The Big M

The Society of Manufacturing Engineers in Dearborn reached 400,000 people in 2013.

Even as its membership has declined from a peak of 70,000 professionals in the early 1980s, the Society of Manufacturing Engineers in Dearborn reached 400,000 people in 2013 via conferences, a monthly trade magazine, and an array of digital tools.

In 2014, the nonprofit organization, recently renamed SME, will expand its reach with The Big M, a conference to be held June 9-12 at Cobo Center. The event is expected to draw thousands of industry experts.

The gathering will be held concurrently with the RAPID Conference and Exposition, a worldwide forum of experts in additive manufacturing, 3-D printing, and 3-D scanning; and the International Manufacturing Research Conference, which will draw industry and academic manufacturing leaders (hosted by the University of Michigan).

“We will be harnessing the power of industry leaders to work toward real solutions to industry challenges — the skills gap, global competition, new technologies like 3-D printing, cyber security, supply chain, and more,” says Debbie Holton, SME’s managing director of industry and technology.

While today the organization has 23,000 members, it reaches a much larger global audience via 400 online manufacturing-related courses under the brand name Tooling U, as well as an online book and video platform called KnowledgeEdgeSM. “The No. 1 concern among manufacturers is access to a skilled workforce,” says Jeannine Kunz, SME’s managing director of workforce and education. “Our online tools are as simple to use as iTunes.”

To broaden its reach among future professionals, the SME Education Foundation promotes the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) among K-12 students.

“The digital tools we offer have really changed the focus of SME,” Holton says. “We used to be a big ship that took a few years to turn around, but now we’re a bunch of small boats that can change on
a dime.”  db —  R.J. King