By Ronald J. Bennett, PhD
Leader, Center for Education
Society of Manufacturing Engineers
Member Since 1993
Distracted by the economic downturn of the past few years and widespread reports of the "demise" of US manufacturing, we in the United States lost track of the emerging crisis. Unfilled jobs, worker shortages, and the impending loss of experienced manufacturing workers who postponed retirement because of the downturn have gone virtually unnoticed.
The facts contradict the perception. Contrary to conventional wisdom, US manufacturing is robust and represents 12% of the total GDP at $1.5 trillion. In fact, if US manufacturing were viewed separately, it would rank as the eighth-largest world economy. Furthermore, demand for US-manufactured products is on the rise domestically and globally.
Much of the same misconception applies to the demand for manufacturing workers. A recent study found 82% of manufacturers report gaps in the availability of skilled production workers. While it is true that fewer production workers are needed as productivity has risen, the skill level required is much greater.
So what’s the solution? As noted in my July 2011 editorial, "The Noble Cause of Manufacturing," the missing piece is education. Fortunately, the giant awakens. There has been a recent surge in interest in manufacturing education from many sources, including the White House. SME has just published a report that identifies six areas of education needing urgent attention. Titled "Workforce Imperative: A Manufacturing Education Strategy," which can be downloaded at www.sme.org, the report is a comprehensive and readable summary based on years of extensive research, including Curricula 2015. This is a report that every SME member, educator, and manufacturer should read.
The six areas are:
- Students. We need more students in manufacturing education, with greater diversity, more veterans, and mentors to assist them in identifying which of the many paths are most appropriate for each.
- Standards. The Four Pillars Advanced Manufacturing Competency Model and NAM-Endorsed Skills Certification System described in this report identify the key elements of knowledge needed in advanced manufacturing. Curricula with core standards will help create a strong and compelling image of manufacturing based on facts.
- Consistency and Quality. Programs that adopt these standards will clarify the image of advanced manufacturing, offer more consistent and higher-quality curricula, and provide education that meets the needs of manufacturers. These revised curricula will also promote industry recognition and portability of credentials.
- Integration. Initiatives with educational programs related to manufacturing are needed to integrate manufacturing concepts into many other disciplines whose graduates enter the manufacturing supply chain.
- Faculty. Development of faculty prepared to teach advanced manufacturing concepts is needed at all levels, from K-12, postsecondary, and certificate programs.
- Collaboration. Strategic partnerships among organizations with interests in a strong technologically literate population will be required to accomplish all of the critical goals needed to respond to the urgent needs of advanced manufacturing and keeping America at the forefront. Education, industry, professional associations, government, foundations, and a host of other organizations and initiatives must all participate.
The SME Center for Education, established in 2009, was instrumental in producing this report. Its role is to promote advanced manufacturing education by using all aspects of SME, and coordinating/promoting communication with related professional societies, educators, and industry. As noted in the last item, there is a need for collaboration, and there is a role for every SME member. To get involved, email WorkforceImperative@sme.org. We need your help.
RAPID 2012 Award Wrap-Up
Brent Stucker, PhD, professor of industrial engineering and the Edward Reep Clark chair of computer aided engineering at the University of Louisville (Louisville, KY), was recently recognized by SME’s Rapid Technologies & Additive Manufacturing Community with its RTAM/SME Industry Achivement Award. This award recognizes an individual, team, or company for outstanding accomplishments that have had significant impact within the additive manufacturing industry or in any industry through the application of additive manufacturing technologies. Stucker, along with Pat Picariello, ASTM F42 staff manager, ASTM International, were recognized for their work with the ASTM Committee F42 on Additive Manufacturing Technologies. The scope of Committee F42 is the promotion of knowledge, stimulation of research, and implementation of technology through the development of standards for additive manufacturing technologies. F42 has approved four standards and is currently developing more than 20 others. Stucker accepted the award during SME’s RAPID 2012 Conference and Exhibition held in Atlanta, May 22–25.
