Hard lessons from the Big Easy

First comes the storm. Then comes the media, and a second storm erupts. Then, when the water and the TV crews and the volunteers and the president have all receded, when the fingers stop being pointed and the bottled water has been passed out and the power comes back on and the jazz starts to play again, comes the rebuilding of New Orleans.


First comes the storm. Then comes the media, and a second storm erupts. Then, when the water and the TV crews and the volunteers and the president have all receded, when the fingers stop being pointed and the bottled water has been passed out and the power comes back on and the jazz starts to play again, comes the rebuilding of New Orleans.

It will occur under the heat and humidity that is as much a part of the Big Easy as Bourbon Street, but it will happen largely out of the spotlight. The streets must be cleaned, the debris must be cleared and a newer New Orleans must rise in its place. The city must be put back to work, and ultimately, back to play.

For the hundreds of PLANT ENGINEERING subscribers in that region, they must go back to work as well. Many in our industry arrived on the scene right away with help for the region's manufacturers — donations of food, money and supplies, equipment to help them rebuild and get back on line, offers of long-term assistance to give them a chance to get back up to speed. Many others helped with the human condition in the hurricane region. That outpouring was heartfelt, and automatic. We looked for every way we could to help.

Even in a tough economic market for everyone, our industry found time to help one of their own in need. Whatever we manufacture — and we often manufacture competing products — we recognize the common things that bind us. We seek out knowledge from each other at trade events and seminars because we know that a strong manufacturing environment makes each individual company stronger.

So what did we learn from Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath? A few simple truths:

  • Be prepared: We talk about predictive maintenance and preventive maintenance, but neither would have helped in this case. What would you do if a fire or a flood or a tornado rendered your plant inoperable? Do you have a disaster plan if the worst happens? Your relationship with distributors and OEMs will be tested on that day. Are they ready for you, and do you know what you need from them?

  • Safety first, operations second: Do you have a plan to account for your personnel? Can you get them to a safe place at a moment's notice? Do you practice that mobilization? And after a tragedy, can you find them, mobilize them and pay them?

  • Know your building blocks: Could you accurately rebuild your manufacturing facility from the ground up if you needed to? So often the component parts of facilities — and its electrical, mechanical, HVAC and compressed air systems — are pieced together over time. Could you put all those pieces back together if you needed to?

  • What do YOUR customers need from you in a crisis? As you look to your suppliers, your customers look to you. Are you ready to help them, even if you need to rebuild yourself? How do you mobilize and motivate the people in your organization to meet the challenges of staying in business?

    • When all the attention is gone, or we've moved along to the next tragedy, there will still be work at hand. There will still be employees and products. There will still be work to be done. You can get ready for that day today, and pray it never comes.

      The hardest lesson of Hurricane Katrina is that you cannot prepare for everything. You can, however, be prepared for what happens next.

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.
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
June 2018
2018 Lubrication Guide, Motor and maintenance management, Control system migration
August 2018
SCADA standardization, capital expenditures, data-driven drilling and execution
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
Spring 2018
Burners for heat-treating furnaces, CHP, dryers, gas humidification, and more
August 2018
Choosing an automation controller, Lean manufacturing
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