Resolving there are problems, resolve to find the solutions

Plant Engineering does a series of Roundtable discussions each year designed to get at the crucial issues facing manufacturing in general and plant-floor management in particular. In this issue, you'll read excerpts from the discussions we had at the Plant Engineering Manufacturing Summit in Chicago.


Plant Engineering does a series of Roundtable discussions each year designed to get at the crucial issues facing manufacturing in general and plant-floor management in particular. In this issue, you'll read excerpts from the discussions we had at the Plant Engineering Manufacturing Summit in Chicago. The full transcripts will be at . There's a lot of great information in there.

These are great discussions because rather than working off a PowerPoint presentation, the speakers are engaged with each other and with the audience to work through crucial issues.

One of the best Roundtables I've been involved with this year was an informal discussion over a barbecue dinner in Houston, at the Plant Success event. I blogged a good bit about this event on this past month. There were no slides, no charts and no graphs. Just good barbecue and a group of manufacturing leaders facing the same problems.

While there is genuine concern about job outsourcing, there is a far greater concern about losing skilled workers in the coming five years with no obvious way to replace them. There was a sense that jobs going overseas are fueling growth overseas, and that U.S. expansion by several major international manufacturers (Hyundai, Toyota, Kia) is an indication that domestic manufacturing is alive and showing healthy signs.

And as I noted at one point in the conversation, Apple announced recently that it had sold 100 million IPods globally %%MDASSML%% an indication that if the U.S. develops the right product, the world will pay attention.

I'm not sure manufacturing's problems were solved that night, but the key issues were put on the table and the speakers were all engaged in finding solutions. We resolved that there were serious questions, but there was also resolve to find the answers.

Manufacturers talked about setting up paid high school internships and intensifying college recruiting to bring new, fresh ideas into manufacturing. They see that while China and India continue to develop their manufacturing bases, they're also developing a middle class that will want manufactured products. That leads to two big questions: can Asia supply the world and its own citizens, and at what point will costs and wages and the basic laws of economics pull the manufactured costs of goods in line with the Western world?

There is a change afoot in manufacturing, and so far it's been change fraught with pain. The people I talked to in Houston, however, sounded committed to playing through the pain. More than just survival, though, there is a sense out there that manufacturers are looking past the big picture to see what they can do on their own home turf.

And they keep talking to other manufacturers. It's through those discussions that we can find common ground and common solutions.

Top Plant
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2017 Top Plant.
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.
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
March 2018
SCCR, 2018 Maintenance study, and VFDs in a washdown environment.
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
December 2017
Product of the Year winners, Pattern recognition, Engineering analytics, Revitalize older pump installations
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

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

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Research Analyst Blog
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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.
Maintenance & Safety
The maintenance journey has been a long, slow trek for most manufacturers and has gone from preventive maintenance to predictive maintenance.
Industrial Analytics
This digital report explains how plant engineers and subject matter experts (SME) need support for time series data and its many challenges.
IIoT: Operations & IT
This digital report will explore several aspects of how IIoT will transform manufacturing in the coming years.
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.
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