A special trust

Plant engineers are industry's stewards. That may not sound like much of a compliment. But in the truest sense of the title, it is a very high position indeed.
By Richard L. Dunn January 1, 2000

Plant engineers are industry’s stewards. That may not sound like much of a compliment. But in the truest sense of the title, it is a very high position indeed.

A steward, according to the dictionary, is one who manages another’s property, finances, or other affairs. And that’s what industrial plant engineering is about. But the dictionary definition hardly reflects the special trust that is inherent to stewardship.

The position of steward dates back thousands of years. From what we know, it may be safely inferred that every ancient household of distinction or of sufficient wealth had a steward in charge. This individual (always a man in those days) was fully accountable to his master and had to render an account when called upon.

Steward has been used as the translation for several ancient words, notably the Hebrew sar , “head” person; and the Greek epitropos , “manager,” and oikonomos , “overseer.” The similarity of meanings is obvious, but the depth of meaning may not be.

The good steward is charged with two important responsibilities not mentioned in the strict definitions. The first is the responsibility to manage the assets solely for the good of the owner and not for the steward’s personal gain. The second is the responsibility to improve or increase the assets. Mere caretaking, or maintenance is not enough.

The special trust that is not always so obvious is that of improving assets and increasing their value. One reason is that improvements often go unnoticed. The installation of an automatic lubrication system, for example, may be viewed only as a reduction in labor and not an asset improvement. Other improvements, like an upgraded energy management system, may not be viewed as increasing the value of assets.

Plant engineers should embrace all of the special trust inherent to good stewardship, and should periodically provide an account to their managers showing how their stewardship is improving and increasing the corporate assets.

Don’t forget to mark your calendar for Plant Skills 2000: Training the plant engineering and maintenance workforce , September 25-27, in Oak Brook, IL. We’ll help you meet your biggest maintenance and reliability challenge.