The Institution of Manufacturing Engineers (IMfgE, formerly the Institution of Production Engineers (IProdE)) was founded following the initiative of one H. E. Honer (see below, front row, second from right) who wrote to a technical periodical titled ‘Engineering Production’ suggesting that the time was ripe to form an institution for the specialised interests of engineers engaged in manufacture. As a result of correspondence generated by this letter a meeting was held at Cannon Street Hotel in London on 26 February 1921. At this meeting it was decided to form the IProdE in order to; establish the status and designation of production or manufacturing engineers; to promote the science of practical production in industry; and to facilitate the interchange of ideas between engineers, manufacturers and other specialists.
The term ‘production engineering’ came into use to describe the management of factory production techniques first developed by Henry Ford, which had expanded greatly during the First World War. The IProdE was incorporated in 1931 and was granted its armorial bearings in 1937. From the outset the Institution operated through decentralised branches called local sections wherever a sufficient number of members existed. These local sections were self-governing and elected their own officers. Local sections held monthly meetings at which papers were read and discussed.
Outstanding papers were published in the Institution’s journal. Named papers commemorating the work of the following eminent production engineers were read at national meetings: Viscount Nuffield, Sir Alfred Herbert, Colonel George Bray, Lord Sempill, E. H. Hancock, and J. N. Kirby. National and regional conferences were also arranged dealing with specific industrial problems. Active councils were gradually established worldwide including in Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand, and South Africa. The Institution’s education committee established a graduate examination which all junior entrants undertook from 1932 onwards. An examination for Associate Membership was introduced in 1951.
The Second World War further accelerated developments in production engineering and by 1945 membership of the IProdE stood at 5,000. The 1950s and 1960s were perhaps the most fruitful period for the Institution. Major conferences such as ‘The Automatic Factory’ in 1955 ensured that the Institution held a place at the forefront of production technology. A Royal Charter was granted in 1964 and membership stood at over 17,000 by 1969.
In 1981 the IProdE instituted four medals as part of its Diamond Jubilee celebrations comprising; the International Award, the Mensforth Gold Medal, the Nuffield Award and the Silver Medal. The Mensforth Gold Medal was named after Sir Eric Mensforth, founder and chairman of Westland Helicopters and a former IProdE President. The medal was awarded to British recipients who had made an outstanding contribution to the advancement of production engineering technology. Today the Mensforth Manufacturing Gold Medal is the IET’s premier manufacturing award.
Financial constraints, a slowing in membership and a blurring of distinctions between the various branches of engineering-led the IProdE to merger proposals in the late 1980s. The Institution of Electrical Engineers (IEE) had interests very close to those of the IProdE. The IEE was a much larger organisation than the IProdE and the proposal was that the IProdE should be represented as a specialist division within the IEE. While these talks were reaching fruition in 1991 the IProdE changed its name to the Institution of Manufacturing Engineers. A merger with the IEE took place the same year, with the IMfgE becoming the IEE’s new Manufacturing Division. The IEE joined with the Institution of Incorporated Engineers (IIE) in March 2006 to become the IET.