SME Speaks: A Look Ahead
For many of us in the manufacturing community, 2008 was a year filled with economic struggles, a historic election, and a growing sense that change is necessary. Every morning, the news headlines tell us that manufacturers are fighting a battle to keep their products in the marketplace, while others are waging a war to keep their doors open and their employees working. There are those, however, who have decided that their old methods and current product lines will have to change to keep up with the evolving world that we live in. As I begin my term as the 2009 SME President, I would like to take this opportunity to look ahead at the year to come, and discuss what we at SME and all of us in the manufacturing community can do to prosper in this tough economic climate.
For many years now, the auto industry has been a major manufacturing base in the US. Unfortunately, the Big Three have been struggling from years of bad management decisions, heavy labor and health care costs, and a failure to keep pace with consumer trends, such as the growing demand for hybrid vehicles like Toyota's top-selling Prius (San Francisco Chronicle, November 2008). The Big Three's struggles have trickled down to their suppliers, which, having been so closely aligned with one particular industry for many years, have experienced "a direct and volatile effect on their businesses" (Business Review, September 2005).
Many auto suppliers have not upgraded their manufacturing processes to be leaner and more cost-efficient. In 2006, diversification was rare among auto suppliers (New York Times, 2006). Today, this diversification is increasing out of necessity and for survival. Other industries and opportunities are picking up the slack. For instance, there are more than 20,000 medical device companies comprising an estimated $220 billion market. Contract medical-device manufacturing alone was an $18 billion market in 2007. It is anticipated to grow to $32 billion by 2011 (Michigan Economic Development Corp., May 2008).
This transition and diversification is necessary in today's economy. It's also one of the reasons that SME's Plan 2010, and the newly approved Plan 2012, have targeted particular industry focus areas, such as aerospace and defense, oil and gas, transportation (motorsports), and medical device manufacturing. In the coming years, we anticipate these areas will see a great deal of growth. In particular, according to the U.S. Department of Labor - Bureau of Labor Statistics (December 2007), in the next decade aerospace engineers are expected to have a 10% growth in employment. An increase in the number and scope of military aerospace projects will generate new jobs. In addition, new technologies expected to be used on commercial aircraft (produced during the next decade) should spur demand for aerospace engineers. Also, with the growth of medical device manufacturing, the need for more biomedical engineers is expected to grow as well. The US Department of Labor predicts a 21% employment growth for these engineers over the next decade, which is considered to be much faster than the average for all occupations. The BLS contributes this to "the aging of the population and the focus on health issues," which "will drive demand for better medical devices and equipment designed by biomedical engineers."
When looking at these particular manufacturing areas and engineering careers, it is important to remind ourselves that manufacturing is not dying—it is only transitioning into different fields and different areas. The US is still a competitive and highly productive manufacturing presence, and there are many manufacturing jobs available—just not in the same fields as before. SME's online Jobs Connection currently has more than 1000 jobs available in a variety of occupations from manufacturing engineers to supply chain managers. SME members have free access to Jobs Connection, and their resumes are considered first by potential employers. This is a valuable resource for SME members who may have recently lost their jobs, need to relocate, or want to switch careers.
While SME's online resources are great tools, the Society's most valuable asset is the connectivity to its members and their substantial manufacturing knowledge. However, it is up to you, the reader of this article, to participate in the Society and share your wealth of technical knowledge with other members. Networking opens up new avenues for everyone. I can't emphasize enough the value of being an active, involved member, or how important it is to the Society and to you as an individual. By participating in your local chapter, Technical Community Network, or industry focus area, you may be able to help a struggling manufacturing practitioner or access knowledge vital to your own growth and development.
This coming year is predicted to be a year of difficult business and economic challenges. Obviously, these pressures will affect our manufacturing environment. In times like these, your Society becomes more important than ever. Through your participation, you are equipped with vast resources to be a more effective contributor, thereby increasing your own net worth and, in turn, your value to your company or field of endeavor.
Longtime Chapter Members Honored
SME Chapters Dayton 18 and Cincinnati 21 recently celebrated their 70th anniversaries as SME Senior Chapters. During the celebration, two longtime SME members, Robert L. Wolff, FSME, and John "Jack" Clock, CMfgE, were also honored for their longtime dedication and extraordinary contributions to the Society.
