Change the perception

The November 1999 "Forum" letter, "Encourage your children," by James A. Haigh, begs another opinion. While Mr. Haigh makes several good points, I believe he misses a few significant realities. Mr.

03/01/2000


The November 1999 "Forum" letter, "Encourage your children," by James A. Haigh, begs another opinion.

While Mr. Haigh makes several good points, I believe he misses a few significant realities. Mr. Haigh suggests that parents accept the possibility that their children may not possess the "mental capacity" for professional careers. Even if this were realistic, how many parents would subscribe to this concept? What parent would encourage his or her child to lower their career aspirations because they "don't have what it takes" for professional endeavors? Many of our brightest minds have come from unlikely circumstances. Albert Einstein, as a child, was considered unlikely to succeed academically. Ponder his contribution to science. Most parents would persuade their offspring to "be all they can be." This isn't just a catchy marketing phrase; it helps set the stage for achievement.

I also question Mr. Haigh's assumption that maintenance tradespeople require considerably lower mental capacity and skill levels than those in the traditional engineering realms. Manufacturing and processes have evolved to a level that demand significantly higher mental skill sets to maintain modern microprocessor controlled machine tools and equipment. It takes much more than just a "mechanical aptitude" to maintain modern equipment and Saturday afternoon mechanics don't flourish in this environment. Also, crafts- people are taking on responsibilities -- including specifying and ordering equipment and parts and designing and implementing continuous improvement projects -- that clearly fall into the engineering realm.

Most state-approved apprenticeship programs require college level learning of subjects that apply to a specific craft. Academic immersion may not equal an engineering curriculum, but a degree of mental prowess is still required.

I do agree with Mr. Haigh's assessment about marketplace perceptions and attitudes concerning tradespeople. I'll be the first in line to admit that the "trades" have a serious image problem -- much of it self inflicted. However, marketing must shoulder a portion of the problem. Marketing glorifies engineering, often humorously, with ads depicting tech types adorned with lab coats and clipboards. Maintenance people are often exemplified by a guy walking around with an oilcan and wrench.

Yes, the industry is faced with a dilemma. Industrial maintenance requires higher mental capacity and skill levels than ever. Yet, mentally motivated people shun it like the plague -- mostly due to a poor public image. And herein lies much of the skilled trades solution. The perception must change.

If skilled craftspeople are to be counted as a professional entity, they must find middle ground between the factory worker stereotype and the engineering realm. If this implies breaking away from the traditional labor group and joining technical/professional unions or societies that better serve their interests, so be it. This makeover also implies craft certifications, networking, staying abreast of emerging technologies, and additional training and education, especially in computer and communication skills. Craftspeople also must have the opportunity to advance to the higher engineering levels if they possess the education, skill sets, and experience required.

When craftspeople begin to perceive their group as a professional entity, and "walk the talk," respect and compensation will follow. This approach will encourage others to pursue industrial maintenance careers and perhaps persuade parents to consider these career options when advising their children.

-- Robert A. Herklotz, MT for a major automobile manufacturer





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

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.
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.
Maintenance & Safety
The maintenance journey has been a long, slow trek for most manufacturers and has gone from preventive maintenance to predictive maintenance.
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.
click me