ISME celebrates 75th anniversary – and looks into the future

The Institute of Sheet Metal Engineering (ISME) has a long and glorious history as a standard-bearer for British industry, and in these volatile and uncertain times, it’s reassuring to see it celebrate its 75th year.

ISME’s Honorary Secretary Bill Pinfold looks first to the past to note the landmark anniversary, pointing out that its origins lay in the immediate aftermath of World War Two.

“ISME started in 1946 as the Sheet and Strip Metal Users Trade Association when members were firms rather than individuals. It provided a unifying element in a fragmented industry, quickly became active and was very well received,” he says.

“The immediate success of SASMUTA saw it convert into an Institute and also introduce individual membership. Anyone could join who worked in the sheet metal industry at any level without the need for formal qualifications.

“Its council then set up regional branches with committees of volunteers who would arrange their own programmes of activities, lectures, works visits and other events. The organisation flourished because it was based on friendship and a willingness to share know-how with other members.

” The years up to the mid-60s saw British industry transformed, and ISME expanded to a record size with something like 1,200 individual and 300 corporate members,” says Bill.

“Inevitably, the decline of industrial manufacturing during the 70s and 80s was tough for all organisations, although the institute continued its activities throughout those years, and strengthened its focus on promoting both the science and the working of sheet metal.”

ISME also widened its social agenda by launching an annual dinner dance (known tongue-in-cheek as the Metal Bashers’ Ball) and introduced a craft award which continues to this day as the annual ISME Skills Competition.

In 1997, as the need to give industry a new national voice became evident, the institute was a driving force behind the creation of the British Metal Forming Trade Association.

Today, ISME has the same membership structure and ethic which have been its strengths since its formation, which is a source of great pride to Bill.

“We’ve always been what I call a ‘learned body’, providing opportunities for members to exchange ideas and information, encouraging the development of skills in the next generation, and driving innovation across the sector,” he says.

“We recognise that change is just as vital for ourselves as for industry. We have to remain relevant in the digital age, so we recently widened our presence by setting up feeds on LinkedIn and Twitter, which rapidly gained traction and raised ISME’s profile within new audiences.