This is an unpaid, unprompted shout-out to the Precision Machined Products Association’s (PMPA) Listserve.
Every day, members jump on the association’s email forum with technical problems they encounter. It’s esoteric inside baseball stuff generally, far above my pay grade, yet invariably several folks quickly offer their unique experience in solving the tough machining challenges and other shop issues that come up for people living in cubicles of doubt.
A single company could never aggregate a fraction of the knowledge located in the heads of members of this small trade association.
One thing that makes the Listserve work so well is that it has a few very simple ground rules, some of which are not even articulated, yet are well understood by the group. One rule is that technical members who join the PMPA at significant cost, partly to gain access to the members at meetings, must never use the Listserve as a sales tool. Another is to always be helpful and never condescending when giving advice to other members.
A few years ago a particularly egocentric and bombastic PMPA member announced on the Listserve that he would never give out proprietary information that he had learned through hard experience. He mocked his peers for giving away the “family jewels” to potential competitors in the association. Previous to this incident he was already considered a bully by many members and eventually he was ostracized from the Listserve. Today he no longer is a PMPA member.
I know there are many other professional groups with wonderful collegial exchanges on the Web, but the PMPA cadre of dedicated online savants like Dan Murphy of Tsugami, Bob Drab of Corey Steel, and Miles Free of the PMPA staff seem unique in their willingness to be highly accessible resources, always willing to interrupt their workdays to give help to their struggling peers. The cool thing is to see competitors or possible future competitors jump into the colloquy to give valuable, hard-earned knowledge to help each other.
I am a member of the Machinery Dealers National Association (MDNA) and I cannot imagine my peers using a Listserve format to offer advice to one another on how to value machinery, though on a one on one basis I have experienced dealers sharing knowledge, but in a guarded way.
My one critique of the PMPA is that it has been only moderately successful in marketing the Listserve’s value to potential members in the machining universe. For the relatively modest price of admission to the PMPA organization, members get the cumulative knowledge of potentially thousands of seasoned pros, many of whom will unselfishly attempt to solve the most onerous of machining problems.
Question: Would you share hard-won expertise with a competitor in a trade group?