Evans: STLE Helps Industry Meet Challenges

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Evans: STLE Helps Industry Meet Challenges
Ryan Evans from The Timken Company has been elected the 2022-2023 president of the Society of Tribologists and Lubrication Engineers. Photo courtesy of STLE

ORLANDO, Florida – The new president of the Society of Tribologists and Lubrication Engineers said such professional organizations can play meaningful roles in helping industry solve the many challenges confronting the field today.

Electrification of automobiles, sustainability and artificial intelligence are among the problems and opportunities clamoring for the lubricant industry’s attention. Ryan Evans, who began his term as STLE president on Tuesday, said it will take thorough work to address them, even when there is a sense of urgency.

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“There’s a balance between aggressive and fast and being more thoughtful and doing it right,” he told Lube Report during an interview today at STLE’s annual meeting and trade exhibition. “It takes thoughtful research, trials, testing, modeling – whatever – without being reckless, to really deliver the solutions to the technical challenges and opportunities. Our community has to wrestle with that balancing act.”

Evans, who is director of research and development at bearings and power transmission products manufacturer The Timken Company, began his one-year term at a luncheon on Tuesday. STLE is a technical society serving individuals, companies and organizations in the tribology and lubrication engineering business sector.

“I think we’re uniquely positioned to look at those” challenges and opportunities confronting tribology, he said. “We have a lot of diversity within our membership, both individually and on a corporate level, and we rely on that as we assess these trends moving forward.”

Evans said he has seen the organization help focus attention on such issues, such as in the early 2010s when the energy industry was in the midst of a wind turbine building boom.

“The sense of urgency maybe wasn’t the same, but the technical opportunity space was there,” he recalled. “We have this ability to harness clean energy from the wind, but we didn’t really have reliable machines to do so. From a tribology point of view there was a lot of opportunity in the space of bearings and greases and lubricants and so on.”

He said there were unique challenges to the field, which the industry came together to work on. Current wind turbine technology that allows turbines to last as long as they do is mostly due to work of tribologists and lubricant specialists, among others.

“As I look at electric vehicles and electrification in general, I see a similar situation,” Evans said. “There are a lot of different designs and both established and emerging players, and therefore a lot of technical opportunity. The technical community is equally as excited now as I remember in the wind turbine industry.”

Evans said an organization such as STLE can help address such challenges in a number of ways. It providing peer review of new ideas presented by companies and individuals. It also organizes and hosts education courses and technical talks. Last year it organized a special conference on electric vehicles. The organization also runs Tribology & Lubrication Technology technical journal, provides courses to help members prepare for certifications and has extended its scholarship programs.

“I’m a big proponent of community. The larger community has a common interest. The public and face-to-face meetings that provide networking and community-building are important. We’ve also increasingly gone virtual with online webinars, a new podcast and other member benefits that allow people to connect if they can’t travel.”

STLE is currently writing a report about emerging trends in tribology, including those mentioned above along with topics such as factories of the future and clean power generation. Scheduled to be published in two years, the report will help guide the organization in its creation of technical committees and certifications.

“The plan is to do a deeper dive in the subject matter, whereas previous reports flew at a higher level of topic level and based mostly on membership surveys. We’re trying to take it to the next level and get some expert opinions into there,” Evans said.

Evans said he took the role of president because he likes organizing the communities he’s a part of and seeing the benefits of those efforts. “In a society like this it’s about embracing the mission of what’s trying to happen and recognizing the bigger picture of the organization.”