One hundred years of the ISWM…
We should understand just what that means
- 17 US presidents
- The 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote
- The first transatlantic flight
- The strange and wonderful radio
- The Wall Street crash
- The Dust Bowl years
- The death of the Hindenburg
- The first Antarctica exploration
- Two world wars
- Pearl Harbor
- The atomic age
- Television – first black and white, then color
- The Korean war
- We became 50 states with the addition of Hawaii and Alaska
- Sputnik and the first man in space
- The Civil Rights movement
- The Kennedy dynasty and assassinations
- Man on the moon
- Two gulf wars
- The Digital revolution
- Google and Facebook
No present ISWM member was born when this organization was conceived.
So, why did it start? What was its purpose?
Well, as early as 1850 in a small town in New England, men started to band together to talk about weighing machines. A young man named L.D. Berry noted that workers in a factory tended to keep trade secrets concerning their specific branches of manufacture. This knowledge was carefully guarded. Mr. Berry felt that this attitude tended to, and I quote, “stifle the exchange of ideas and impede development in scales and dependent commercial progress”. He gathered the factory groups together for regular meetings and eventually developed the group into a voluntary school of shared ideas and experience.
This group developed into the National Association of Scale Experts, which merged with another group called the American Scalemen’s Association and in 1916 became the National Scalemen’s Association, which was the forerunner of our current society, the International Society of Weighing and Measurement.
Two things we should ask ourselves about this association; what did it do for commerce and users of weighing machines, and what did it do for the brothers in this industry? The answers given then are still true today. It gave people a forum to enable new ideas in weighing to spread faster. It gave weighing professionals a place to meet, formally, but more often informally, to exchange ideas, form alliances, and buy product to better serve their customers. It also facilitated training of technicians and others, all to the greater good of the end users, allowing a free exchange of ideas between competitors and allies alike, and to become a showcase of technology improvements and a place to do business.
As an example, I want to detail how this organization has changed my life. When I joined in 1989 and visited the ISWM exposition in San Jose I was already a member of the National Weighing Federation in the UK.
So it was natural for me to join what was the premier weighing organization in North America. Shortly after that, in San Antonio, Texas at the 1991 Exposition, I mooted the idea of the International Division, echoing the statement by 1932-1934 President E.D. Gordon, chief engineer of Buffalo Scale Company. He said in his President’s address, “and finally as a national convention group which we are today” he went on to say “However, I should not say finally because I firmly believe and sincerely hope that someday the scope of our name will be enlarged to mean “International” which is the true compass of our present field”. In 1991 we were already the International Society, but without an International group. The seeds were then sown and the group that was formed went on to become the largest division of our organization. I became a Governor, people knew my name. I gained contacts, customers, information, friends, business partners, job offers, jobs, a wife, eventually our own business, employees and a bank overdraft.
I know that I am not unusual in this; many of you have profited by the relationships, knowledge and friendships that you have gained as being members of ISWM.
There are other weighing organizations such as SMA and NISA that also represent the weighing business, but they do not, I suggest, have the glue that holds us all together.
I will go back to 1923 when the editor of “Scale Journal” said, “You, Mr. Individual Scaleman, are responsible for this organization”. We the members must proselytize that message. The ISWM is the place to form relationships, and to understand how others do business. That is the glue that holds us together – people! I met people like Ed Phillips, David English, Steve Shelton, Ray Canfield, Irene Warnloff, to name but a very few good people who have helped this organization along the way.
From the early days onward, we have passed through many different eras as technology has offered opportunities and threats to all those involved in our business. I suspect that we will see more challenges along the way, similar to those that have gone before.
Think about the technological changes that have taken place. We used to have Beam Scales without dials. Think what it meant to members who were still tooled up to cut divisions on beams, when along came a dial scale. The same challenge came when dials gave way to Computing Scales and when Steel knives and bearings gave way to Agates. All through our long history, there has been change brought on by technological advances; when Roberval and Beranger and the static enigma, first appeared to challenge equal arm balances, when the first strain gauge load cell appeared inside scales.
