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.
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.
October 2018
Tools vs. sensors, functional safety, compressor rental, an operational network of maintenance and safety
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
October 2018
2018 Product of the Year; Subsurface data methodologies; Digital twins; Well lifecycle data
August 2018
SCADA standardization, capital expenditures, data-driven drilling and execution
June 2018
Machine learning, produced water benefits, programming cavity pumps
Spring 2018
Burners for heat-treating furnaces, CHP, dryers, gas humidification, and more
October 2018
Complex upgrades for system integrators; Process control safety and compliance
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