In a tumultuous year, a call to action for plant engineers

William Rothfelder, the commercial research division manager for Inland Steel, sounded disheartened when looking at the global market for his product: “Our industry is doing all it can, including investing huge amounts of capital, to cope with the import problem,” he said. “And we are fighting a losing battle unless we get help from the government.


William Rothfelder, the commercial research division manager for Inland Steel, sounded disheartened when looking at the global market for his product:

“Our industry is doing all it can, including investing huge amounts of capital, to cope with the import problem,” he said. “And we are fighting a losing battle unless we get help from the government. There are well-documented reasons for our predicament, such as surplus world steel capacity, lower foreign labor costs and dumping.”

And then there was this from management consultant Jerome Barnum: “Computers can become devices to allow us to make the same old mistakes, but we can do it faster,” he said “Top executives get enamored with the hardware and too often forget all that they have bought or rented is a tool and this has to be used by human beings.”

These are considered solid manufacturing observations in 2007. In 1968, when these words first appeared in PLANT ENGINEERING magazine, they were visionary. They are still applicable today.

The year 1968 was among the most tumultuous in American history. Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated within four months of each other. War protestors rioted in Chicago at the Democratic National Convention. A new counterculture was rising out of the unrest.

When you look back at that time in the pages of PLANT ENGINEERING , however, the manufacturing work and the challenges plant managers faced haven’t changed that much. The technology is different; but the work goes on.

Take Western Electric’s decision to build a new cable plant in Phoenix. Their problem: the local supply of skilled labor was inadequate. “Here was a challenge which required a new approach: Set up a training program for a combination machinist and machine repairman during the construction of a new plant,” said V.C. Bond of Western Electric in the August 8, 1968 issue.

That’s a strategy now in common practice, especially in companies adding new production lines or new manufacturing processes.

The issues discussed in the Oct. 31, 1968 issue of PLANT ENGINEERING are pointed at the same kind of issues faced today: efficiency, productivity and planning. The cover feature talked about how the plant engineering function had been decentralized at Armstrong Cork Co.’s Lancaster, PA plant. Today that business is Armstrong World Industries, makers of flooring and tile products.

Other features included a look at the importance of active planning in maintenance scheduling, the idea that pre-heating fuel oil can increase combustion efficiency, a look at linear motor bearings and targeting elevator maintenance programs at plant profitability.

Maintenance editor Ralph Jansen concluded the year in December by noting another familiar problem we face yet today: labor shortages. “At least 75,000 new maintenance employees will be needed next year in the mechanical trades alone. Of this number, more than 56,000 will have no previous maintenance training whatsoever,” Jansen wrote. “If your company encourages or permits training on the job, you are halfway home. If not, it’s time to take a stand.”

Encouraging readers to act on what they read has always been a recurring theme of the magazine %%MDASSML%% never more so at this juncture. As Dr. Charles F. Jones, president of Humble Oil (today, part of ExxonMobil) noted at the time, “I am convinced if our formidable urban and other large-scale social problems are to be solved enduringly and with the most effective utilization of our limited financial resources, the engineer must reassert his capabilities in a leading rather than a supporting role.”

The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2015 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
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.
Pipe fabrication and IIoT; 2017 Product of the Year finalists
The future of electrical safety; Four keys to RPM success; Picking the right weld fume option
A new approach to the Skills Gap; Community colleges may hold the key for manufacturing; 2017 Engineering Leaders Under 40
Control room technology innovation; Practical approaches to corrosion protection; Pipeline regulator revises quality programs
The cloud, mobility, and remote operations; SCADA and contextual mobility; Custom UPS empowering a secure pipeline
Infrastructure for natural gas expansion; Artificial lift methods; Disruptive technology and fugitive gas emissions
Power system design for high-performance buildings; mitigating arc flash hazards
VFDs improving motion control applications; Powering automation and IIoT wirelessly; Connecting the dots
Natural gas engines; New applications for fuel cells; Large engines become more efficient; Extending boiler life

Annual Salary Survey

Before the calendar turned, 2016 already had the makings of a pivotal year for manufacturing, and for the world.

There were the big events for the year, including the United States as Partner Country at Hannover Messe in April and the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago in September. There's also the matter of the U.S. presidential elections in November, which promise to shape policy in manufacturing for years to come.

But the year started with global economic turmoil, as a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing triggered a worldwide stock hiccup that sent values plummeting. The continued plunge in world oil prices has resulted in a slowdown in exploration and, by extension, the manufacture of exploration equipment.

Read more: 2015 Salary Survey

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
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 Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
The maintenance journey has been a long, slow trek for most manufacturers and has gone from preventive maintenance to predictive maintenance.
This digital report explains how plant engineers and subject matter experts (SME) need support for time series data and its many challenges.
This digital report will explore several aspects of how IIoT will transform manufacturing in the coming years.
Maintenance Manager; California Oils Corp.
Associate, Electrical Engineering; Wood Harbinger
Control Systems Engineer; Robert Bosch Corp.
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
click me