Apr 24, 2006

Let's finish up the SME identity statement

Through recognition activities and industry alliances, we promote an increased awareness of manufacturing engineering and advocate for improvements and investments in education. Huh? Recognition activities are awards. I don’t exactly know what industry alliances are. We want to promote awareness of manufacturing engineering, but this claim may be more wishful thinking than fact. SME does much more than advocate for improvements and investments in education. Its education foundation funds college and university manufacturing labs, curriculum development and other improvements that do a better job of turning students into engineers.

SME honors leaders in academia and industry with awards such as the SME Gold Medal and the Young Manufacturing Engineer of the Year at its annual meeting.

The SME Education Foundation funds college and university manufacturing labs, curriculum development and other improvements that increase their ability to turn students into engineers.

Certification
Professional certifications have in the last few years been given new emphasis. Even after 18 years at SME I didn’t really understand their value until I helped the staff at the time to reorganize their web site. The exam-based credentials receive painstaking attention to validity and relevance. There are four manufacturing certifications – technologist, engineer, manager and enterprise integrator. Now the lean manufacturing certifications are joining the list (see www.sme.org/leancert).

Through association with SME, industry and academic leaders have established certifications to hold manufacturing professionals to the highest standards of expertise.

Leadership
Seems like an organization like SME gives people the chance to develop and show their leadership abilities. Furthermore, they are in a position to find mentors to help them advance in their careers, and as they do so, mentor others in turn. So someday, add that in.

Where we started…
The Society of Manufacturing Engineers is dedicated to bringing people and information together to advance manufacturing knowledge. We are internationally recognized by manufacturing practitioners, companies and other organizations as their source for information, education and networking. Through our member services, publications, events, professional development resources and chapter and technical community networking activities, our Society keeps professionals up to date on trends and technologies. Through recognition activities and industry alliances, we promote an increased awareness of manufacturing engineering and advocate for improvements and investments in education. [85 words]

What we have so far…
Manufacturing professionals come together to share knowledge and pool information through the Society of Manufacturing Engineers, advancing the practice of manufacturing. Manufacturing practitioners, managers and executives find education and networking opportunities at seminars, regional and international conferences, trade shows, and local chapter meetings. Members turn to SME’s industry-leading magazine, videos, and books for up-to-date information about manufacturing equipment and practices. Through association with SME, industry and academic leaders have established certifications to hold manufacturing professionals to the highest standards of expertise. [81 words]

Tighten it up…
Manufacturing practitioners, managers and executives come together to share knowledge through the Society of Manufacturing Engineers. They find education and networking opportunities at seminars, regional and international conferences, trade shows, and local chapter meetings. Members turn to SME’s industry-leading magazine, videos, and books for up-to-date information about manufacturing equipment and practices. Through association with SME, industry and academic leaders have established certifications to hold manufacturing professionals to the highest standards of expertise. [72 words]

What do you think? Is it interesting to you as a potential member?

Apr 17, 2006

Slogging on...

Through our member services, publications, events, professional development resources and chapter and technical community networking activities… Whoa! Seems like we want to make a point that the members have hired people to make “products” (don’t get me started on the word “product” – do we ever get up in the morning saying, “I gotta get me some products”?) Hiring people who know about the businesses of publishing, producing expositions and conferences, and maintaining an infrastructure that supports member activities is not a bad thing to do. If the staff can bring in more money than it costs to employ them, even better. Sounds like we want a concise statement of the range of available opportunities for learning and networking.

Manufacturing practitioners, managers and executives find education and networking opportunities at seminars, regional and international conferences, trade shows, and local chapter meetings.

Members turn to SME’s industry-leading magazine, videos, and books for up-to-date information about manufacturing equipment and practices.

Seems like I'm writing a whole brochure here, but I think I'll go on and see if it can be reduced when we're done.

Here's what I'd like to accomplish - What would make an SME member feel proud to belong to this professional society, and make someone not a member want to be a part of it? What would make inactive members want to start something worthwhile with other members?

Apr 15, 2006

SME identification part 2

We are internationally recognized by manufacturing practitioners, companies and other organizations as their source for information, education and networking. Saying “We are internationally recognized…” is a little like starting a press release by saying, “We are pleased to announce…” I classify that as a “so what?” statement. It’s kind of like a vision statement – lofty and partially true. Like saying, "We're great."

And how can a company recognize anything? A company is a thing. Hmm… seems like the ideas “international” and the words “education” and “networking” are worth bringing up. We already talked about “information” in the first sentence.

Know what? I can’t really do anything with this sentence, so I’m going to leave it out for now. What do you want to do with it?

