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SME Speaks: Summer is a Time for Recharging

Summer is upon us—the traditional time to take vacations with our families and recharge. For me, it's a time to enjoy the family, the weather, the garden, and the motorcycle. It is also a time to revamp the plant for more efficient molding and toolmaking, to ensure our competitive edge for the years to come.

This time of year always reminds me of when my aunt and cousin, who were educators, would visit my family during the summer. Because we lived near the local university, they would stay with us during their summer breaks to upgrade their education and gather more skills for a world of expanding information.

The need to ensure that you never fall behind professionally was critically important to the competitive generation of baby boomers like my relatives, who were looking for the best jobs in a market where the employers had their choice of the most qualified applicants. Today, as the boomers start to retire and we experience a shortage in the workforce, I believe it's even more critical to maintain your competitive advantage by continuously improving your skills and marketability. While the jobless rate may have dropped overall, the cream always rises to the top. Whether your ambition is to be the best technical practitioner or the CEO, self-improvement is essential. While there are many general selfimprovement advice books lining the store shelves, what you really need are real-world measurable advantages in your qualifications. SME is here to help in a variety of ways as your professional association of choice. Through SME membership you can connect with a worldwide network of manufacturing practitioners and companies, gain technical and professional development training, and boost your resume and your company's bottom line through SME certifications.

At my company, Columbia Plastics Ltd. (Surrey, British Columbia, Canada) our summer plant updates are especially exciting this year, as we lay the infrastructure for more flexibility in our lean implementation. For example:

  • Dynamic machine locations let us customize cells for one-piece flow of new products as they work through the development stream and into the marketplace.
  • New equipment that will allow us to serve new markets is being installed and set up according to how our plant people have determined it will be most productive, and not how management and engineering demand it be done.
  • Updates in CAD/CAM and machining technologies are helping to keep us competitive in the global marketplace, while working strong niche markets.

The resources available to our company by networking through SME and other key trade associations have played a huge role in making this new implementation activity possible. Continuous learning and improvement—fundamental to any lean initiative—ensure that Columbia Plastics always strives to grow in the most appropriate markets.

In addition to thinking about the updates happening at my plant, I've also been thinking about how those same principles apply to one of my other great passions: motorcycle riding. When riding, staying focused on the road is absolutely essential. As you travel and learn about the country in various locales, focusing on the road and traffic keeps your mind on things immediate and important. It's a type of lean therapy. Only the relevant can be considered, as the "non value-added" is not only superfluous, but can also be a potentially fatal distraction. TPM comes into play almost as much for a motorcycle as it does for an aircraft, because mechanical failures have more serious consequences than in the normal car environment. When traveling for long distances there are more variables that must be allotted for, and they must be handled with a minimum of resources. There must always be an understanding of the FMEA of a situation that is not handled well, and the skill set must be maintained to ensure a quality result.

Some of my friends prefer the racing model where they get to compete and continuously improve on a known track. I, on the other hand, prefer the touring model of dealing with the unknowns that are around the next bend in the road. That is a matter of personal preference, but both approaches require us to keep improving, or the efficiency does not improve. We always need to review our options at each opportunity and continue our growth. The most important factor is that we are having fun while we are growing!

I wish you the best of the season and look forward to seeing you at SME events for growth and fun.


Alliance Supports Canadian Manufacturing

The Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) and Canadian Exporters & Manufacturers (CME) have developed an alliance to strengthen the competitive skills, knowledge, and innovation capabilities of the Canadian manufacturing community through joint efforts in membership development, event planning, professional, and workforce-development activities and programs. This alliance brings a full complement of resources to Canadian manufacturers, from the overall company perspective as well as at the individual-practitioner level.

CME supports manufacturing companies in developing long-term visions for Canadian manufacturing, while helping them address challenges in a rapidly growing global market. An individual-member-based professional society, SME works with companies and individuals to strengthen manufacturing workforce competency through educational resources, training, certification, and professional networking. Together, the organizations will collaborate on joint membership packages, industry events, workforce development initiatives, and creating awareness with the public that manufacturing is a critical part of the economy, and a rewarding career choice.

F. Brian Holmes, CMfgE, SME President, is enthusiastic about this alliance. "I am very excited about the Memorandum of Understanding between SME and Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters. It will enable both associations to work together to enhance the Canadian manufacturing workforce. I look forward to the opportunities the alliance brings, because both organizations are looking for the same result: a stronger manufacturing sector through technology and education of the current and future workforce."

