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SME Speaks: Technical Community Network Provides Manufacturing Solutions



Gene Nelson
Society of Manufacturing Engineers


SME's Technical Community Network (TCN), now one year old, has some things to celebrate. To date, nearly 12,000 people participate in communities relevant to their specific technology interests. Together they discuss, explore, and advance technologies to their own personal benefit, and to the benefit of the entire manufacturing enterprise. The Technical Community Network experience has also helped these members address and solve specific problems within the companies and industries they serve.

Working with The Boeing Company (Chicago) and Lockheed-Martin (Bethesda, MD), GKN Aerospace (Herndon, VA) ran into problems with hand-deburring tasks related to the production of its F/A-22 mid-fuselage airframe structures. The company wanted to find a better way. As part of the solution, SME's TCN helped bring GKN engineers together with others they would, otherwise, have never met. Through the Machining and Material Removal Community, specifically, its Deburring, Edge Finishing & Surface Conditioning (DESC) tech group, GKN engineers were able to link with others able to help them develop a process that solves a number of issues, while incorporating mass finishing techniques and meeting Boeing's needs for the F/A-22, an impressive and extremely flexible fighter.

Autozone, an automotive aftermarket parts and supply retailer, wanted to bring its many suppliers on board with lean manufacturing practices, and sought a way for them to quickly and effectively learn about and implement lean practices. To solve this problem, Autozone brought its suppliers into the SME Product and Process Design & Management Community to help fast-track its initiative. Today, many Autozone suppliers from all over the world are regularly connected with lean professionals, consultants, and believers. SME is helping Autozone move its lean supply chain program forward faster by bringing its suppliers together with a diverse group of manufacturers whose new perspectives are helping them find new ways to solve old problems.

Meeting buyers and sellers of products and technologies can be a challenge for busy manufacturers. Many community events, including those at SME trade shows and a new SME Summit, provide ways for buyers and sellers to connect and do business. W. Jeff Jeffrey, CEO of IRMCO, now a high-strength steel lubricant supplier to BMW suppliers, is an example of a satisfied new participant in the TCN-developed SME Summit--a forum for information exchange on advanced technologies spanning the entire manufacturing discipline. In addition to providing him with needed technical information, last year's summit helped him connect with the right prospects at BMW--and turn them into customers.

With so many varied factors contributing to manufacturing costs, it's often difficult for manufacturing engineers working in injection molding shops to accurately project cost per part. Small errors can result in financial losses. Members of SME's Injection Molding Technical Group, part of SME's Engineering Materials Applications Community, devised a spreadsheet tool to help in estimating the cost of injection parts. More than 60 manufacturing engineers have used the tool for estimating, making comparisons, or learning, including engineers at General Electric, Owens Corning, and Becton Dickinson & Company. Available since July 2004, it has already proven itself for its ability to help estimators more accurately capture the true costs of molding parts.

These examples, and many more, make July 2005 a very happy first birthday for the TCN, where members get:

  • Tools they can use right away to help them do their jobs better,
  • Tips that help them improve their manufacturing processes,
  • Broader perspectives on the manufacturing enterprise, and
  • Added business and career opportunities.

Developed by SME's Manufacturing Enterprise Council, the TCN takes the work of the Society's former technical associations to new levels. In doing so, it effectively brings members with common interests together to share knowledge and creates pertinent problem-solving resources for individuals and their companies.

As our TCN grows, the benefits will increase for those who choose to participate. It's easy for SME members to become part of the Technical Community. Just visit You can also call the SME Resource Center at (800) 733-4763 (US only), or (313) 271-1500, extension 4500, to get more information. Technical knowledge, conferences, and access to what manufacturing professionals need today are more examples of the growing benefits of membership in SME. I hope you will make the TCN part of your own personal--and professional--networking action plan. It can really be something to celebrate.             



Lean Certification Program Launched

The world's three leading lean manufacturing support organizations--SME, the Association for Manufacturing Excellence (AME), and The Shingo Prize for Excellence in Manufacturing--are collaborating with industry and academia to develop a new Lean Certification program, the first professional lean certification designed for manufacturing professionals. Scheduled for launch in October 2005, with examinations available in March 2006, the new certification will provide an opportunity for lean practitioners to earn professional credentials that demonstrate their knowledge, skills, and ability to implement lean within the manufacturing enterprise.

It's expected that the certification will be the most rigorous and comprehensive program available for lean manufacturing practitioners. Because it will also be portable, nonproprietary, and comprehensive, the certification will set a common standard for lean manufacturing that can help strengthen manufacturers, their supply chains, and entire industries globally.

"Ford Motor Company is delighted to work with SME on the development of lean certification," said Howard Adams, Manufacturing Specialty Manager, Ford Production Systems Office, and a volunteer working to develop program elements. "Participating in this lean certification effort, led by SME, will help Ford improve coaching-to-lean and ultimately expand profoundly on its operational effectiveness."

Overwhelming industry support from individuals and companies excited about the collaboration has brought hundreds of lean manufacturing leaders and practitioners together to develop the program. These volunteers--members of one or more of the partnering organizations--are developing exam questions, defining portfolio and project requirements, and determining mentoring relationships for candidates engaged in the lean certification program that will be administered by SME.

The certification program is being designed with four progressive levels and is therefore able to serve individuals throughout their professional careers, from the time they begin their lean journey to the point where they teach others and take them along. The first is a level for lean apprentices who have gained knowledge, but don't yet have direct professional lean experience. Consisting of only an exam, it can be used as an outcome assessment for colleges and universities and other trainers, or by companies interested in assessing employees' understanding of lean principles and creating their own training programs. The second level, for certified lean practitioners, will recognize the professionals' demonstrated and solid understanding of the principles and tools of lean manufacturing, as well as their capability for tactical implementation to drive improvements. Certified lean practitioners will be required to show results through the completion of a project portfolio.

To earn the third level of certification, "certified lean leader," and the fourth, "certified lean expert," candidates will have to first go through the first two certification levels, and then complete rigorous portfolio-building and mentoring programs that establish their increasing competence and effectiveness in leading lean transformations. These certification candidates will be required to demonstrate their ability to orchestrate the transformation of a complete value stream. Lean experts will also be required to demonstrate authority over assets, processes, and people, and a solid understanding of all aspects of a lean transformation across the entire manufacturing enterprise. Intended for senior employees and team leaders, these highest-level certifications will be seen as key milestones in a manufacturing professional's lean journey.

Industry leaders involved in SME's Technical Community Network, specifically the Product & Process Design and Management Community, and members of the Certification Oversight and Appeals Committee were instrumental in initiating and developing the collaborative process for this new lean certification.

If you are interested in helping, or want to learn more, contact Kris Beauchamp at (313) 425-3122 or send an e-mail to

This article was first published in the July 2005 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine. 

Published Date : 7/1/2005

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