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Presidents Message October 2008
Robert W. Bruce
Striking a balance
There are plenty of potential STLE members out there, and the society is taking new measures to connect with them.
TLE membership hovered around 4,300 for many years, but it dropped after Sept. 11, 2001, and has continued sliding to about 3,500 now. As an organization, we cannot continue to simply lose members—we need to analyze the causes and react appropriately. Other societies faced the same effect after 2001 and discovered strategies that are increasing their membership, and we can probably learn from them.
Consolidation in the lubricant and additive industries has had a clear effect on our membership, as has globalization and outsourcing to overseas locations. These trends are not going to reverse in the foreseeable future.
Some jobs are now overseas, which explains the growing number of members from abroad. Growth of some product markets also is stronger overseas, so there are additional potential members out there.
In addition, we’re seeing incredible growth in such tribology areas as diamond coatings and other hard coatings in the automotive industry. Two oil companies presented papers during the Cleveland Annual Meeting about the lubricant/coating interaction. These coatings have been used in the aerospace industry for some time—in fact, there are more coated than bare parts in a jet engine.
With the use of coatings in the automotive world, the market today is much larger, and growth is enormous. Next to the expansion in both the number and size of coating suppliers is the rapidly increasing performance of these coatings, achieved by continuous improvement. In some cases we’ve seen performance double in a span of a few years. What an opportunity to find new members for a tribology society!
So what are we going to do and how are we going to do it? STLE’s Membership Committee, chaired by Clint Lingel of Ariel Corp. and supported by board director-sponsor Patrick Kilbane with Staveley Services Fluids Analysis, is working on the answers. Committee members have organized conference calls (and done a lot of work in between those calls) to determine how we will address these complex issues.
When visiting STLE local sections this past year, I asked the meeting attendees to identify themselves as suppliers, researchers or end-users and discovered that end-users represent at most 10% of the total and on occasion 0%. Our membership records show a similar lack of end-user members.
We need to reach out to potential end-user members so they can continue to share their needs with us. Those expressed needs generate the innovative supplier solutions that move technology forward, and moving technology forward is STLE’s mission. I have asked director Charles Paxton with GM Warren Tech Center, an end-user company, to head an effort that will bring in more end-user members.
STLE should strive toward a balance of all types of members and cover as many aspects of tribology and lubrication engineering as we can handle organizationally, for it is this kind of interaction that leads to the innovation and best practices that support our mission. n
Bob Bruce is principal engineer, tribology, at GE Aircraft Engines in Cincinnati. You can reach him at
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