"Canada's manufacturers face unprecedented challenges resulting from the high dollar, growing competition from low-wage countries, skills shortages, and a border that continues to get more sticky, costly, and thick," says CME President and CEO Perrin Beatty. "Manufacturing is a vital part of our country's economy, and it is essential that our manufacturers be armed with the tools they need to compete successfully in world markets. Our new partnership will supply some of those tools and help to strengthen Canada's industrial base."

SME Executive Director and General Manager, Mark C. Tomlinson, adds that, "Despite the negative press, manufacturing is still a vital part of the North American economy. Addressing workforce development needs and technology transfer are key to the success and viability of manufacturing. The CME–SME collaboration will play a critical role in bringing resources to manufacturers."

The alliance with CME is part of SME's major initiative to support Canadian manufacturing companies and their employees. SME recently purchased seven Canadian trade shows, and launched a new SME office in Toronto, ON, to bring manufacturing education and workforce development resources deeper into Canada.

Together, SME and CME will contribute toward ensuring that Canadian—and all North American—manufacturers are recognized as a world-leading benchmark for their innovation, flexibility, and continuous improvement. Both organizations look forward to further exciting announcements in the coming months.


About CME

Canadian Exporters & Manufacturers (CME) is Canada's largest trade and industry association. CME promotes the continuous improvement of Canadian manufacturing and exporting through engagement of government at all levels. Its mandate is to promote the competitiveness of Canadian manufacturers, and enable the success of Canadian goods and services exporters in markets around the world.

Representing Canada's largest business network, CME's membership is drawn from all sectors of Canada's manufacturing and exporting community, and from every province across the country.



Manufacturing Employment Needs by the Numbers

Employers are looking for highly trained manufacturing practitioners. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that each year through 2012, employers will be seeking:

  • 17,000 industrial and manufacturing engineers
  • 14,000 mechanical engineers
  • 14,000 engineering technicians
  • 273,000 metal and plastic production workers

The pipeline of science and engineering talent is decreasing, while demand is increasing. Employment in science and technology occupations has grown faster than students graduating with engineering degrees can fill the vacancies. In addition, retirement of the Baby Boomer generation will have a major effect over the next decade. Twenty-nine percent of all science and engineering degree holders in the labor force are age 50 or over.

Through the Society of Manufacturing Engineers, manufacturing practitioners at all career stages can advance their competitiveness through lifelong learning and certification programs, network and share knowledge through technical and local communities, and learn about the latest technical advances at world class manufacturing events. SME brings manufacturing professionals together from around the globe 24/7. Learn what SME and its Education Foundation are doing to encourage young people to pursue educations and careers in manufacturing in support of tomorrow's manufacturing workforce pipeline. Learn what SME can offer you.


Barajas is Outstanding Young Manufacturing Engineer

During SME's Annual Meeting, held in March 2007, Leandro G. Barajas, PhD, received the 2007 SME Outstanding Young Manufacturing Engineers Award. Recipients of this prestigious award are age 35 or younger, and are recognized for their exceptional accomplishments, such as technical publication, patent or technical-professional society leadership. Barajas was nominated by members of SME Oakland-Macomb (Michigan) Chapter No. 69, a colleague at General Motors Corporation, his former professor, and a faculty associate at Georgia Tech University.

Barajas is a senior research engineer at the Research and Development Center for the General Motors Corp. in Warren, MI. His research focus includes automotive e-manufacturing optimization, virtual manufacturing and diagnostics and prognostics for plant floor systems and controls. During his short tenure at GM, Barajas has received numerous awards for his research, which has produced more than 21 records of invention that in turn have been translated into more than 13 patents and patent applications and 12 publications.

As SME member Pulak Bandyopadhyah, PhD, principal engineer and real-time optimized manufacturing innovation program manager, GM R&D Center, stated, "Leandro is the GM R&D pioneer of advanced prognostics tools for manufacturing systems. By leveraging pre-existing infrastructure, processes, and real-time data sources, he has developed a suite of performance prediction tools for plant floor systems that can be applied to other GM systems."


This article was first published in the July 2007 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine. 

Published Date : 7/1/2007

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