SME Speaks: Leaders Gain Unexpected Benefits
It's hard to believe how quickly the year is winding down, and that this will be my last column in Manufacturing Engineering as President of SME. Of course, I will continue to do what I can to help the Society achieve its mission and goals in the future, but from a different perspective. It has been a privilege and an honor to serve SME in this role, and I've learned a lot while serving as an officer of this organization. I would like to take a moment to share a few things with you from this point of view.
There is no such thing as status quo. I know some of you may disagree with that statement, but the world is in a constant state of change. If we stay the same, the world will pass us by. Don't lament the "good old days." Instead, embrace the future and lead the way. If this article is available to you, you are in a position to assume leadership of a job, a department, a company, or an industry. Don't be shy. The manufacturing industries need you to show how much you can influence the future for the benefit of all of us. I have heard it said that there are only three things to do in the face of change: lead, follow, or get out of the way. I encourage you all to take the leadership role.
Not much gets done if you don't have specific targets and a plan to achieve them. When you have your plan, execute it to the best of your ability. This means striving for excellence in all activities. If you want to retire a millionaire at 50, you don't just walk into a financial planner's office and give him or her the job of managing your finances. You hire someone with the proven ability to get the job done. Do the same in all other endeavors. Hire the people who can achieve your specific targets. The person whom you know is there and convenient may be the right choice to plan for next year's goals, but may not be right for today's needs. Always strive for the best now.
People will rise to the occasion and help if you ask. Have a clear plan for them to implement and be clear about your expectations. With this information in their hands, you'll see that they will do amazing feats.
Take advantage of the many benefits that SME makes available to you in your quest for personal and professional growth and leadership. The Technical Community Network can help you solve your daily technology, process, and management issues, and make you look great compared to your competition in the workplace. Additionally, your local SME chapter can provide you with a place to network in order to find out what's happening in other industries that can give you an edge in your own career. If you're looking for manufacturing information and are not sure where to start, the SME Librarian can help you in specialized, personalized ways that a Google search cannot. Through SME certifications, you can prove to the world that you have proven manufacturing knowledge and the ability to apply it effectively. If you are looking for a new job, or need to fill vacancies at your company, check out the SME Jobs Connection Web site.
Ask! Many people miss opportunities just because they were afraid to ask. Always remember that the worst that can happen is you will hear a "no." It seems to me that most errors are the result of poor communication. Mine included. We will only get better at an activity if we practice, and that includes communicating, too. To let others know we are going and how we can help each other, we must communicate with each other. My observation is that it is very rare that we get into trouble from over-communicating, but trouble seems to find us every time we under-communicate.
Many people expect their professional society to provide something for them. SME will! Every investment has a return and it is always in direct proportion to the input. SME is no different. The challenge with volunteer effort and input is that, unlike a job, the return is unpredictable and will occur when you least expect it. It may take a totally different form than what you expect, and at a different time. There is no direct quid pro quo for volunteers, but my experience is that if you think you are not getting value for your efforts, you need to be patient. For example, many SME chapters have refocused and strengthened dramatically as a result of the dedicated leaders who stepped forward during recent changes to the Society's operational procedures. All it takes is a real leader to recognize that the situation is different from the original plan, and take advantage of the new situation even if it means more work in the short term. The long-term benefits will be more substantial.
I thank you for allowing me to share my thoughts with you, and I am very grateful for the opportunity to serve SME. I urge you all to go ahead and lead!
SME Advances Manufacturing Knowledge
The Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) is committed to helping advance manufacturing knowledge. A key way in which the Society does this is through local and technical communities, which are real-life and virtual venues where SME members and other manufacturing practitioners can connect and interact, to exchange ideas and information from one peer to another.
The following highlights some of the great connections and knowledge transfer that are happening at the local geographic level, and at the technical level. Learn more and get involved at www.sme.org.
Local Communities: The SME Chapter Network
SME has more than 200 senior chapters that represent small regional areas, while SME student chapters are centered in another 200 educational institutions worldwide. SME chapters organize and sponsor plant tours, conferences, guest speakers, special events, and other informative activities.
This year, a variety of SME chapters have made it their goal not only to promote SME, but also to discuss pressing issues in the manufacturing community and improve the image of manufacturing among the general public.
