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SME Speaks: Collaborate or Compete?

Mark C. Tomlinson

In the day-to-day activities of a manufacturing enterprise, practitioners are always looking for ways to obtain a competitive edge that allows their company to gain an advantage over the competition. Innovation and process improvement are key attributes in a company's success.

To evaluate the success of a society like ours and determine what is best for our members, readers, and product buyers, we have to be mindful of our mission—which is to transfer knowledge. SME evaluates the needs of the practitioners, and then finds the knowledge owners to satisfy those needs. Using different delivery mechanisms, we then disseminate the information. How SME delivers this knowledge is through its products and services, such as local engagement (chapter and technical meetings); events (tradeshows and conferences); publications (ME magazine, yearbooks, books and videos, technical papers, and peer-reviewed journals); professional development (certifications, corporate and public training); and our Education Foundation (Gateway Academies).

Our valuable volunteers and professional staff are constantly determining what is needed and how it can be delivered. They are also evaluating whether it is best to develop and compete or to partner with another organization to eliminate confusion in the marketplace.

Partnering with organizations that have similar objectives to ours is a great way to enhance the quality of the product offering and improve its credibility. The following are a few examples of how SME collaborates:

Local Chapters and Technical Communities

The best way to transfer knowledge is to engage people locally. Our local chapters and Technical Community Network (TCN) provide programs that are relevant to manufacturers in their region/area of interest. This is often accomplished through collaboration with local industries, societies, and associations. For example, in June the Bioengineering Tech Group, part of SME's Manufacturing Education & Research Community, partnered with the New Jersey Chapter of the International Society of Pharmaceutical Engineers to present the first symposia on design and production of medical products. SME members Lee Loeb; Arif Sirinterlikci, PhD; and Tugrul Ozel, PhD, each gave a detailed presentation at the symposia. This symposium was not only a great collaborative effort, but it also gave these SME members an opportunity to network and share their technical expertise with others in this field.

FABTECH International & AWS Welding Show

One of the largest and fastest-growing trade shows in North America is the result of ongoing and growing collaboration. In February 1981, SME and the Fabricators and Manufacturers Association (FMA) co-sponsored FABTECH International, which, at the time, was a new conference and expo held in Cleveland for the metal fabrication industry. There were just 161 exhibitors. Since then, the partnerships have grown to include AWS (American Welding Society) and PMA (Precision Metalforming Association). An estimated 20,000 people from around the world are expected to visit the FABTECH International & AWS Welding Show 2008 (in Las Vegas), which will feature more than 800 exhibits. In 2009, FABTECH will be held in Chicago, and is expected to cover 650,000 net ft2 (60,385 m2), with 1300 exhibiting companies. Industry events are a great way to see and discuss technology and share information—with our peers and outside organizations.

Lean Certification

In 2005, a group of volunteers identified the need for a credential that would be recognized by both industry and practitioners as the "must-have" certification. Through collaboration and partnership, this was accomplished. The Association of Manufacturing Excellence (AME), the Shingo Prize for Excellence in Manufacturing, and SME have collectively, through all three organizations' volunteer networks, developed three certifications (Lean Gold, Silver, and Bronze) in less than 18 months. To date, more than 2600 examinations have been administered.

Gateway Academies

The SME Education Foundation, in partnership with Project Lead the Way® a math and science curriculum based on teaming, has developed a model for summer camp programs that involves both local schools and industry. In 2008, these programs were offered in 27 states and more than 4000 students attended them. With the pool of science and engineering talent shrinking, this joint venture helps the Foundation fulfill its goal of filling the pipeline with students interested in math, science, and engineering.

There are many more examples of collaboration by SME. The goal of the Society is to transfer knowledge using its products, services, and partners, and effectively deliver information that supports the needs of the manufacturing industry and its practitioners. Through collaboration, not competition, SME is well on its way to accomplishing this goal.

About the author

Mark C. Tomlinson, CMfgT, CEM, is executive director and general manager of SME. He has more than 28 years of experience in industry. He is the past chair of SME's Manufacturing Enterprise Council, and has been an SME member since 1996.


Exceptional Candidates Needed

By Marvin F. DeVries, PhD
Professor Emeritus
Department of Mechanical
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Madison, WI

In May 1986, the charter class of SME Fellows was inducted. In all, 97 Fellows were installed. This particular group was made up of a distinguished assembly of all living SME past International Honor Award recipients who were Society members. Since then, an additional 230 Fellows have been added to this prestigious group.

The SME Board of Directors created the College of Fellows to honor those members who have made outstanding contributions to the field of manufacturing. SME is once again asking you to submit your qualified nominees for the 2009 SME College of Fellows.

What is a Fellow?

