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.
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

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