Better searching: Technology and people

If you're like me and many others surfing the internet, you reluctantly rely on search engines to help you find information.


If you're like me and many others surfing the internet, you reluctantly rely on search engines to help you find information. You type in a word or two, hoping you've done so according to that particular search engine's "tips" for improving your search results, click the search button, and pray that something relevant and useful appears within the first two or three pages of the 20,000 results you receive.

OK, perhaps this is an exaggeration. But as the number of web sites continues to reach mind-boggling numbers (over 5 million distinct web sites as of April 1999, according to Netcraft ), so do the number of web pages on the internet that can appear on your search results page. This dilemma is not lost on those who manage search engine web sites and the technologies behind searching; new and improved methods for finding your needle in the haystack are being introduced on almost a weekly basis, and many of them rely on people, not just technology.

The popularity contest

A first step in the goal of providing search results with better relevancy to your inquiries has been the use of link popularity, whereby technology monitors what web sites people are clicking on and moves the top choices higher on the search results list. This "popularity results" approach is used by several search sites, including, Hotbot. com,, and MSN Search (search.msn. com); on some search sites, you are not even aware that it's there, while on others you will see a link entitled the "Top 10 Most Popular Sites."

You too can be an editor

A more recent approach to improving the way we search the internet is the introduction of "open" directories, which are essentially Yahoo!-like web sites operated by volunteer editors. The more popular Open Directory ( has over 14,000 editors who organize web sites into categories. Many search sites are seeing a value to this approach, incorporating links from the Open Directory into their standard query results listings (see and

Others, such as, have decided to go it alone and are inviting web surfers to help manage its own directory of web sites into "Go Guides."

Your (re)search assistant

Another technique--and it doesn't get any more personal than this -- is LookSmart Live at, where the concept is simple: You tell LookSmart what you are looking for, your request is sent to one of 80 editors working on this project, and you receive an e-mail with your answer within 24 hr.

Think of it as a focused discussion forum with a very knowledgeable moderator. Which reminds me: When you have a specific plant engineering-related question, use the resources available to you at Plant Engineering Online ( The discussion forums and the improved "Ask the Expert" feature provide you with the opportunity to use fellow plant engineers and industry experts to find the information you need.

Top Plant
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America.
Product of the Year
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
System Integrator of the Year
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
October 2018
Tools vs. sensors, functional safety, compressor rental, an operational network of maintenance and safety
September 2018
2018 Engineering Leaders under 40, Women in Engineering, Six ways to reduce waste in manufacturing, and Four robot implementation challenges.
GAMS preview, 2018 Mid-Year Report, EAM and Safety
October 2018
2018 Product of the Year; Subsurface data methodologies; Digital twins; Well lifecycle data
August 2018
SCADA standardization, capital expenditures, data-driven drilling and execution
June 2018
Machine learning, produced water benefits, programming cavity pumps
Spring 2018
Burners for heat-treating furnaces, CHP, dryers, gas humidification, and more
October 2018
Complex upgrades for system integrators; Process control safety and compliance
September 2018
Effective process analytics; Four reasons why LTE networks are not IIoT ready

Annual Salary Survey

After two years of economic concerns, manufacturing leaders once again have homed in on the single biggest issue facing their operations:

It's the workers—or more specifically, the lack of workers.

The 2017 Plant Engineering Salary Survey looks at not just what plant managers make, but what they think. As they look across their plants today, plant managers say they don’t have the operational depth to take on the new technologies and new challenges of global manufacturing.

Read more: 2017 Salary Survey

The Maintenance and Reliability Coach's blog
Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
One Voice for Manufacturing
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Maintenance and Reliability Professionals Blog
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Machine Safety
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
Research Analyst Blog
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Marshall on Maintenance
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
Lachance on CMMS
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
Material Handling
This digital report explains how everything from conveyors and robots to automatic picking systems and digital orders have evolved to keep pace with the speed of change in the supply chain.
Electrical Safety Update
This digital report explains how plant engineers need to take greater care when it comes to electrical safety incidents on the plant floor.
IIoT: Machines, Equipment, & Asset Management
Articles in this digital report highlight technologies that enable Industrial Internet of Things, IIoT-related products and strategies.
Randy Steele
Maintenance Manager; California Oils Corp.
Matthew J. Woo, PE, RCDD, LEED AP BD+C
Associate, Electrical Engineering; Wood Harbinger
Randy Oliver
Control Systems Engineer; Robert Bosch Corp.
Data Centers: Impacts of Climate and Cooling Technology
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
Safety First: Arc Flash 101
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
Critical Power: Hospital Electrical Systems
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
Design of Safe and Reliable Hydraulic Systems for Subsea Applications
This eGuide explains how the operation of hydraulic systems for subsea applications requires the user to consider additional aspects because of the unique conditions that apply to the setting
click me