Where Theory Meets Practice


STLE is a society of experts, says Daniel D. McCoy. STLE members created the products that developed lubrication science, and they are engineering and marketing the predicts that meet the challenges of today. But advanced technology isn’t everything. Base lubricant practices are important too.

McCoy’s priority, as newly elected president of the 4,000-member Society of Tribologists and Lubrication Engineers, is to make sure we don’t just focus on one area. There’s a practical side and a theoretical side. We need to make people aware that we offer both kinds of content.

McCoy, and independent consultant based in Parma, Ohio, began his career 30 years ago as a lubrication engineer with Republic Steel. But the steel industry – like so many other manufacturing industries – was downsizing and contracting out the lubrication engineering function. After 18 years, McCoy was faced with the choice of staying with Republic but leaving the lubricants field, or leaving Republic. He chose the latter. McCoy spent the next 12 years with additive giant Lubrizol Corp’s industrial products group, until a company restructuring prompted him to start a consulting career in early 2005, with the Lubrizol’s K2M online lubricant sales education program as his key client.

As a new lubricant engineer 30 years ago, says McCoy, a supplier from Brooks Technology invited me to attend the local Cleveland section meeting, and I made the section a monthly routine for learning and networking. And I continue that routine today.

Founded in 1944 as the American Society of Lubrication Engineers, the Park Ridge, Ill based society was reborn in 1987 as the Society of Tribologists and Lubrication Engineers, embracing researchers in industry academia and government, component and finished-lubricant marketers, as well as the dwindling number of end users. Today STLE serves it’s members with a range of professional education and certification programs.

A dozen years ago STLE launched it’s initial certification program, the Certified Lubrication Specialist. That was followed by the Old Monitoring Analyst certification, and most recently by the Certified Metalworking Fluids Specialist certification. Over a third of the society’s members hols at least one of the certifications, McCoy notes.

While providing lubrication education is an essential STLE program, the society does not provide education programs specific to the certification [exams], says McCoy. There’s a firewall between our education programs and certification. We don’t teach to the test.

The role of the lubricant distributor is changing, McCoy notes. Ten to 15 years ago, manufacturers outsourced the lubrication engineering function to the lube manufacturers who supplied their fluids. Now the distributor is taking on a bigger role in supplying information to end users. As distributors grown in size and scope, STLE plans to meet their professional development needs.

In the coming year, McCoy wants to see STLE provide even more help to the volunteers who manage it’s network of 55 local sections in the United States, Canada and several other countries. An new membership services manager was added to the headquarters staff last year, to help sections with program development. Getting information out faster is a major focus, and we’re using online forums more.

STLE’s biggest challenge, McCoy says, is to capture and preserve basic lubrication knowledge. As companies downsize, expertise is lost. Lubrication engineers used to learn through on-the-job training, but companies don’t have time for that now. This provides an ideal opportunity for STLE to provide that type of information to those responsible for the duties of a lubrication manager.

Downsizing will continue, McCoy concludes. But the manufacturing sector has to get back to a steady state. And there will always be mechanical equipment that needs proper lubrication. Providing people with the knowledge to do the job right is what STLE is all about. Who knows? We may see lube engineers again!