Country singer Alan Jackson scored a hit with his 2001 song, “Where Were You?” This song came to mind after a recent trip. From May 12 to 15, I was in Nashville, TN, to attend the International Dimensional Workshop (IDW). More than 100 others heard 2 days of sessions that focused on measurement uncertainty and how to account for it in everyday manufacturing environments.

Yes, plenty of seminars, training aids and classes are given on measurement uncertainty to fulfill the needs of manufacturers. And, the industry has plenty of consultants who, for a much larger fee than it takes to get to IDW in Nashville, will help you calculate uncertainty.

But on Monday, May 12, there was an event that was a first of its kind. One that was not offered anywhere else, nor by anyone else. IDW began the week with Industry Day. Those in commercial manufacturing had an opportunity to speak with, and listen to, those running the metrology departments within the U.S. Army, Air Force and Navy. They shared their experience and goals in several specific measurement areas, and they opened the door to cooperation with those in the commercial sector. Why is this important? For years, the military has had the deserved reputation of being among the best when it comes to precision measurement. They wrote many of the standards still in use in many industrial sectors.

If you include me, and the event coordinator, less than 12 of us were in the room and six of them were presenters. Where were you? You might answer, “ Nothing I do relates to military, so it doesn’t matter.” Is vibration of concern to the product you make? Do you need a better accelerometer or interferometer? Are thermal properties a concern? Would you like better nondestructive test methods? Are you measuring engines and engine parts? Better calibration of vision equipment? Is surface finish a concern? More accurate leak testing? Gage blocks? Need a quicker, less costly way to test your coordinate measuring machine?

The much talked about “blue book,” the Department of Defense’s (DoD’s) list of projects it wants to pursue, was handed out to all Industry Day attendees. I got my copy; chances are you didn’t get yours. Nearly 500 projects covering those areas I named above, and many others, can be found in the book’s pages.

Like many commercial manufacturers, the DoD faces tightening budgets and wants to maximize its resources. To that end, the DoD is seeking partners in industry to share expenses and resources on the projects listed within the blue book, and given the current economy, this could be a benefit to manufacturers and suppliers. Few companies can afford to fund major research and development projects on their own.

Bal-Tec Corp., Caterpillar and Boeing are some of the past partners of the DoD who now enjoy the fruits of these partnerships. Some of their products and processes are a direct result of working with the DoD.

If you weren’t in Nashville this year, make sure I am not asking you, “Where were you?” next year. Put Industry Day and IDW on your calendar.

For more information about IDW and Industry Day, drop me a line at [email protected].