The electronic revolution of displaying weight, displacing foundries making dial scales, force compensation balances, Quartz Cells, LED back lights, BCD (binary Coded Decimal) for those of you too young to shave, giving way to 0-20 milliamp or 4-20 milliamp, which in turn give way to RS 232, to USB, to Ethernet and WiFi . Next it is the “cloud”.
We as an industry had to take on board that the constant is change, but the non-constant is the rate of change. If we are to survive in the future, we need not only to embrace change, but to recognize that change is now happening on an exponential curve and we must get used to doing things faster or die.
I will give you examples of change outside our world.
There have been several industries that have been on the cutting edge of technology only to be swallowed up because they did not react to the new “threat”.
Remember this? Every town in the USA had a TV store and an installation team. They came to your house, complete with mirror (to view what was on the screen, as they were sitting at the back twiddling the knobs). They also had a ladder to erect the antenna. All gone, they don’t exist.
Kodak, a watchword for American ingenuity applied for Chapter 11 in 2012 as they failed to embrace the rapid rise of digital cameras.
Who thinks that they will be able to beat the Internet sales of scales and balances, or that Amazon is a flash in the pan? The way of selling scales has completely changed and we, as an industry and an organization, need to manage that change.
Many here today are seeing their traditional way of doing business disappearing or changing – being eroded by the digital age. The internet has brought fast moving change to accepted business models. We must embrace these changes – but not just accept new ways – we must drive these changes…find innovative methods to utilize the new technology entering all facets of our lives.
In this world of Facebook and Twitter, what replaces the influence of the ISWM? What would life be like without the organization? There would be no Handbook 44 training. There would not be an exhibition devoted to weighing equipment. There would be no Rice Lake Weighing Systems hospitality suite. There would be no regional meetings where you can travel easily to see your peers and learn something new.
This is a voluntary organization – a gathering – just like it was at its inception. That means we don’t progress without you, the members, putting in effort and driving us forward. Without the ISWM, where would you go to learn new weighing applications? Where will you go to look somebody in the eye?
In this world of the internet and its superficial connections, the only real connection is the networking of ISWM members. Facebook and LinkedIn, and other similar technology such as web based commerce, allow you to “meet” with people but doesn’t allow you to look into their eyes and into their soul. This technology doesn’t tell you who they are, what they believe in and what they stand for. For me, doing business is still a visceral experience – from the pit of my stomach.
What we must do in the future – together; legislation, new technology, training. As I have said, we need to drive change as well.
Legislation to regulate commerce. That does not mean we will regulate our industry. But it means a way of gaining more influence in and for our industry – and with new ideas and procedures that will translate into more profitability.
New technology to address modern needs – connectivity, speed, stability – and higher quality products – not just cheaper – products that people want to buy – not because they’re cheap – but because they are good. It’s not just technology that we have to deal with; we have to address emerging markets that will have special needs – needs that we know nothing about yet.
Training – finding talented people and bringing in the younger generation to our industry. And what attracts millennials? Ever changing technology – that something new. We need to develop new instructional programs and ways to educate technicians, salespeople and CEO’s.
Every manufacturer in this room sells scales and balances through internet dealers. The issue of course, is what happens when the scales and balances need servicing? The end user calls the manufacturer, who is not set up to service locally. The only way to address this new channel to market is to embrace and encourage the internet dealers – to set up a network of local scale dealers to work with the internet dealers – to work together to use new technology to our advantage.
The ISWM in 100 years will still allow you to look face to face and allow you to shake hands with the person you choose to do business with. And it allows you to make a difference in our weighing professionals’ community. I encourage you to approach more people in our industry, do more together. Believe in this organization. And we will succeed – together.
So, as we look forward to the next one hundred years of this society with an open mind and a will to succeed, remember:
We are the ones who need to organize
We are the ones who need to group together
We are the ones who need to educate – and innovate
We are the ones who need to reach out to new members
We are the ones who need to drive forever forward
We are the ones who will ensure that the ISWM will prosper!