Manufacturing Summit looks to the future

Attendees were informed, charmed in Charleston at Plant Engineering event

By Plant Engineering Staff April 10, 2009

Surrounded by the history of the Old South, the 2009 Plant Engineering Manufacturing Summit tackled the future. The two-day event in Charleston, SC brought together industry leaders and plant managers to look at ways to improve plant floor operations and productivity. It also gave attendees an up-close look at the best new products and the outstanding manufacturing plants, as the 2008 Product of the Year and Top Plant awards were presented.

“The reaction we’ve received to this year’s Summit is overwhelmingly positive,” said Plant Engineering publisher Jim Langhenry. “They told us the venue at the Charleston Place Hotel and the ambiance in the city both were exceptional, and many people told us how much they are looking forward to our 2010 event.

“What was gratifying was that in tight economic times, so many manufacturers took the time to come out and learn more about the strategies and systems that will help their not just survive the current climate, but be prepared to take advantage of the manufacturing recovery that we all believe is coming,” he added.

The 2009 Manufacturing Summit was sponsored by IBM, Life Cycle Engineering, Schneider Electric, Infor and the University of Tennessee.

The Manufacturing Summit focused on four issues: plant-to-enterprise connectivity, energy and sustainability, workforce development and enterprise asset management.

Mary Bunzel of IBM opened the discussions on plant-to-enterprise connectivity with an acknowledgement of the tough economic issues facing a changing manufacturing environment.

“The reality of living in a globally integrated world is upon us. The meltdown of our financial markets has jolted us awake to the realities and dangers of highly complex global systems,” Bunzel said. “Global integration is changing the corporate model and the nature of work itself. We now see that the movement of information, work and capital across developed and developing nations—as profound as those are—constitute just one aspect of global integration.

“These collective realizations have reminded us that we are all now connected — economically, technically and socially,” she added. “But we’re also learning that just being connected is not sufficient.”

That connection is not just with the outside world, Bunzel noted, but also within manufacturing facilities. “The reality is these assets which were once managed as part of traditional enterprise asset management, now have an I.T. component which allows them to be monitored, communicated with and tracked more effectively,” she said. “Who will manage those assets?

Energy cost spikes in 2008 were a major issue for manufacturers, and Darren Wikoff of Life Cycle Engineering and Rod Ellsworth of Infor addressed the issue not just of costs, but of long-term sustainability in their presentations. “The management of property, plant, and equipment to meet the operations, economic, and socio-economic needs of today without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own such needs,” said Ellsworth, Infor’s vice-president of global solutions.

Wikoff noted seven areas of emphasis for manufacturers who want to have the lowest possible energy consumption and waste generation:

Design — evaluate environmental performance costs associated with engineering alternatives

Procure — purchase new assets or re-engineered components that have the lowest environmental impact when stored, operated, or disposed

Store — leverage vendor managed inventories to minimize warehousing requirements that must be heated and cooled

Install — baseline energy rates during installation to easily identify excess consumption during operation

Operate — create standards of practice to optimize environmental performance of each asset while maintaining the production process (starting, loading, stopping)

Maintain — incorporate predictive or conditioning monitoring wherever possible to quickly recognize when the potential for waste generation or excess consumption of energy exists

Dispose — evaluate the cost of disposal as part of any re-engineering project

Dr. Elaine Seat of the University of Tennessee, Eric Luter of IBM and Bill Wilder of Lice Cycle Engineering brought different perspectives to the issue of hiring, training and retaining a new generation of workers while also trying to retrain the current generation of workers in challenging times.

One area Dr. Seat focused on was working to gain and retain influence within an organization. “We create this dependence thru rewards, wanting to be associated with someone or a group, or having knowledge that is needed,” she said. “Power does not guarantee influence. It is true that it is who you know that gets you a position, but the research suggests that who you know comes from weak ties instead of strong ties. In other words, people ultimately get jobs through the friend of a friend.”

