by Phil Shoemaker
For those folks unfortunate enough to be involved in an aircraft incident there is an aphorism that states that if it still looks like an airplane when the parts stop moving, you’ll probably walk away. I was reminded of that gem when surveying the membership numbers of our once-proud organization, which has been in descent for twenty-five years. For a while it seemed that SPE membership generally would track the growth of the polymers industry, one doubling roughly every thirteen years. In the early 1990s registration stood at 38,000, which would yield about 136,000 today. But things changed in the mid-1990s, when enrollment slowed, then started its steady descent, standing today at 22,000. I’m not convinced that the parts have stopped moving yet, but it’s undeniable that we came in for a hard landing. Unsurprisingly, the declining membership corresponds with the development of the internet and its related on-line services—the world wide web in ’93, email, (first publicly available through CompuServe in ’95), then google, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Information, contacts, machinery parts or materials, all can now be accessed without leaving the office, an undeniable gain in efficiency and convenience. No surprise there—the replacement of one form of communication with one faster and more information-intensive has been going on for centuries. The question now becomes how SPE might best serve the interests of our membership, given the undeniable gains the internet offers.
There are things the internet cannot offer, however. In our case they are showing up as an incessant call for new hires, all kinds of training, and the knowledge that uniquely comes from tacit feedback and personal contact. Occasionally, we find out how someone tackled the recruitment, knowledge transfer, and employee retention challenges. So, as we begin the new SPE year, we’ll see if we can offer something useful—a chance to tour a facility and listen to the owner of Core Technology, Geoff Foster, reveal how he has addressed those thorny problems at his company. He has, and will continue, to offer outreach and training efforts that we can all emulate, much to everyone’s advantage. We’ll also update you as to the ideas that drive the SPE local events, and as always, solicit your feedback. The particulars are:
Core Technology Molding Corporation
2911 Gate City Blvd.
Greensboro, NC 27401
September 19th, at 5:00 PM
Cost is $25.00 for members and $30.00 for non-members.