Robert Wolff, FSME, is one of the founding advisors of SME Student Chapter S070 at the University of Dayton, and he has devoted the last 50 years to maintaining this chapter. His dedication to teaching, along with his contributions to SME chapters, helped earn him one of SME's longstanding honors: the Award of Merit, which carries a lifetime achievement status. Most recently, Wolff served on the Society's Board of Directors from 2006 to 2007. He has been a full-time University of Dayton faculty member since 1958. Wolff currently teaches would-be engineers how to incorporate best business practices into manufacturing.
John "Jack" Clock, CMfgE, became an active member of Cincinnati 21 in 1974 and served as chapter chair from 1979 to 1980. After relocating to Rhode Island from Cincinnati, he served on the board of Little Rhody 53 from 1980 through 1984. During this time, he held various leadership roles within the chapter, including bulletin editor and program chair. From 1981 to 1984, Clock broadened his efforts on behalf of SME beyond the local level by serving on the board of Region I. He soon returned to the Cincinnati area and eventually became Region IV Chairman in 1992–1993 and remained active until the SME regional system was disbanded in 2003. Clock took up SME's banner again as a Membership Consultant, a position he has held for the last five years. He will soon be stepping down from his Membership Consultant role. Clock is currently the president and owner of Davidson Industrial.
Industry Award Nominations Needed
Established in 2008 by SME's Rapid Technologies & Additive Manufacturing Community, the RTAM/SME Industry Achievement Award was developed to recognize an individual, team, or company for outstanding accomplishments that have had significant impact within the additive manufacturing industry, or in any industry through the application of additive manufacturing technologies. As the name suggests, the award recognizes achievements that have been implemented or deployed in a commercial/industrial environment, rather than research investigative work. Winners are selected with consideration for the scope and scale of benefits realized, and the potential future impact their work will have on the industry.
Nominations for the 2009 Industry Award must be submitted by January 31, 2009. To learn more, visit www.sme.org/industryaward.
2009 Direct Digital Manufacturing Competition
For the 2009 Direct Digital Manufacturing Competition, sponsored by the RTAM's Direct Digital Manufacturing Tech Group, student designers are encouraged to use their imagination to arrive at a personal convenience or interface/interactive device design that exploits the geometric capabilities of direct digital manufacturing (DDM) to the fullest. DDM (or rapid manufacturing) has the unique capability of being able to produce virtually any shape of component, no matter how complex. This allows new possibilities for designers both in terms of individual component design and overall product design that makes use of component consolidation.
In its third year, this competition is open to high school, college, and university students. Submission deadline is March 30, 2009. Entries will be judged by April 6, 2009; winners will be notified at that time. An announcement of the winning entries will be made at SME's RAPID 2009 Conference and Exposition being held in Schaumburg, IL, May 12–14, 2009. To submit your design, visit www.sme.org/ddmcompetition.
Youth Programs Receive Endorsements
The Gateway Academy, a nationwide initiative of the SME Education Foundation (SME-EF), has received the endorsement of the Academy of Engineering (New York)—a dynamic partnership between the National Academy Foundation (New York), the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering (White Plains, NY), and Project Lead The Way (Clifton Park, NY). The partnership of these three organizations focuses on recruiting more high school students to choose careers in engineering and engineering technology, increasing participation of women and minorities, and preparing high school graduates to enter post-secondary engineering programs fully competent in the required mathematics, science, and technical subjects.
In addition, the Shop Rat Foundation (Pleasant Lake, MI), an organization dedicated to the advancement of the skilled trades industries offering hands-on skilled-trade education to young people, has endorsed SME-EF's national youth programs as well. The broader educational goal of these industry collaborations is to address the need for a skilled workforce by offering a full range of technology-based curriculum designed to appeal to young people and increasing their career potential. Initial plans are to introduce new curriculum at youth-based engineering programs offered by the Foundation. Each organization offers a common hands-on learning philosophy with programs based on honing student skill sets in math, engineering, science, and technology.
Volunteer Leaders Wanted
Each year, new leadership is elected for SME's local chapters. However, there are still many positions that go unfilled, and 2009 is no exception—your local SME Chapters need volunteers to get involved in leading, planning, and participating in chapter activities. If you've ever wanted to make a difference in the Society, give back to your local manufacturing community, network with your peers, or mentor an up-and-coming engineer, becoming a volunteer leader is a great way to do so.
If you would like to become a volunteer leader, contact your local chapter chair. He/she will be able to tell you which positions are currently vacant. Contact information, chapter Web sites, and current Chapter news is available at www.sme.org/chapters.
This article was first published in the January 2009 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine.