Bookshelf recommendations

Plant Engineer's Handbook edited by R. Keith Mobley. 1189 pp, hardbound. Butterworth-Heinemann, 225 Wildwood Ave., Woburn, MA 01801-2041; phone 781-904-2500; fax 781-904-2620; $125. Every plant engineer's bookshelf should contain at least one basic engineering reference. And if you're only going to have one, Plant Engineer's Handbook is a good candidate.

By Richard L. Dunn, Editor, Plant Engineering February 15, 2002

Plant Engineer’s Handbook edited by R. Keith Mobley. 1189 pp, hardbound. Butterworth-Heinemann, 225 Wildwood Ave., Woburn, MA 01801-2041; phone 781-904-2500; fax 781-904-2620; $125.

Every plant engineer’s bookshelf should contain at least one basic engineering reference. And if you’re only going to have one, Plant Engineer’s Handbook is a good candidate. This volume is a completely revised edition of Plant Engineer’s Reference Book , which was published about 10 yr ago.

As chief editor of the handbook, Keith Mobley has done a masterful job of assembling the contributions of 40 contributors into 64 chapters that cover the entire plant engineering function from definition to technology to management. In fact, this handbook stands out from most other engineering handbooks by including information on such issues as insurance, finances, and maintenance management in addition to the engineering knowledge plant engineers require.

In his preface, Mobley says, “In compiling the initial suggested guidelines for each of the contributions, I posed the questions to myself what information and assistance had I found difficult to locate during over 30 years as a plant engineer responsible for plants throughout the world and how could it be best presented to assist others in their profession.” The contributors have succeeded admirably in meeting the challenge. Every page contains practical information and advice.

A proliferation of diagrams, charts, and tables add value to the text. And numerous equations facilitate working out real-world problems.

A word of warning: The handbook is intended for an international usership and was, in fact, written by experts on both sides of the Atlantic. Thus, there are many references to practices and standards in the U.K. as well as the U.S. This inclusion, however, in no way detracts from the book’s usefulness.

Excerpt: The single-stage, single-valve turbine is the simplest option. Such a machine is suitable for applications requiring powers up to 300 kW, steam conditions up to a nominal 115 bar, 530°C and rotational speeds below 5000 rev/min. A typical machine is shown in Figure 15.37, characterized by an overhung rotor mounted on a stiff shaft capable of being accelerated from cold to operating speed within 10 s. The efficiency is low, but so is the cost of the installation. For higher powers and for a wider range of steam conditions incorporating all combinations of backpressure, condensing and passout systems, the multistage axial flow machine is the natural choice.

Job Smarts — Skills for Winning in the Workplace by Ray Dreyfack. 234pp, paperback. Ferguson Publishing Co., 200 West Jackson, 7 th Floor, Chicago, IL 60606; phone 800-306-9941; $16.95.

PLANT ENGINEERING ‘s own Contributing Editor Ray Dreyfack has put together an inspiring book that is as enjoyable to read as it is practical. And fans of Dreyfack’s column, “Human Side of Engineering,” will be happy to discover that the writing style is reminiscent of, and every bit as enjoyable as, his column.

Clearly aimed at those who are just embarking on their careers, Job Smarts is just as useful for anyone in the workforce who feels bogged down, stymied, or frustrated in his or her job. It delivers on its promises to provide the tools you need to map out your own path to success, and shows how to assess your career savvy, increase your earning potential, and get noticed on the job.

The book is built around “the 10 perilous pitfalls”:

  • You have attitude problems

  • You are lost in the shuffle

  • You are being outsmarted

  • You are out of the knowledge loop

  • You are too laid back and timid

  • You don’t know the right people

  • Your boss is working against you

  • You picked the wrong employer

  • You are not bottom-line oriented

  • You are fearful of change.

    • Colorful examples of successful and unsuccessful employees illustrate every point, and each chapter includes quizzes to help you analyze your own strengths and weaknesses.

      If you don’t need it yourself, give a copy to someone whose career could use a boost.

      Excerpt: “Know thyself,” Socrates counseled. Experience proves that from a career standpoint it is just as important to “know thy boss.” No reality of the marketplace could be simpler or clearer. No one is more important to your career success than your direct supervisor. Yet, despite this reality, it’s amazing how many millions of jobholders act as if the boss is their worst enemy…. It is at best awkward and at worst career-ending to deal with your boss day after day without understanding his or her needs, aspirations, and goals.

      Future Capable Company: What Manufacturing Leaders Need To Do Today To Succeed Tomorrow by James A. Tompkins, Ph.D. 198 pp, hardbound. Tompkins Press, 2809 Millbrook Rd., Raleigh, NC 27604; phone 800-789-1257; fax 919-872-9666; $24.95.

      Dr. James Tompkins has based his latest book on the premise that for years manufacturing leaders have pursued fads as a panacea for their manufacturing woes. These “fads, gimmicks, and miracle cures have led many manufacturers down a path that has cost them millions,” he says.

      To combat this problem and to help manufacturers deal with the challenges ahead, he has come up with the “12 requirements of success for a future capable company” that form the basis for this book.

      While the book goes well beyond plant engineering interests, the chapter on maintenance is a gem that every plant engineer should embrace and includes such nuggets as, “The Future Capable Company cannot tolerate process failures. To minimize such failures, maintenance must be a top priority.”

      The chapter goes on to define “25 requirements for effective maintenance leadership;” briefly discusses reliability, preventive maintenance, and predictive maintenance; and presents an overview of planning for maintenance excellence.

      Excerpt: Recognize the importance of the maintenance profession. Maintenance should gain greater importance as the role of chief maintenance officer (CMO) becomes established during the early stages of the new millennium. Maintenance leaders should be recognized as critical resources necessary for the success of the total operation. The CMO in large multisite operations should create and promote standard best practices. The complexity and importance of maintenance and physical asset management will continue to grow because new technologies and added responsibilities will require more knowledge and skills.

      Successfully Managing Change in Organizations: A User’s Guide by Stephen J. Thomas. 256 pp, hardbound. Industrial Press Inc., 200 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10016-4078; phone 212-889-6330; fax 212-545-8327; $39.95.

      This practical book is billed as the first how-to-do-it guide to successful management of change in organizations at the operating level. Written by a user for users, this book is designed for all managers who have been given the difficult task of bringing change to their organizations and making it stick.

      Drawing on a career of practical and proven experience, Thomas identifies and explains the eight key elements of change: leadership, work process, structure, group learning, technology, communications, interrelationships, and rewards. He demonstrates that these elements are interrelated, and that they constitute a “web of change.” If one element is changed, its impact on the others must be understood and adjustments made to the entire system.

      Thomas’s writing is down to earth, with the ring of been-there, done-that. And his education (degrees in electrical engineering, systems engineering, and organizational dynamics) and experience (30 yr in the petrochemical industry, much of it related to maintenance and strategic change) show through in his no-nonsense, practical approach to change problems and how to solve them. He has even worked out measurement methods for determining progress and transferred them to a spreadsheet template included on a floppy disk with the book.

      Excerpt: Too often, the process of goal setting resulted in a document that immediately went into my desk drawer, only to be resurrected when I had to relate my accomplishments for the year….The problem with this approach to goal setting is that it is nothing more than an exercise. It is not part of the real work. Thus, goals languish in a drawer for 12 months at a time without ever really contributing to organizational progress. If we are truly to move the organization from vision to reality, we need a process that ties together the vision, the goals to support the vision, and the process of day-to-day work in the company.