In January, for example, SME Chapter 124 held an open forum to discuss the need to educate the future workforce to continue the level of manufacturing excellence in the Monadnock Region of southwestern New Hampshire. Manufacturing in that area has transformed drastically over the last 25 years into a high-tech industry. Employment opportunities are available in this region for trained manufacturing engineers, but often these positions go unfilled or are filled by applicants outside the area. Local businesses have recognized the need to team with area high schools, vocational technical centers, and colleges to explore a lasting relationship that will generate new interest in manufacturing as a career choice. This open forum included presentations by former New Hampshire Congressman Charlie Bass and University System of New Hampshire Chancellor Steve Reno, among others. Students from Keene State College and Keene Senior High School displayed their school projects. What made this open forum a success was the collaboration involved in terms of program content development support from industry and academia, and very dedicated SME chapter members.
In addition to educating SME members and other colleagues, SME chapters are very active with youth educational programs in their communities, particularly activities for high school students and young engineering students. In April, SME's Northern Lights Chapter 370 (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada) held its annual Capstone Honours Awards Night. The Capstone Honours, which is now in its seventh year, is an event that recognizes mechanical engineering designers of the future. The awards are presented jointly by the University of Alberta's Department of Mechanical Engineering and Chapter 370. The award recognizes the best design presentations by members of the graduating class of mechanical engineering students participating in the major design project class, MecE 460. Four teams are selected each year for this honor, which includes a $1000 prize.
SME was proud to be co-chair of Engineers Week 2007, and SME chapters all around the country were involved with local EWeek competitions, as well as the Future City competition that was held in Washington, DC, in February.
Chapters are also involved with the activities of SME's Education Foundation, which inspires, supports, and prepares the manufacturing workforce of tomorrow through scholarships, grants, and youth programs held throughout the United States.
Technical Communities: Connecting Knowledge Resources
SME's Technical Community Network (TCN) connects people in the world of manufacturing to problem solvers and knowledge sources around the world. It's an expansive and flexible live and online network where SME members team with other members and manufacturing practitioners to solve their technical and business challenges.
The TCN is comprised of eight key manufacturing disciplines:
- Automated Manufacturing & Assembly
- Forming & Fabricating
- Industrial Laser
- Machining Material & Removal
- Manufacturing Education & Research
- Plastics, Composites & Coatings
- Product & Process Design and Management
- Rapid Technologies & Additive Manufacturing
Each community has a steering committee that formulates the mission and vision of the community. The communities often choose to focus on an important task.
A great example of this is SME's new Industrial Laser Community, which recently developed a Laser Cutting Certificate Program. A recent SME survey found that companies want a workforce with practical laser experience, which does not currently exist. The certificate program developed by this community addresses this need and provides documentation of knowledge gained through pre and post-program assessments.
The Laser Cutting Certificate Program builds on fundamental knowledge of CNC operations and part design for CO2 laser cutting. This information will be applied in a uniquely designed interactive and hands-on demonstration optimizing the operation of a CNC laser cutting machine. Safety and ISO standards will be included in this program, and each attendee will learn how to work in compliance with the parameters of CNC laser cutting machines and demonstrate proficiency.
"The Laser Cutting Certificate Program is the result of OEMs, end users, professional societies, and educational institutions coming together with the focus of promoting laser technology in North America," says Tony Arquisch, chair of the Industrial Laser Community. "This program is the first step in ensuring that North America will have a qualified workforce trained in modern manufacturing processes such as lasers in the future.
Within the eight technical communities, SME also hosts a variety of specialized technical groups. Currently, there are more than 56 tech groups, which can change and form as the need arises. As with the technical communities, there are steering committees for each of the tech groups, and the mission and vision for each tech group is developed by this committee.
The main goal of tech groups is to provide a venue where members can interact with other members on a global level about niche areas of technology interest. This is largely accomplished with monthly conference calls, online forums, blogs, and webinars.
One tech group that has experienced tremendous success in connecting and engaging its members is the Composites Manufacturing Technical Group, part of the Plastics, Composites & Coatings Community. Since March, this tech group has been offering monthly webinars with a new speaker each month. The webinars focus mainly on composites and their applications. The webinars have become quite popular—so popular in fact, that in September there were more than 90 participants. Not only does this show that there is a great deal of interest in composites manufacturing as a technology area, but it also shows that whether someone is located in Oregon or Switzerland, he or she appreciates the opportunity to learn more about that technology by tuning in remotely via computer. To learn more, visit www.sme.org/communities.
This article was first published in the November 2007 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine.