Tactical or strategic

Whether plant engineering and maintenance are considered tactical or strategic in your plant or company can make a world of difference in how you fit into the big picture. Tactical goals and decisions are based on carrying out strategic goals and decisions. Thus, your participation at the strategic level determines much of what you can do at the tactical level.


Whether plant engineering and maintenance are considered tactical or strategic in your plant or company can make a world of difference in how you fit into the big picture.

Tactical goals and decisions are based on carrying out strategic goals and decisions. Thus, your participation at the strategic level determines much of what you can do at the tactical level.

Many business managers are now beginning to understand the critical role that plant engineering and maintenance play in the ability to produce product profitably. As a result, we're seeing an elevation of that role from tactical to strategic.

One area in which this evolution is exemplified is the incorporation of maintenance modules into enterprise resources planning (ERP) software or the integration of CMMS programs with such software. (See "Information Engineering" by Tom Singer on p 34 in this issue.) To be sure, the ERP developers have their own commercial reasons for doing this. But it is also testimony that ERP is incomplete without taking the necessity of well-managed plant engineering and maintenance into account.

Of course, no one is going to come to the plant engineer, tap him with a magic wand and say, "Presto! You are now strategic." But that's the direction in which things are headed. It's also up to plant engineers to meet the challenge by learning to manage a strategic business unit and relating their goals to the enterprise business goals.

Tom Williams, manager, North America plant engineering, 3M Company, speaks of five strategic areas that plant engineers should track:

  • Environmental, safety, health, and energy — rightfully belongs as the top priority in every plant's operations

  • Financial indicators — how you're doing against departmental and enterprise financial objectives

  • Equipment performance — typically the area receiving the most attention, but not necessarily the most strategic

  • Work management — often the most difficult area to bring under control, but essential for long-range improvement

  • Resource management (workforce and materials) — critical to the success of any strategic plan.

    • Constant attention to these categories of performance will help make you a strategic member of management, someone who is helping shape the future of the plant or company and not just a tactical reactionary to the strategic plans of others.

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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