thrives, Even in Economic Downturn

Established in August 2008, True Tool Innovations (Croydon, NH) was the vision of Christina and Brian McKahan, who wanted to create a niche company that offered high-precision tool and component grinding for outsourcing. By offering products primarily through outsourcing, companies with long-established relation ships and contacts can expand their product line within their current customer base, without investing in new equipment or trained labor. Outsourcing is sometimes a necessity, and reaching out to someone you trust is essential. It is a unique service that can be offered in all confidence for tool production, operator training for turnkey production projects, product development, and consulting.

True Tool currently serves the medical, industrial, aerospace, mold and die, and performance racing industries. It implements the finest in Swiss grinding technology, relying on nanometer precision and years of grinding and machine programming experience. With this, the company can grind micro-end mills as small as 0.004" (0.10 mm), and a full range of medical components, from rasps to burrs. Using six-axis grinders gives True Tool the ability to grind intricate component details on round, and in some cases, nonround surgical cutting tools, as well as micro and special tooling for its customers' daily machining requirements.

Owners Christina and Brian McKahan, both formerly of Rollomatic USA, a Swiss builder of tool and cutter grinders, made the difficult decision to launch True Tool, even in the midst of an economic downturn. Christina brings 18 years of marketing and sales experience to the company, while Brian has 20 years of experience within the cutting tool industry. In September 2008, one month after True Tool began producing tools, Christina visited IMTS 2008 for the first time, where she hoped to introduce True Tool's products to prospective customers, as well as to visit and learn about equipment and accessories the company may need in the future. During that visit, Christina came in contact with SME Membership Consultant Sheldon "Skip" Marsh, president of V&A Cleaning Services Inc. This initial contact led to Christina and Brian both joining SME in 2009 and 2008, respectively. Since joining, both have become actively involved in SME's Monadnock No. 124 chapter. Recent activities on behalf of the chapter include meeting with New Hampshire Governor John Lynch and New Hampshire's Speaker of the House Terie Norelli to discuss manufacturing in the state and the importance of education to manufacturing. True Tools' facilities were also utilized for one of the chapter's 2009 plant tours. Both Christina and Brian also regularly attend monthly chapter meetings and plant tours.

The Society congratulates the McKahans on their achievements and their company's success. We wish them continued successes in the future. To learn more about True Tools Innovations, visit


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

Published Date : 5/1/2010

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