Apr 14, 2006

Identity crisis

As I browsed through the CD containing the presentations for the Shingo Prize conference, I happened to read the paragraph we submitted as an exhibitor:

“The Society of Manufacturing Engineers is dedicated to bringing people and information together to advance manufacturing knowledge. We are internationally recognized by manufacturing practitioners, companies and other organizations as their source for information, education and networking. Through our member services, publications, events, professional development resources and chapter and technical community networking activities, our Society keeps professionals up to date on trends and technologies. Through recognition activities and industry alliances, we promote an increased awareness of manufacturing engineering and advocate for improvements and investments in education.”

I seem to be unable to look at a piece of writing without critiquing it or trying to improve it. This makes me miserable, because no one asks me to do it, and no one’s all that interested in knowing how I’d rewrite something, except some of the newsletter authors, who know what they are in for. And, after all, who crowned me arbiter of all things written?

Nevertheless, something really bothered me about the paragraph, something more than that it was too long. It’s more or less the same paragraph I’ve seen or written for almost 20 years. So what’s wrong with it?

It suddenly seems wrong because I’ve changed, not paragraph describing SME. Lean has pushed me toward a greater focus on people, even if I thought I was pretty respectful in the first place.

That paragraph betrays the headquarters-centric mindset many of us in the Ivory Tower in Dearborn hold. “We” bring in the money, conduct the events, publish the magazines and books, and generally create value – or so we’ve thought.

Let’s do some parsing –

The Society of Manufacturing Engineers is dedicated to bringing people and information together to advance manufacturing knowledge. What does “Society of Manufacturing Engineers” mean here? Is it the people at headquarters who decide how to bring people and information together? Or the members who use an organization as a gathering point for sharing knowledge?

If it’s HQ staff, does it matter much if they are “dedicated”? Or does “dedicated” refer to the collective will and purpose of the members of the SME? Does a thing – an organizational entity -- feel dedication about some worthy activity? Could it be that people have dedicated the formation of an organization to a purpose?

Moving on in our sentence, facilitating the sharing of knowledge that takes place where people or information is gathered is a pretty useful thing. If the focus changes to the people who have knowledge and to share, maybe this could say, “Manufacturing professionals come together to share knowledge and pool information through the Society of Manufacturing Engineers, advancing the practice of manufacturing.” I’m not satisfied that that’s the best sentence yet, but I consider it an improvement. It’s a start.

My posts get too long, so I’ll stop here for now. But how would you open this paragraph?

Apr 4, 2006

The military tackles lean

Here I am, at the Shingo Prize Conference in Covington, KY – just across the river from Cincinnati. The Tuesday evening social hour is over and tomorrow the main conference starts.

Seems like I met more people from military MRO (maintenance, repair and overhaul?) facilities than I would have expected. They all want to find the Warner-Robins people because of W-R’s experience in lean (see USAF Embraces Lean Techniques as Lean Directions reported in 2002.) They won a Shingo Prize too. I think I may have a frequent blog visitor from Warner-Robins – could you add a comment on what you’re doing down there?

The Navy has issued notification that lean is going to happen – now. And I’m told that the Marine Corps at Beaufort SC is pumped up and ready to improve stuff.

In the Army, Anniston Depot has sent a delegation of three to the conference. Talking to Tim Spivey and his colleagues, I learned that they use machining and milling centers, laser and waterjet cutting, EDM, some die making, some stamping, assembly and painting. They do some textile production. And disassembly and reclamation. Even with the incredible variety of work needed on the damaged vehicles and weapons that come to them, they have identified value streams and are aligning them.

Tim told me that they invited a couple of the toolmakers to come out from their little world to participate in a lean event. It emerged that some kind of fixture was needed to hold something – the people who worked in the operation being improved could see the function they needed, but the toolmaker saw how something like that could be made. It was already in his mind before they started to talk. Not only was a problem solved, but the toolmaker was excited to have been able to invent something, not just spend his hours on chipmaking. Needless to say, people from the machine shop are going to find themselves in kaizen events in other places around the facility.

One thing the military is good at, according to two people I spoke with, is standard work. There are manuals for most things, including how to bring people up from one rank to another and give them what they need to know to make the step. Sam McPherson, now working at a manufacturing extension group at NC State, says this same approach could be used to foster lean leadership development. He’s promised me an article for Lean Directions.

Tomorrow features Dan Ariens on his company’s culture of continuous improvement, and Paul O’Neill on healthcare costs. I hope to sit in on Pascal Dennis’s session on Hoshin Kanri (policy deployment) and really hope to persuade him to write something for the newsletter. Get Dennis’s books – short, easy to read, and packed with good stuff. He is ex-Toyota, from Cambridge Ontario, if I’m not mistaken. A great lineup of people I don’t know will be speaking – and they are often the best, because they are likely to be the practitioners.
Copyright @ 2005-2014 by Karen Wilhelm