A Fellow of SME is a member recognized by the manufacturing community as a contributor to the social, technological, and educational aspects of the profession. This is a distinctive and esteemed honor that can only be earned through years of dedication and service to manufacturing engineering. Fellow status carries a lifetime membership in SME.

Nomination Process

Each year, SME's International Awards and Recognition Committee evaluates the nominations that are sent in. Candidates are chosen through a rigorous review process. Each candidate is judged by the seven different categories outlined on the nomination form: industrial leadership, educational leadership, project management, technical publishing, research and development, honors and awards, service to the profession, and service to SME and others.

SME is seeking individuals who are leaders in their field—whether it is in industry or in academia. Their accomplishments must be noteworthy, and have achieved outside recognition. If you know of someone you think deserves to be a SME Fellow, please submit your nomination to the Society on or before December 1, 2008. To learn more, visit

2009 Election Results

The SME International Director and Member Council elections for those open positions to be filled on January 1, 2009, are now complete and the results have been received from Grant Thornton, the agency designated to function as the Tellers Committee.

The following individuals have been elected to serve as SME International Directors from January 2009 through December 2010:

Paul D. Bradley, PE
Michael C. Burstein, PhD, CEI
Charles D. Cox, FSME, CMfgE, PE
Wayne F. Frost, CMfgE
LaRoux K. Gillespie, Dr Eng, FSME, CMfgE, PE
Michael R.Watson, CMfgE

The following individuals have been elected to serve on the SME Member Council from January 2009 through December 2010:

Ronald A. Bohlander, PhD, FSME
Edye S. Buchanan, CMfgT
Helen W. Greathouse
Roscoe T. Mack, Jr.

SME would like to thank you for participating in this important election process, and for the time and energy you devote to help advance the Society's mission.

Ford Responds to Need for Engineers

Ford Motor Company Fund, the philanthropic arm of Ford Motor Co., and a highly recognized industry leader committed to furthering the development of America's future engineers, scientists, and technical workforce, has awarded a grant of $90,000 to the SME Education Foundation.

An award of $50,000 will support the SME Education Foundation's Ford Partnership for Advanced Studies (Ford PAS) Scholarship. Former Ford PAS students who are applying to college and want to pursue a degree in technology or engineering can apply for this annual $10,000 Ford PAS Scholarship, which can be used at any accredited college or university in the US. An award of $40,000 will support the Gateway Academy.

The SME Ford PAS Scholarship is awarded to students graduating from Ford's PAS award-winning educational program, created by Ford as part of its efforts to engage and excite students in science, technology, engineering, and math. Ford PAS is an academically rigorous high-school curriculum with high-quality interdisciplinary learning experiences that challenge students academically and develop their problem-solving, critical thinking, innovation, and communications skills through local partnerships with business and higher education.

To learn more about this and other scholarships, visit

Member & Industry Relations Managers

Member involvement is important to SME's success and future growth. In an effort to provide better service to members where they live, and to put more "feet on the street" to serve our chapters and technical communities, SME has reorganized its member support staff. The member relations managers (based in the field) and community relations managers (based at SME Headquarters in Michigan) positions—have been integrated into a new role—the Member & Industry Relations Manager. The Member & Industry Relations Managers will be both your technical community contact and local chapter support person.

By integrating these two positions, SME members will have access to more people in the field who have a broad understanding of technologies, local concerns, and the manufacturing community overall. As a tech community and chapter liaison, the Member & Industry Relations Managers will help facilitate more member-to-member connections, industry-to-chapter connections, industry-to-community, as well as chapter-to-technical community connections.

For more information on the Member & Industry Relations Manager in your area, please visit


Innovations That Could Change the Way You Manufacture

Innovations That Could Change the Way You Manufacture is a SME member-driven program, which showcases new and emerging technologies that are making a difference in manufacturing. It also provides an educational framework for SME members and manufacturing practitioners to keep up-to-date on the industry's latest and greatest innovations.

In March 2008, SME announced the 2008 Innovations That Could Change the Way You Manufacture list, which included:

  • Direct Digital Manufacturing (DDM)
  • Ultracapacitors
  • Self-Assembling Nanotechnology
  • Intelligent Device Integration
  • Integrated 3-D Simulation and Modeling/Desktop Super Computers

Since then, each new issue of Manufacturing Engineering has included a detailed write-up on the 2008 innovations. In the September issue of ME, SME once again issued a call for nominations—this time for the 2009 Innovations That Could Change the Way You Manufacture. The deadline to submit nominations was September 28. The 2009 innovations list will be announced in March 2009.

To learn more about the 2008 innovations, or for more information on the review process for the 2009 innovations list, visit


This article was first published in the October 2008 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine. 

Published Date : 10/1/2008

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