Luyer noted six key points to address the issues of an aging workforce:

  • Understand the current and anticipated demographic mix of the workforce and the outside labor market.

    • Recognize the motivations and drivers of different segments of the employee population

      • Identify potential opportunities for attracting and retaining mature workers using part-time or alternative work arrangements

        • Understand what knowledge is potentially at risk and how to preserve that knowledge for future generations.

          • Know what skills are going to be in demand in the future and how it can re-educate its existing workforce

            • Consider what technologies it needs to accommodate the needs of both younger and older workers.

              • The discussion on enterprise asset management, led by Mary Bunzel of IBM and Mike Poland of Life Cycle Engineering, looked at the interconnection between a world of information and the world of business and manufacturing.

                Poland said a successful asset management strategy required reviews at the business, technology and implementation levels. He said the key components of the strategy were an asset operations plan, an asset risk plan and an asset maintenance plan.

                ng abundantly available, what wouldn’t you put smart technology into? What service wouldn’t you provide? What wouldn’t you connect? What information wouldn’t you mine for insight?

                “The answer is, you — or your competitor — will do all of that,” she said. “You will do it because you can. But the even more compelling reason we will all begin to transform our systems, operations, enterprises and personal lives to take advantage of a smarter world isn’t just because we can. It’s because we must.”

                Awards honorees feted

                The 21stannual Product of the Year awards were presented Monday night. March 30 at the Riviera Theater in Charleston. Award winners received their coveted Product of the year trophy. The 2008 Grand Award winner, presented to the product that received the single highest vote total among Plant Engineering readers, was given to Orion Energy Systems of Manitowoc, WI, for its Apollo solar light pipe.

                “Through extensive research and development, we eliminated the historic problems associated with traditional day-lighting technology,” said Orion vice-president Tony Bartol, the primary engineer for the light pipe. Bartol accepted the award at the dinner.

                The evening also featured the awarding of gold, silver and bronze awards in 17 categories. There were 53 new products honored at the dinner, which also featured a keynote speech from South Carolina House Speaker Bobby Harrell, who discussed the state’s current economic situation and the state’s commitment to training and education in the manufacturing sector. Delivering the opening remarks at Monday’s gala was South Carolina State Senator Paul Campbell, a former plant manager at Alcoa in Mt. Holly, SC.

                Manufacturing Summit attendees got the chance to visit the Alcoa plant on March 31 as part of a tour conducted by plant manager David Thompson.

                Tuesday’s presentations of the 2008 Top Plant awards were made to Schneider electric’s Square D facility in Columbia, MO and Quality Float Works of Schaumburg, IL. Phil Stroupe of the Square D facility accepted the award on behalf of plant manager Doug Frevert and the plant’s employees, and shared a video of the facility’s staff commenting on the award and the pride the workers take in their efforts in Columbia.

                Sandra Westlund-Dennihan, president of Quality Float Works, delivered a stirring acceptance of her award at the breakfast presentation. She spoke of the need for greater skills training before future workers get out of school, and the importance of manufacturing as a career choice.

                “As I’ve worked on this mission, I continue to hit a brick wall about the perception of manufacturing,” she told the audience. “There is little understanding with the public and lawmakers that manufacturing is not hammers and nails — that’s my grandfather’s company. We are advanced manufacturing — and I bet some of us in the room have cleaner operations than restaurants in our communities.

                “We need to change the view of manufacturing and create a positive image. This is also important so career counselors encourage kids to enter into manufacturing as a career. Manufacturing is a good job — a high paying job — sometimes more profitable than white collar jobs. With a better understanding that manufacturing is advanced, they will understand the vacuum that exists for engineers within the industry — and these are coveted jobs.”

                Westlund-Deenihan’s business is a third-generation company that she will eventually pass on to her son Jason Speer. “We used old-fashioned family business know-how, innovation and sweat equity, and turned a really good idea into a global competitor and the premier float manufacturer in the nation,” she said. “This award honors what we are today, but this really honors my family and my family of employees and that means the world to me.”