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SME Speaks: 'Kicking the Can' is Not an Option

Mark C. Tomlinson

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



In the past few months, we have seen US governmental officials continue to delay making the hard decisions that need to be made. They cannot come to a consensus on what the best path forward is for our great country. These officials also do not have answers to the great dilemma we face regarding gun control. If these so-called leaders were in the business of making things, they would be either out of a job or out of business!

Today, manufacturing companies are making tough decisions in a timely and effective manner. They are doing this because, if you truly want to compete in a global economic environment, speed and agility are essential. Fiscal responsibility is a given, and collaboration with both employees and key suppliers are necessary.  

To ensure their competitiveness, manufacturers are using tools to help them eliminate waste in the process of making things. Tools like lean manufacturing, which bring both management and employees together to solve problems and improve the cost and productivity of a given product. The team may have differences of opinion on how improvement can be accomplished, but they outline all of the options, discuss them and arrive at a consensus by respecting the opinions of everyone on the team, regardless of their grade or position within the company. If the government was using this process, we would be seeing long-term solutions to our fiscal problems, as well as the troubling gun control issues.

If a product has a serious reliability problem, an organization will use technology and innovation to both monitor the problem and also provide valuable data to help with the innovation process, which provides the necessary solution. If gun control was a car or an airplane, the government would be demanding answers to ensure public safety. Just recently, the Boeing 787 was grounded because of a potential safety problem; fortunately, no one died or was injured as a result of this problem. Ultimately, Boeing will solve this design issue with speed and efficiency due to the impact on its financial and long-term stability. Will the government ask the same of gun manufacturers and end-users? Will they collaborate? Will there be a sense of urgency? Or will they just once again “kick the can?”

At SME, we provide the tools, collaboration opportunities and training to help companies make things. We work with educational institutions and identify future workforce requirements, and are preparing the future workforce, because, in manufacturing, kicking the can is not an option.

How is SME doing this? Through:
1. Professional Development, including certification in manufacturing and lean (; online training (Tooling U-SME); and Knowledge EdgeSM through ebooks, a peer-reviewed and validated wiki, and video-on-demand. 
2. ME Media is providing critical information on technology and trends within the manufacturing sector through its magazine (print and digital), webinars and industry-specific newsletters.
3. Events provide companies and individuals with an opportunity to share issues and information in a face-to-face environment on topics that address specific industries and technologies.
4. Membership is where engagement happens both locally and virtually. Members are able to collaborate, however they want to, on the issues that are important to them and the companies they work for.
5. The SME Education Foundation (SME-EF) is identifying and recognizing schools that understand how to prepare our future workforce though its PRIME program ( and offers financial assistance to students entering this critical profession.
6. The Society is collaborating with like-minded organizations to ensure we provide clear solutions to manufacturing. 

By not kicking the can down the road and working together with members, companies, educators, manufacturing practitioners and other organizations, we are preparing people and companies to make swift, sound decisions. As I stated before, companies need to be competitive in a global economy.  

At the end of the day, we all need an economy that is thriving with manufacturing at its core—it’s essential to the wellbeing of all great nations and really isn’t an option if we want to succeed. We also need governments that no longer kick the can and add additional uncertainty to its constituents and economy. Government officials must solve the critical issues facing this great nation, and they must do it together using collaboration and problem-solving tools. These officials can learn from manufacturers that it really is possible! ME

Innovations Logo

The new and emerging technologies making a difference in manufacturing in 2013 are:
--Robotic Insects Inspire Mass Production Technique
--Superhydrophobic Coatings Could Save Your Mobile Phone and More
--Welding Process Increases Use of Lightweight Materials for Increased
Fuel Efficiency
--Stronger, Lighter and Cheaper with Carbon Nanotubes
--Everyday Spectrometer: True Color Detection with Rainbow Polymer

Innovation Watch List
--Aerovoltaic Nonturbine Wind Energy
--Manufacturing Method for Cheaper Solar
--Air Fuel Synthesis
--3-D Printing of Silicon Nanostructures
--Robotic Self-Modeling
--Ultrafast Camera that Sees Around Corners
--Nanoscale Light Conduits
--Quantum Memory Storage
--Silicon Surface Patterns
To learn more about this member-driven program, as well as details on the these and other innovations, visit


This article was first published in the March 2013 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine.  Click here for PDF

Published Date : 3/1/2013

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