STLE Greenlights Metalworking Program


The Society of Tribologists and Lubrication Engineers last week approved a recommendation to establish a certification program to identify individuals with expertise in the use of metalworking fluids. Members of an ad hoc committee that recommended the program predicted certification will become a popular yardstick used by customers to gauge the qualification of companies supplying fluids and related services.

This program will significantly change the metalworking industry, said Houghton Internationals John Burke, who served as chairman of the societys ad hoc committee. Not only will it provide a formal acknowledgment of metalworking fluid management expertise, but for the first time there will be an established body of knowledge on recommended practices.

Large corporations, including major automotive and aerospace corporations, have already expressed a desire to make this type of certification a requirement for doing business.When that happens, scores of engineers and technicians will be rushing in to take the exam.

The society also decided to develop a certificate training program that would teach individuals how to manage metalworking fluids. The certificate program will cover issues such as tool life, health and safety issues, surface integrity, corrosion and process costs. Burke compared it to STLEs existing Certified Lubrication Specialist program and said it will consist of a course designed for entry-level employees and others wanting a basic understanding of fluids. In contrast, the certification program is meant to test for much deeper and broader knowledge.

Certification is going to require more than just the learning that you could get from reading about metalworking fluids, Burke said. Its going to require the expertise that comes from years of experience. Its going to test judgment as well as knowledge.

The next step for both programs is writing course requirements and exams. The society aims to have the certification program in place by May 2005. Burke said the certificate program should be ready to accept applicants by late next year. Burke has been appointed chairman of the committee that will develop requirements for both programs, and he invited individuals interested in either project to contact him or STLE.

Burke and other ad hoc committee members said they expect a wide range of individuals will seek certification – from sales people, customer service representatives and senior technical professionals employed by fluid suppliers, to plant or fluid managers employed by end users. They said the program will help the industry as a whole by providing a vehicle to increase the amount of expertise.

Until now, this has really been an experiential-based area, said John Howell, of D.A. Stuart Co. There are no college-level courses on metalworking fluids, so I think this has the potential to be recognized as the pre-eminent educational program.

Others added that certification will provide a shorthand method for end users to identify suppliers with solid understanding of the fluids used in their plants.

So many OEMs these days are contracting some level of chemical services management, said Doug Hunsicker, senior engineering specialist for Caterpillar and a member of the ad hoc committee. With that comes a need to know the skill levels of people who are coming to manage systems in your plant. A lot of times the people making decisions about contracting those services are purchasing people who may have never even been in a plant. This would give them a way to evaluate the qualification of potential contractors.

Don Smolenski, a technical fellow with General Motors’ worldwide facilities group, offered another example of how an end user might benefit from the certification program. He noted that GM recently signed CMS contracts with several new suppliers.

A few of these companies gained a lot of business and the question is, do they have enough qualified people to come in and manage those programs? said Smolenski, also a member of the ad hoc committee. Once this program is in place, I can see requests for proposals or bid specifications requiring that some portion of the [suppliers] staff have certification.

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