In addition to the RTAM/SME Industry Achievement Award, the following awards were given out at RAPID:
RTAM/SME Dick Aubin Distinguished Paper Award—Emanuele Magalini, R&D technician, Eurocoating, received this award for his paper "Biological Evidences of Benefits for Additive Manufactured Porous Titanium Foams." The paper describes an innovative application of rapid prototyping processes, and techniques for rapid technology and the additive manufacturing industry.
Best Exhibitor Innovation Award—Mcor Technologies Ltd.was recognized for its Matrix and Iris product lines, and for displaying technology innovation to improve business operations and manufacturing.
Best in Show Award—Presented to the Ex One Co., and designated by popular vote. Ex One has decades of manufacturing experience and more than $50 million invested in research and product development to pioneer the evolution of nontraditional manufacturing.
2012 Design for Direct Digital Manufacturing Competition recognized high school and university students:
- Ian Veenstra and Austin Stiers (Cedar Falls High School, Cedar Falls, IA) for "Next Generation Tail Light"
- Mathew Mueller (University of Louisville) for "Camera Cap and SD Card Holder"
To learn more about these awards or SME's Rapid Technologies & Additive Manufacturing Community, visit
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Earns Top Honors at SME Annual Conference
The first-annual SME Annual Conference Student Competition took place in Cleveland on Monday, June 4. This collegiate-level manufacturing competition required student chapter members to choose their own manufacturing project. The students were to build a project to be highlighted and evaluated at the Annual Conference. Any type of engineering principle, concept, or process could be applied in the design and manufacturing of the project entry. Out of the six schools that submitted a design for the competition, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute S141’s (Troy, NY) bicycle headlight project was chosen as the winner. The other participating schools were:
- Northern Illinois University
- Oregon State University
- Punjab Engineering College
- Texas State University
- University of Akron
Bicycle Headlight Project Background—Every year a team at the Advanced Manufacturing Lab at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute puts together a comprehensive manufacturing plan for a product and sets up a full manufacturing production line to produce 400 units with a $3000 budget. In the 2011–12 school year, the team put together a full production line for the manufacturing, assembly, and packaging of a bicycle headlight based on an original concept by high school students in the Rensselaer County Questar III New Visions Engineering program. Processes used in the production of the headlight include: plastic injection molding, CNC machining, printed circuit board CNC milling, robotic circuit board assembly, progressive die metalforming, hot staking, and vacuum forming. All processes and manufacturing guidelines are designed and carried out by RPI students on the team. The team used 2011 Solidworks CAD, FEA, and Mastercam 5 software to design its components and design for manufacturing processes that are available to it. In the fall semester, rapid prototyping was used to create a functional prototype of the bicycle headlight.
Three SME Faculty Advisors Recognized
SME’s Student Relations Committee has awarded its second-annual Faculty Advisor Professional Development Award to educators committed to the next generation of manufacturing professionals. This award recognizes the service of faculty advisors to SME, their student chapters, the Society’s strategic plan, and in advancing manufacturing knowledge and education.
The 2012 Faculty Advisor Professional Development Award winners are: Spencer Harp, Georgia Southern University, Student Chapter S085; Karl Haapala, PhD, Oregon State University, Student Chapter S019; Simin Nasseri, PhD, Southern Polytechnic State University, Student Chapter S016.
"We are delighted to recognize these dedicated faculty advisors of SME who are committed to their students and promoting manufacturing by ensuring their students have been given every opportunity to learn and be successful when they enter the workplace," said Cary J. Rosenberg, CMfgE, chair of the SME Student Relations Committee. "Each of this year’s awardees has indicated that their winnings will be shared with their students through the acquisition of more tools and hands-on experience to assist them in the challenging real world."
The award includes a monetary prize of up to $2000 and a recognition certificate. The purpose of this award is to provide professional development support for current student chapter faculty advisors; acknowledge and reward those who demonstrate commitment to advancing SME’s strategic plan; highlight services and activities performed on behalf of SME; and recognize advancing the professional growth of student chapter members. Award details available at www.sme.org/faculty-award.
This article was first published in the September 2012 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine. Click here for PDF.