SME Speaks: Who Moved My SME, and Why?
By Michael F. Molnar, FSME, CMfgE, PE
By now I’m sure many of you are aware that our society has a new name and brand, as unveiled at the Annual Conference and discussed in the June column by SME President Dennis Bray. We’ve received a lot of comments, most highly supportive, but a good number concerned that change from the Society of Manufacturing Engineers signaled a move away from valuing the individual manufacturing engineer.
Change is difficult yet essential, and it is human nature to have concern about potential loss along with gain. The Board made this change after many months of research, consultation and deliberation. It was not an easy decision, nor was it a decision that was lightly made. It was, however, a necessary change—one made with our members as a central stakeholder group. This editorial expands on Dennis’ comments from the viewpoint of stakeholders, first with history and strategy, but then as individuals.
In looking back at SME’s 81-year history, it has evolved and grown much larger than our founders envisioned. Throughout our history, there have been many momentous occasions that have set the stage for the SME of today, such as the Certification Program being created in 1972, Manufacturing Engineering magazine making its official debut in 1976, the SME Education Foundation being established in 1980, FABTECH being unveiled in 1981 and the charter class of SME Fellows inducted in 1986. This rich history was taken into account when the new SME logo was created. At the center of the new logo is SME’s heritage, which has morphed into the new SME and its subsequent evolution. Surrounding the core of the logo to the left is technological achievement, while the right reflects improving society. These specific parts of the SME logo speak to the incredible technological advancements made in manufacturing and its overall importance to society in general. In the center is where all parts of the logo come together to reflect advancement—advancement in manufacturing and SME.
To stay relevant in the marketplace, SME had to evolve its image and make a critical change to its name. In January 1970, when the American Society of Tool and Manufacturing Engineers (ASTME) became the Society of Manufacturing Engineers, then SME President Michael Skunda concluded: “Now the Society can build for the long term future with a name that is short, simple, and unrestrictive in regard to areas of technical coverage and service to all types of manufacturing engineers on an international basis.” While the name Society of Manufacturing Engineers had served SME well for 43 years, it has reached a point where it is restrictive and does not reflect all of SME’s stakeholders in manufacturing. Just in the United States, some 12 million Americans are directly employed in manufacturing. SME wants to reach all of those individuals, and it needed a name that would allow its reach to broaden, while still retaining that familiarity and associated core membership.
Today, the Board feels everyone who regards manufacturing as a profession should feel welcome—and find value—in SME membership. By positioning for growth and relevance is SME forsaking the manufacturing engineer? Absolutely not. The manufacturing engineer is clearly at the center of those in the manufacturing profession. These professionals are celebrated and recognized with SME certification, honors, awards and, of course, the network of other manufacturing engineering professionals. There are many others, however, who do not carry that job title—or once did but now have a different title—who very much consider their career to be in manufacturing. To those who don’t know SME well, the former name simply doesn’t sound inclusive.
In the end, however, this change affects individual members on a personal basis, so let’s go personal. I’ve been very fortunate to have a broad and deep understanding of SME from the start. My father, as a manufacturing engineer and later owner of his own machine shop, was of course an SME member. I always knew a manufacturing career—to me the essence of designing and making things—was right for me. I eagerly joined the SME student chapter at the University of Wisconsin and was mentored by the faculty advisor Marvin DeVries. It was no surprise Professor DeVries later was elected SME president, and his role—as with all of our student chapter advisors—was invaluable to growing students’ understanding of both the manufacturing profession and of SME. Without this background, I might have joined SME as a manufacturing engineer, but later, as a manufacturing executive, I would not have gathered that SME is the right place for me according to our former name. While today I no longer have the manufacturing engineer title, manufacturing engineering is my profession—and SME is the place where manufacturing comes together. We can’t allow our former name to dissuade others to join SME, to meet their colleagues, to continuously improve their knowledge and to grow their careers.
As SME looks to the future, our overarching goal in 2014 will be to continue emphasizing SME’s new brand and image as it continues to mature. A brand is a promise, which can also convey an emotion and enlist loyalty. SME’s new brand delivers the promise that it will engage with its stakeholders—companies, educators, government and communities; members, students and practitioners; and the current and future manufacturing workforce—to share knowledge and advance manufacturing. To do this, all strategic areas of SME—events, Tooling U-SME, membership, Manufacturing Engineering Media and the SME Education Foundation—must all work together to ensure that SME is fulfilling its stakeholders expectations and ultimately exploring its endless potential.
As cliché as it may sound, time does not stand still, and neither can SME, which is why all of this recent transformation has taken place. To be a successful organization, SME has to continue to evolve and change to meet the progressive world we all live in. As valued SME members, your continued support is critical, and I hope you will all continue this evolutionary journey with SME. ME
This article was first published in the October 2013 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine. Click here for PDF.