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SME Speaks: The Manufacturing Dialog and SME

Mark C. Tomlinson, CMfgE, EMCP

By Mark C. Tomlinson. CMfgE. EMCP
Executive Director/CEO
Society of Manufacturing Engineers
Member Since 1996

Manufacturing is still at the forefront of discussions across North America. Politicians, our current government, the press, and people having conversations by the water cooler are talking about the importance of this sector to the recovery of the economy. The dialog is as broad as how manufacturing helps in the development of a viable economy to as narrow as how an individual develops the right skills to be employable in this important sector.

SME is participating in these conversations on many fronts, and believes that it is critical to keep the conversation going and focused on the right issues. First and foremost is the definition of what manufacturing is and what it isn’t.

When I am talking to people who have a casual understanding of manufacturing, I tend to use the definition of manufacturing as: part, process, machine, and system. Manufacturing starts with the idea of a product and ends with how it is going to be delivered to the customer or end user. It is not just the repetitive assembly of a product. Working in the manufacturing sector requires a unique set of skills that allows people with all levels of educational background to be involved in the process of making things.

On a national level, SME is participating in these conversations. We are providing knowledge and expertise on many different fronts, such as identifying the needs of both current and future manufacturing workforce, contributing to discussions around manufacturing education, raising the awareness of how manufacturing can change the world, and supporting grant proposals.

Some examples:

  • SME and Tooling U are participating in the development of a program to reskill returning veterans. The following is an excerpt of the announcement in late May: President Obama Calls on Congress to Act on Veterans Job Corps in "To Do List" and Launches New Military Credentialing Initiative to Fill Workforce Needs—"Through a partnership between the Army and Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME), the Army will expand certification opportunities for service members in highly-specialized and technical engineering fields. The Army’s Engineer School will conduct a one-year pilot program to assess the potential for Engineer Officers and Warrant Officers to meet SME’s ‘Certified Manufacturing Technologist’ or ‘Lean Bronze Certification’ credentials. These industry-recognized credentials will help service members qualify and pursue jobs as manufacturing engineers in the private sector."
  • The SME Education Foundation (SME-EF) is committed to addressing the shortage of manufacturing and technical talent through PRIME (Partnership Response in Manufacturing Education). The Foundation is creating strong partnerships between organizations, businesses, local SME chapters, and exemplary schools to provide a comprehensive, community-based approach to manufacturing education.
  • SME and the Education Foundation are supporting the use of manufacturing awareness videos such as the Foundation’s Manufacturing Creates JOBS! and Edge Factor's Metal and Flesh.
  • SME is supporting the development of grant proposals for the creation of a National Network for Manufacturing Innovation Pilot Institute on Additive Manufacturing. The Society is actively working with key partners who are submitting proposals.
  • SME is continuing to attend key national conferences and have a voice in the future shape and direction of
    advanced manufacturing:
  • The Society recently took part in the CGI America (Clinton Global Initiatives) 2012 conference, and joined an advanced manufacturing roundtable where discussions and commitments were held to continue raising the awareness on the importance of manufacturing and its role in economic development.
  • The National Academy of Engineering (NAE) invited SME to participate in a discussion on the future of advanced manufacturing education. The discussion focused on the multiple entry points into manufacturing, starting with some post-secondary education through to advanced manufacturing-related degrees.

This is just a snapshot of what is happening at the national level. The real question is what are we all doing locally? How are we elevating manufacturing and its importance to our local economy? What are you personally doing to help fill the pipeline with future manufacturing practitioners?

Some simple suggestions are to use your time, talent, and treasure to support:

  1. The SME Education Foundation.
  2. Support the Foundation’s PRIME schools.
  3. Champion SkillsUSA at your local schools.
  4. Endorse FIRST Robotics or like-minded programs.
  5. Use videos like the Edge Factor’s Metal and Flesh to excite youth about how manufacturing impacts their daily lives (

The most important thing you can do is be active locally. SME gives you many opportunities to engage, whether it is through your local chapter or Technical Community.

A great example of how this works is what SME’s Toronto Chapter 26 has taken on with its Take Back Manufacturing (TBM) initiative. The TBM initiative was started in 2011 and continues to be spearheaded by the Toronto chapter. However, it is not an SME initiative. It is a nonpartisan effort to gather all like-minded organizations and leaders who believe manufacturing is important, and get them to work together to bring issues to the forefront—to speak and act collectively with one goal in mind: strong manufacturing in Ontario AGAIN.

