STLE 2000: An International Engineering Society Prepares for the Next CenturyEdward P. Salek
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The Society of Tribologists and Lubrication Engineers (STLE) is a not-for-profit association founded in 1944 to advance the knowledge and application of the science of lubrication and tribology. The original name, American Society of Lubrication Engineers (ASLE), was changed in 1988 to reflect a broader membership base and a growing international presence.
Lubrication engineering relates to the reduction of friction and wear between relatively moving parts. The term tribology was coined in the mid-1960's in Great Britain to describe the study of interacting moving surfaces. It is derived from a Greek word ("tribos") and literally means the science of rubbing. Tribology encompasses aspects of physics, chemistry, applied mathematics, metallurgy, material science, mechanical engineering, chemical engineering and applied mechanics.
STLE includes 4,300 individual members and 200 Industrial (Corporate) Members. They represent interdisciplinary technical professionals from industry, academic institutions and government and are enrolled in 32 local sections throughout the United States, Canada, Australia, Europe and Asia. About 25% of STLE's membership lives and works in 50 nations outside of the United States.
Dues are $76 per year for individuals and $625 per year for corporate members.
STLE is incorporated in the state of Illinois. Structure and governance procedures are defined in a Constitution and By-Laws, which have recently been updated and revised. In addition, a strategic plan, designated as STLE 2000, directs the ongoing activities of the Society. Annual budget is approximately $1.6 million.
STLE's elected leadership is provided by a 24-member Board of Directors. The President, who serves a one-year term, is the organization's chief elected officer and the chairman of the Board of Directors. The Board also includes a number of ex-officio members. It meets four times per year.
Complementing and extending the work of the Board is an impressive volunteer network that includes hundreds of individuals serving in a variety of ways. This might include participation in one of 23 technical committees and councils, an administrative committee, serving as an associate editor or reviewer for a Society journal or local Section activity.
Working in concert with the elected leadership and volunteers is a 10-person professional staff. This group operates from the Society's 9,000 sq. ft. headquarters building located in a suburb of Chicago, Illinois. The STLE staff has more than 100 years of combined experience in association and organization management.
This volunteer-professional staff partnership is a combination that enables organizations like STLE to literally work magic by providing benefits that a single company or small group of individuals could not develop working alone.
It is no secret that the rate of change in business continues to accelerate rapidly. In this turbulent business environment, organizations like STLE must adapt their traditional mix of services to the new demands of members (customers). STLE's strategy for doing this emphasizes dollars and cents issues--both at the macro level for industry and for the individual member.
While lubrication developments have always kept pace with the needs of advanced engineering, some regarded it as a trivial aspect in the production process. However, tribology now involves levels of knowledge in many interdisciplinary fields that can offer a business the type of productivity and savings that make a difference in a quality and cost conscious world.
According to studies done by a leading research consortium in the United States, approximately one-third of all usable, device-produced energy in this country is lost to friction and wear. This translates to 2-5% of the GNP, costing U.S. consumers some $250 billion each year. In addition to energy loss, friction and wear greatly affect product reliability, maintainability, safety, life and environmental factors. The consortium reports that an improvement in tribological efficiencies of only 0.1% would result in consumer savings of over $250 million each year!
STLE carries this message to top management of corporations around the world. It is part of the strategy to build high level business support for STLE's mission and for the involvement of technical professionals.
On an individual level, members today face additional demands in the workplace. They live in an environment of downsizing, rightsizing, re-engineering and uncertainty about how the next blockbuster merger or acquisition will affect their career. There is a need to work smarter. Competition for jobs is keen and the bar has been lifted with regard to the knowledge required to do a job right.
This makes a very strong case for active participation in STLE. Our Society provides members with the technical and business skills and the network of contacts necessary for survival in today's business world. STLE calls this its "money in your pocket" strategy, a phrase inspired by one of our long-time members in the Philadelphia area who has been instrumental in STLE education programs for many years.
Working to disseminate and clarify lubrication knowledge has been a primary purpose of STLE for more than 50 years. In today's world, and in the future, it is growing even more important. Lifelong learning is one of the hottest concepts in business. Authors as diverse as Peter Senge from MIT and the venerable Peter Drucker are speaking out about the need for education to help people adjust to the changing work environment.
Organizations like STLE are well-placed to be a resource for this type of adult education. STLE recognizes a strategic opportunity to expand tribology and lubrication engineering educational offerings into the void created by cutbacks in education programs sponsored by industry and academia.
STLE facilitates this vital part of an upward-looking career for hundreds of people each year. Providing practical information people can use in their jobs motivates them to attend and ensures company support for their participation and our organization's goals. This is crucial at a time when bottom line oriented senior managers are questioning the value of having people devote time to a technical society like STLE.
Education is a great member benefit and a recruiting tool. Providing this type of program will give STLE new strength and value with existing members, as well as potential members who attend an educational session. Some recent surveys have shown association and society members rating education as a number one benefit of membership (displacing more traditional benefits such as networking).
The STLE Annual Meeting is the Society's most-concentrated education event. More than 300 students typically take one or more courses. The 1998 meeting in Detroit offered eight courses on the following topics:
The program is planned and coordinated by an Education Committee. The courses combine information on both the principles and application of the subject matter. The instructors are working professionals who know the subject basics and have an in-depth knowledge of current issues/trends in their respective fields. The results speak for themselves: 80% of the students give the courses an approval rating of excellent or very good.
Being an educational services provider in today's world also requires an ability to deliver the product locally. Time and travel restrictions make it impossible for many potential students to attend the Annual Meeting. STLE's delivery mechanism for local education is its local Sections. Many of them conduct one and two-day education seminars in cities across North America during the year. Format is similar to the Annual Meeting courses.
