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SME Speaks: Technology: It's Springing Up All Over SME


Welcome to spring! This is a time of growth and renewal in all things, and the Society of Manufacturing Engineers is also growing and renewing in many ways. On the technical information front, May is a very busy month for us. We've organized leading events to bring manufacturing practitioners and their companies the technology and trends info they need to be competitive. For instance, the EASTEC 2007 Exposition in Massachusetts is connecting East Coast manufacturers this month, and two events are connecting manufacturers in Canada: the Advanced Manufacturing Expo Quebec, and the Montreal Plant Maintenance & Design Engineering Show. In Detroit, the RAPID 2007 Conference & Exposition is where we'll get a look at the various technologies that make things very quickly.

It's truly exciting to be involved with SME and gain a first-hand understanding of advanced manufacturing technologies, like rapid, that have quickly gone from fantasy to factory. While rapid started out primarily as a prototyping method, it has expanded to include short production runs and rapid tooling. The whole additive manufacturing concept allows us to literally "grow" parts that we can use either directly or for the development or manufacture of the final product. It provides us with the means to renew ideas and products, and speeds up the continuous-improvement path. It allows ideas to grow into something tangible, and takes us ever closer to the possibility of manufacturing a single item for an end user. This opens a door of opportunity for us to emulate nature, in that each new item is unique. It lets us go a little further in that we can plan the specific uniqueness.

Here's food for thought. Consider, if you will, some of the fun and creative applications of manufacturing for uniqueness. Right now, many of us are readying boats and ATVs for leisure time in the warmer months ahead. Think of what it would be like for end users to be able to order one of these items, customized to individual taste and fit, and receive their products within a reasonable time frame with no additional costs for the customization. Imagine being able to request an ATV that would fit your legs, arms, and weight so that it would be the right size in all areas, and have the appropriate amount of power to do the type of riding you like to do!

The technology to make this happen is out there now, but more growth and refinement is necessary to make it economically viable without having to request specialty parts or custom fabrication.

In addition to holding fascinating events like Rapid, spring is also the time of year when we see growth in SME itself as an organization. Right now, the local SME chapters are in full stride with their programs of technical topics and tours. They are a great place for all of us in manufacturing to go to grow our own minds as we see or hear about new technologies in action. Meanwhile, the technical communities are busy planning conferences and contributing to online forums that provide all of us with a venue to share information in our areas of specialization. New this year to SME's Technical Community Network is the Industrial Laser Community (ILC). Members of the ILC represent all types of laser users. They're putting their heads together to identify new ways to exploit laser technology to the fullest advantage in their various applications. This could be anything from laser sintering to noncontact measuring. You can learn more about the ILC at the community's Web site:

While the chapter and technical community activities are well underway, the SME Board of Directors, and that of our Education Foundation, are also in full swing with their planning activities, as are the Manufacturing Enterprise Council, the Member Council, and a host of standing committees. Together, these leadership bodies are implementing the programs that are helping our SME Strategic Plan 2010 goals ripen to full bloom. If you'd like to help shape the future of the Society and hone your professional and leadership skills, visit the SME Web site's"Volunteer Leaders" section to read about the many opportunities.

Spring is a great time of year. I invite you to think about your own growth and renewal and how all of us in the SME family can help you meet your personal goals.


SME and Canadian Partners Develop Aerospace Event

Lean Directions Aerospace CanadaThe Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) has developed strategic alliances with the Quebec Aerospace Association (AQA) and the Centre de recherche industrielle Quebec (CRIQ) to develop a first-of-its-kind event for the aerospace and defense industry. Lean Directions Aerospace Canada will take place September 11–13 in Montreal, Quebec. This event is designed to look closely at productivity improvements and new technologies for aerospace and defense manufacturers.

The development of Lean Directions Aerospace Canada is part of a major initiative recently launched by SME to support Canadian manufacturing companies and their employees. To help these companies be competitive in a global market, SME is extending the reach of its workforce development educational programs, technical resources, training, certifications, and worldwide manufacturing people "knowledge" network deeper into Canada. Partnerships like the ones with AQA and CRIQ will play a major role in achieving this. AQA and CRIQ are both Quebec-based organizations with strong local connections to industry leaders. AQA is the largest provincial aerospace association in Canada, and is an advocate for Canadian aerospace industry competitiveness. CRIQ is a leading source of innovation and expertise in the areas of manufacturing technologies, the environment, industrial information, and standardization. CRIQ plays an important role in the economy by providing industries with the means to become leaders on national and international markets. Together, the SME-AQA-CRIQ team will develop a robust manufacturing educational event that is right on target with the needs of local aerospace and defense manufacturers.   

One underappreciated fact is that the greater Montreal metropolitan region is ranked second worldwide in terms of job density in the aerospace industry. It is home to major companies such as Bombardier, Bell Helicopter, Rolls-Royce, and Pratt & Whitney Canada. This creates a good fit for Lean Directions Aerospace Canada, which will provide a forum for industry leaders to come together and discuss new technologies, productivity improvements, supply chain challenges, industry trends, research and development, and more.

Through collaboration with these industry partners, SME will bring Canadian manufacturers resources that surpass a typical conference. In addition to conference sessions, the event features a hands-on lean workshop, exhibits, keynote presentations, technical tours, and industry networking activities. The conference offers two tracks. One features sessions that focus on productivity improvements such as lean sustainability, the "human side" of lean, lean accounting and ROI, and others. A technology track covers topics that are critical to the aerospace and defense industries: composites, welding, advanced machining, and more.