  • The TBM roadmap includes:
  • Combatting the public relations nightmare that manufacturing currently has;
  • Urging lawmakers to make the right policy decisions;
  • Encouraging good, long-term business decisions; and
  • Getting industry and academia ready to produce new generations of manufacturing experts who can hit the ground running when they enter the workforce.

So my question is if we can do this in Canada, why not locally across the US? Our time in manufacturing is NOW. Let’s get moving. Our children want to change the world, but it can only be done through the process of making things. That’s what we are all about! ME


Kansas Student
Wins $70,000 Scholarship

Christopher WebbChristopher Webb, son of SME member James Webb, is the winner of the 2012 SME Education Foundation Family Scholarship. Webb graduated from Blue Valley High School in Overland Park, KS, and in the fall, he will attend the University of Arkansas where he plans to major in mechanical engineering. While at Blue Valley, Webb was captain of Team 2410 for the FIRST Robotics Competition, uniting members from all five schools in the district to make the team more diverse and active. In addition to his school activities, Webb is also a machine operator for VMC Precision where he works with laser engraving software and handles pickups and deliveries for the company. In June 2011, Webb was a KU Engineering Camp counselor, assisting students during their camp stay. He is also involved with Operation Breakthrough, helping to inspire at-risk youth to become involved in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) concepts. Webb is a National Honor Society member, a former Blue Valley School District Robotics president, and the recipient of various Technology Student Association competition awards.

The SME Education Foundation Family Scholarship, worth up to $80,000, is available to the children or grandchildren of an SME member. This highly competitive four-year scholarship is awarded to one student who has demonstrated academic excellence and an interest in manufacturing engineering or related technology. Scholarship applications are due annually on February 1 and can be submitted at




18 SME Chapters Recognized


For the second year in a row, SME is recognizing chapters as being "successful." In February 2011, the Chapter Award Recognition was launched by the Chapter Enhancement Committee. For this award, there are there are four categories for success. Success in each category is determined by information gathered from the Member Unit Assessment Guide (MUAG), formerly called the Chapter Planning and Assessment Guide (CPAG):

  • Professional development, which includes not simply the number and quality of meetings held by the chapter, but how leaders are developed to continue the work of the chapter.
  • Communication to members and the community through passive (up-to-date Web site or social media page) and active means (e-mail blasts, bulletins, phone calls).
  • Advancement of manufacturing, including interaction with other chapters and community outreach; and
  • Merit, such as submitting a best practice and net membership numbers.

The 18 chapters receiving the 2011 Chapter Award Recognition are:




Chapter Bronze Award  

C004—Milwaukee (Communications Award)

C005—Chicago (Exceptional Merit Award)

C018—Dayton, OH (Advancement of Manufacturing Award)

C038—Grand Rapids, MI (Exceptional Merit Award)

C057—Kansas City (Professional Development Award)

C079—Ann Arbor, MI (Communications Award)

C154—Lexington, KY (Professional Development Award)

C159—Florida Suncoast (Professional Development Award)

C238—Southeast Iowa (Professional Development Award)

C287—Mid-Missouri (Professional Development Award)

C430—Greater Charleston, SC (Professional Development Award)



Chapter Silver Award

C024—Elmira, NY (Advancement of Manufacturing Award, Exceptional Merit Award)

C029—Houston (Professional Development Award, Communication Award)

C098—Silicon Valley, CA (Professional Development Award, Exceptional Merit Award)

C105—Memphis, TN (Professional Development Award, Communication Award)

C107—Greater Smoky Mountain, TN (Communications Award, Exceptional Merit Award)

C327—Southern New Hampshire (Professional Development Award, Communication Award)




Chapter Gold Award  

C039—Seattle (Communications Award, Exceptional Merit Award, Advancement of Manufacturing Award)

C186—Waterloo, IA (Professional Development Award, Communications Award, Exceptional Merit Award)


Congratulations to all of these chapters, and thank you for all of your hard work and support of the Society! To learn more about this award, visit


This article was first published in the August 2012 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine.  Click here for PDF.   


Published Date : 8/1/2012

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