For the past several years, STLE has taken its educational programming to an international audience. Sessions held in Singapore and London have provided training in lubrication engineering for nearly 100 students from more than a dozen Asian and European nations.
This demand for convenient educational services continues to grow, and in many cases exists in areas not served by an active local Section. The locales range from certain parts of North America to distant locations like Africa or Eastern Europe. In these instances, STLE is looking at a variety of strategies. Among them are partnering with related organizations and using technology such as the World Wide Web to offer courses and seminars on-line.
While future formats may vary, there will be no change in the need for practical education. This is likely to become STLE's key service in the new century.
STLE's certification program, started in 1993, is one of the organization's fastest growing member services. Since that time, more than 400 individuals (from about 130 companies) have earned the Certified Lubrication Specialist (CLSTM) designation. To do so, they must pass a written exam (70% score or better on about 150 questions). That is the only criterion.
The exam tests an individual's practical knowledge in 17 subject areas:
The tests are evaluated by members of the Certified Lubrication Specialist (CLSTM) Committee, which is the oversight body for the program. Only about 65% of the individuals who take this challenging test pass and are certified.
Exams are given at the STLE Annual Meeting, and at sites around the U.S. and Canada during the year. Program administration is handled by the STLE headquarters staff.
The program is governed by a written Policy Statement and by separate Operating Policies and Procedures.
Why is certification a popular member service?
From its inception, STLE has been committed to serving the members' need for an interchange of information about lubrication theory and practice. This need is growing more rapidly in today's information age. So is the character and usefulness of STLE information services.
STLE publishes two technical journals which cover all phases of today's tribology developments as they occur. The research-oriented Tribology Transactions is published quarterly, while Lubrication Engineering is a monthly publication focused on lubrication application research and practices. STLE also produces many special publications covering topics in the field of tribology.
Tribology Transactions features scientific and technical papers covering theoretical aspects of tribology. It's a journal that's on the leading edge of breakthrough thinking about tribology and lubrication knowledge. The publication celebrated its 40th anniversary in 1997. Since its inception, Tribology Transactions has published nearly 2,000 papers on every aspect of lubrication, specifically research and design.
Total circulation for the journal is approximately 1,000 copies.
Every month, Lubrication Engineering delivers to its readers carefully reviewed news and technical information covering lubrication developments and application reports. As the official journal of STLE, the magazine serves an audience of interdisciplinary professionals from industry, academic institutions and government.
Lubrication Engineering has been published by STLE for more than 50 years. It's a respected forum reaching more than 6,000 of the world's top technical people involved in tribology and lubrication engineering.
Monthly and quarterly appearances of Lubrication Engineering and Tribology Transactions are augmented as the occasion arises by information in the form of special publications, preprints and reprints of significant papers. Since mid-1996, STLE has had a site on the World Wide Web (www.stle.org). This form of electronic publishing is opening new avenues for the society. The site is averaging more than 40 unique user sessions per day, compared to about 10 per day in late 1996.
The Society sponsors a number of technical meetings on both the national and local level where a broad interchange of research, development and application results take place. These meetings provide a forum for learning the latest in the state-of-the-art or knowledge as it exists in industry, government, and academia.
Twice each year, all STLE members are given a chance to get together in major national meetings.
The Annual Meeting, usually held in May, draws an audience of more than 1,500 technical professionals. It features 8-12 education courses targeted to people new to the field as well as those more experienced in lubrication practices. The meeting also offers more than 300 paper presentations and panel discussions, product forums and exhibits by suppliers to the lubricants market and networking opportunities. Summit meetings of Technical Committees and Industry Councils also take place.
The 1999 STLE Annual Meeting will be held on May 23-27 in Las Vegas, Nevada. An STLE Tribology Conference in October, cosponsored by the Tribology Division of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers International (ASME), is research-oriented and features the year's collection of papers covering latest advances in the field. 300-400 people from many different countries attend.
The 1998 meeting will take place on October 25-28 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
At the local level, STLE Sections conduct over 400 meetings a year.
The STLE 2000 Strategic Plan, created in 1995 and continually being reviewed and updated, is the key to the long-term health and workings of the Society. It represents a commitment to a streamlining and simplification of the Society, increased use of computer technologies, sound financial planning, focusing in a business-like manner on the key activities of the Society, and serving the diverse membership needs.
STLE's road map for the new century directs the organization towards the following goals:
Represent 5,000 individual members, with an emphasis on better retention of existing members, through the efforts of a Membership Committee and a full-time professional staff member.
Retain STLE's traditional function as a link between science, research and industry by emphasizing the involvement of product end users in the Society.
Two world class meetings
Adapt the STLE Annual Meeting and the Fall Tribology Conference to the changing needs of an international audience.
Education and Certification
Two related service areas will form the basis for STLE's success in the coming century.
STLE is guided by an investment and financial management policy that emphasizes security and liquidity with some growth potential. Prudent use of these reserves funds is a crucial element in the organization's growth strategy.
Ties to international community
Technical professionals in developing countries have a great need for STLE services. Structure programs that make it possible for them to participate in the Society.
Systems enhance productivity
A new management information system at Society headquarters will increase productivity and allow for open platform sharing of information with technical committees, sections and other volunteers.
Volunteer relationships flourish
Nurture and respect volunteers. They provide the special strength of a professional society, but are under new personal and business pressures that make it more difficult to devote time to the organization.
Staff professionalism and growth
Headquarters office staff equipped to serve as partners with the membership in planning and implementing STLE's strategic goals for the future.
As we look to the new century, this organization is confident that we will achieve our vision: To be the foremost technical society in tribology, lubrication engineering and related sciences and technologies.