Learn more about this event at You can also contact SME's US office at (800) 733-4763, or our brand new Toronto, Ontario, Canada office at (888) 322-7333.


Industrial Laser Community

SME recently added an Industrial Laser Community (ILC) to its Technical Community Network. The ILC was formed to promote laser technology in North America by educating industry and advancing the laser technology base. Lasers are used in manufacturing for a variety of activities, including cutting, welding, heat treating, trimming, and more. The technology is growing in reach and appeal, and the ILC members are strong advocates of its current and potential applications.

As with SME's seven other technical communities, the ILC represents a key knowledge area within manufacturing. ILC members have established the following five tech groups, where they connect in person and via online means to talk about technologies and applications related to:

  • Laser Cutting
  • Laser Welding
  • Laser Marking
  • Laser Surface Treatment
  • Laser Drilling

ILC members are busy identifying target markets, including medical and other industries. They are also exploring the development of certificate programs and educational conferences. New members are needed and welcome. Visit to learn about the community and get involved. You can also meet members of the ILC in person at the Medical Design & Manufacturing East event coming to New York City June 11–14. Look for SME in booth #2979.


Memories of a Manufacturing Career–


A Conversation with SME Past President Francis Sehn

SME Speaks: As president of SME from 1965 to 1966, and throughout your career, you've been a leader in manufacturing engineering. Why, in your opinion, is manufacturing engineering important?

Francis Sehn: Of course I may be a little biased, but of all the engineering disciplines, manufacturing is key. Southeast Michigan became the arsenal of democracy during World War II because of the manufacturing talent in this area.

SME Speaks: What inspired you to get into manufacturing engineering?

Francis Sehn: I graduated at the depth of the Depression; college was not a possibility. My dad was a mechanical genius, a very bright guy. He would say to me, Fran, to be independent, you need to learn a trade. That way you can always pick up your toolbox and move on.

SME Speaks: How was your education different from what aspiring manufacturing engineers receive today?

Francis Sehn: East High School (Youngstown, OH) had four courses. We had an academic course, a commercial course, an industrial course, and a science and engineering course. I was the only one in my graduating class to take science and engineering all four years. Later I continued my engineering education, taking 11 years at night school at Wayne State University, Lawrence Technological University, and University of Detroit Mercy, ultimately becoming a registered Professional Engineer.   

SME Speaks: What was your first job in manufacturing?

Francis Sehn: In the Depression, men from Applachia came to Detroit looking for work. Entry-level jobs were not available in the steel mill, so I hitchhiked to Detroit where the jobs were. I stood in long employment lines, and when I'd get up there, they said, 'What do you do?' I said, 'I'll do anything, just give me a chance.'

I went to Fisher Body. They said to me: 'We're taking applications for apprentice die makers, go fill one out.' Boy, I jumped at that. In the meantime, I got a job on production making $0.55/hr. When April came, I was offered the apprenticeship starting at $0.17/hr along with night school tuition for three nights a week. I remembered what my dad said, so I quit production and took the $0.17/hr job.

Fisher Plant 23 worked 24/7. For continuity between shifts they used shorthand pads—the first shift would record what they did, and then second shift would write down, and so on. When the pads were filled up they were tossed in the wastebasket. I collected the pads, they become a library of unbelievable wealth—it didn't take me long to grasp what was going on. Within two years I was able to take second job at night as a die maker's helper working for $1.20/hr. Big bucks!

One night, while at my second job, I severed a tendon in my thumb. While [the doctors] were deciding whether they were going to amputate the thumb, I said: 'Dear Lord, if I get off this table with that thumb intact, I will never go back in a shop again.' When I returned to work I went to the General Motors Education Department and said I didn't want to be a die maker. I want to design them. They put me in the die-design apprenticeship program.

SME Speaks: How did you come to start your own manufacturing company?

Francis Sehn: After Pearl Harbor our automotive efforts turned to producing war materials. I became assistant chief engineer for the GM Tank Program, later joining the E.W. Bliss Co., a general engineering company, founded in 1857, as General Master Mechanic. In that capacity, I was exposed to innumerable types of manufacturing know-how. Drawing on my varied work experiences, I decided to try the independent route and started The Fran Sehn Co., an international consulting group, and then founded Press Automation Systems Inc. (PAS). The consulting group has survived over 50 years, PAS and several other brain-children have been sold-off through the years.


Preserving History at West Point

In addition to his career-long contributions to manufacturing engineering, Francis Sehn supports a special program, the Center for Oral History, within the United States Military Academy at West Point's Department of History. Sehn learned from his grandson, Christopher Day, a recent West Point graduate, about this fledgling program created to collect recent combat experiences from privates to generals. Through this program, graduates will be better able to fight the types of warfare in which we are now currently engaged. This information will be available to all colleges, universities, and ROTC programs.

With the support of Sehn and other donors, the Center for Oral History is already collecting, transcribing, cataloging, and archiving the stories of West Point graduates' combat experiences from Vietnam on. For more information or to contribute contact Lieutenant Colonel Fred Lowrey, Director of Major Giving, at: (845) 446-1558, or Lt. Todd Rode at: (845) 446-1579, e-mail:


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

Published Date : 5/1/2007

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