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Presidents Message - May 2012

By Mike Dugger

Expanding horizons 

Workplace visits lead to a new appreciation of how each STLE member contributes to the society's mission.  

ONE OF THE MOST REWARDING PARTS OF BEING STLE PRESIDENT is having the opportunity to visit our members at local sections. During my time on the Executive Committee, I have visited local sections in Calgary, Oklahoma, the Upper Ohio Valley, Cincinnati, Detroit, the Caribbean and Chicago. I am hoping to visit a few more during a trip to the West Coast before this month’s STLE annual meeting.

These visits have been both personally rewarding and a benefit to the STLE organization. On a personal level, I have met many dedicated volunteers from a wide variety of professional backgrounds. These include researchers, product developers, technical support and marketing professionals from large and small businesses, as well as professors, students and government laboratory scientists. Talking with these people has given me an important perspective on what different professionals get from STLE. All value our technical content and the professional networking opportunities, both at live events and the greatly expanded online content available now. Beyond that, members find value in such services as the online directory, the Commercial Marketing Forum, student programs, etc.

I also have sat in on several education programs hosted by sections. This has provided me with an opportunity to learn about aspects of our mission statement that I previously had little exposure to and are not part of my job responsibilities.

For example, I began to understand the complex blend of additives in modern engine oils and how changes in one additive frequently impact the effectiveness of other additives. I gained a new appreciation for how oils are carefully formulated to provide the best balance of properties. I shudder to think of the chemical havoc I wreaked on my car’s crankcase as a young man by dumping a bottle of some additive into the oil in the name of improving performance or longevity. No more of that for me! I also learned a little about hydraulic fluids, seals, manufacturing plant lubrication programs and asset management.

A new process for section visits that the Executive Committee has adopted during the past year includes visits to other organizations in the same geographic area as the section. These have included visits to corporate members, universities and companies that are not corporate members but have many employees who are individual members. Walking around an organization’s laboratories, seeing its facilities that develop products, provide customer support or develop new understanding of tribological processes, gave me an appreciation for the extreme technical depth and breadth represented by our members.

Discussions with organization representatives have yielded ideas for improvements to some of our programs, allowed us to understand the types of services that our member companies value and have even resulted in new corporate members. This type of regular dialog is an important part of due diligence to our mission and maintaining the high value of the content and services that STLE provides. Company representatives say they appreciate the discussions and the fact that STLE’s leadership is listening.

I am grateful for the chance to meet the members of local sections and to visit many of the organizations that depend on STLEdelivered content. I would encourage all members to participate in your local section’s education program, even if the topics are not directly aligned with your job responsibilities. I have found them to be a valuable asset in understanding our field more broadly and relating to my professional colleagues’ perspectives.


Mike Dugger is a Distinguished Member of the Technical Staff with Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, N.M. You can reach him at mtdugge@sandia.gov

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