Certification is a funny thing

Greg Croce | TLT President's Report September 2018

While not for everyone, this stamp of excellence can be a world-class differentiator for lubricant marketers.

There is a large part of our industry made up academia, research and graduates with doctorates, but those folks are just the tip of the iceberg. 
© Can Stock Photo / Pixelchaos

You ever wonder what STLE’s top offer to the industry is? First, please understand that the content and opinion of these columns are those of your current president and not necessarily the opinion of the rest of our community. Having stated that disclosure, the answer is—certification!

STLE certification, whether it is CLS, OMA I, OMA II or CMFS, are world-class differentiators for those who have the knowledge and experience to obtain them. STLE certification affirms that the individual who carries one or more is very qualified and competent in that area of expertise.

But certification is not for everybody. I know a huge part of STLE’s membership is saying, “Ah, my CV speaks for itself; I probably don’t need certification.” Yes, I understand, there is a large part of our industry made up academia, research and graduates with doctorates, but those folks are just the tip of the iceberg of our community. Many STLE members don’t realize that a huge part of our community is not in that tip of the iceberg. In fact, most of our community doesn’t focus on hard-core tribology research but, rather, the manufacturing, selling, marketing, support and use of lubricants!

It is this part of the community that, like myself, didn’t actually study to be in the lubricants industry. Most of us, whether in college or high school, never thought to ourselves, “I think I will work toward a career in lubrication.” We all simply fell into it. We are the people that need/desire STLE certification to help differentiate ourselves from those that haven’t been able to obtain it.

The funny thing is, this certification business is not as easy as it looks. You can tell that by just looking at what is offered in our industry. Other countries really want to offer our certification (a topic for a future column), and other societies either have been successful after some hard work or continue to try to get solid certification off the ground—it just isn’t that easy. 

Certification is such an important part of our community that STLE leadership strategizes carefully about how to market it. Believe it or not, STLE certification is mostly marketed by word of mouth, which really shows its value and demand for two key reasons:

1. STLE’s various certification committees have done a great job of developing and changing exam questions constantly, ensuring their integrity and right level of difficultly. The exam and process must be right sized. That ensures that when you meet someone who has one of these certifications, it means something. They know their stuff.

2. Companies in our industry know the value of STLE certification, based on No. 1 above. It is no secret that my company from Day One has been a strong believer in STLE certification. It is why I am here. I started my involvement with STLE based on a promise that I would gain CLS certification. In addition, I think you will find that my company is right up there when it comes to having the most certified employees (and affiliates), due to this belief in the value of the program.

So what is the point, Mr. President? I wanted to reiterate the value of our certification programs and communicate that we understand it isn’t for everybody. In addition, I want to stress that it is designed to certify those in our community who have the right combination of book smarts (training) and experience. One of my favorite sayings is, “There is no substitute for experience,” and in this case it is very true. 

For those of you preparing for STLE certification—good for you and good luck!
Greg Croce is Delo Brand technical manager for Chevron Products Co. in Richmond, Calif. You can reach him at gcroce@chevron.com.