Building on manufacturing’s progress

Manufacturing is focused on continuous improvement. That quest to do a little better every day is the reason manufacturing didn’t stop at the assembly line.


Bob Vavra, content manager, Plant Engineering. Courtesy: CFE MediaIn publishing, the last really great idea was moveable type. Today, almost 700 years later, print communications really is not much more just people taking that basic idea and refining it and adapting it to changes in customer needs and technology.

Even in the midst of what some call the "Fourth Industrial Revolution" there is very little truly revolutionary in manufacturing. Manufacturing's last really revolutionary idea was the assembly line. Today, you are as likely to find a robot on that line as you are a human, but the materials still move along, are reformed and combined, and a finished product emerges at the end.

We do a better job today of measuring and managing all aspects of that line, and of its component parts. We know when a line may fail from the data we collect or from a sensor we've installed. We can maintain and optimize those machines by acting on the data we collect. The process, however, remains largely the same.

So how do we improve? Not by leaps and bounds, but in small ways. Incremental improvement is like watching an iceberg melt (an apt analogy these days). We cannot see the difference in minutes or days, but observed over a period of time, it is a powerful change that can occur. We have to be patient to see change.

The best practices we offer this year, and the many more great best practices you can find on any topic at will not transform your plant tomorrow. They will provide fresh ideas to improve aspects of your plant's operation. Measured another way, what would 2% improvement mean to your company and to your personnel?

Manufacturing is focused on continuous improvement. That quest to do a little better every day is the reason manufacturing didn't stop at the assembly line. The process of improving manufacturing every day continues in large plants and small. While we may not be able to see what that improvement might look like in five years, we can look back at where we began and where we are to see that progress is being made every day. This year's collection of best practices builds on that progress.

-Bob Vavra, content manager, Plant Engineering, CFE Media. 

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.
June 2018
2018 Lubrication Guide, Motor and maintenance management, Control system migration
May 2018
Electrical standards, robots and Lean manufacturing, and how an aluminum packaging plant is helping community growth.
April 2018
2017 Product of the Year winners, retrofitting a press, IMTS and Hannover Messe preview, natural refrigerants, testing steam traps
June 2018
Machine learning, produced water benefits, programming cavity pumps
April 2018
ROVs, rigs, and the real time; wellsite valve manifolds; AI on a chip; analytics use for pipelines
February 2018
Focus on power systems, process safety, electrical and power systems, edge computing in the oil & gas industry
Spring 2018
Burners for heat-treating furnaces, CHP, dryers, gas humidification, and more
April 2018
Implementing a DCS, stepper motors, intelligent motion control, remote monitoring of irrigation systems
February 2018
Setting internal automation standards

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

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Maintenance & Safety
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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.
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Critical Power: Hospital Electrical Systems
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