Struggling to attract new members, the Society of Plastics Engineers needs to reinvent itself to become more virtual, more global and to get younger plastics professionals involved, President Paul Andersen said.
The society has to evolve to maintain its relevance, he said in a speech at SPE's business luncheon Sunday.
Andersen, SPE president for 2009-10, is senior manager of process technology and new development at compounding extruder supplier Coperion Corp. in Ramsey, N.J.
For SPE, 2008 and the first half of 2009 have been a test of our character, Andersen said. Membership continues to drop as [Baby Boomers] retire, the plastics industry is still contracting, jobs are moving offshore to locations that are not SPE strongholds, companies are cutting back on membership subsidies, and so on.
Attendance at conferences and seminars is lower than past years, he added.
SPE leaders are studying several ways to get young people in particular the so-called generations X and Y to join the group and become active contributors. One way could be to boost online programs. SPE already has launched an updated Web site that provides easier access to technical content, including an online encyclopedia and weekly articles on plastics research. The society's magazine, Plastics Engineering, this summer will launch a new Web site.
SPE also offers Web-based seminars (Webinars) and this fall will host a virtual conference of presentations of the best technical papers on extrusion and injection molding from Antec 2009, which is being held this week alongside NPE2009.
The next step in attracting new members could be online voting by members of SPE's governing body. Andersen said virtual council meetings could help boost global participation, as well as interest younger members raised in the age of computers.
SPE also will look outside North America to increase membership, Andersen said. We need to work to assure that SPE truly has 'No Borders,' he said, citing the motto adopted at Antec 2008 in Milwaukee.
Technical sessions of this year's Antec conference are being held at the new McCormick Place West building in Chicago.
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