Take a bow

U.S. productivity increased during the recent downturn (I hesitate to call it a recession) more than anyone anticipated. A headline in the March 18 issue of Fortune magazine announced "The productivity miracle is for real," and the article predicted that the growth in productivity "will almost certainly be a bonanza for the economy.


U.S. productivity increased during the recent downturn (I hesitate to call it a recession) more than anyone anticipated. A headline in the March 18 issue of Fortune magazine announced "The productivity miracle is for real," and the article predicted that the growth in productivity "will almost certainly be a bonanza for the economy."

Reasons for the outstanding productivity performance, the Fortune article said, were "technological advances such as the networked personal computer, huge investments by companies in all sorts of newfangled contraptions, better business practices like just-in-time inventory, and who knows what else."

In June, the U.S. Labor Department announced that productivity in the first quarter this year had grown by an annual rate of 8.4%, the biggest increase in 19 yr.

So why should plant engineers take a bow? Because it is a little-known fact outside of plant engineering circles that the plant engineering function is a huge contributor to industrial productivity.

Let's look at maintenance, for example. Machinery that doesn't run, or doesn't run properly, is a huge drain on output, and therefore, on productivity. Properly run, the plant maintenance department can save a plant tremendous sums. Good maintenance is one of the best investments a plant can make, usually returning many times the investment to the bottom line in relatively short periods. A lot of those "newfangled contraptions" the article mentions are being put to good use in predictive maintenance.

Then there's the plant engineers' involvement in design, redesign, and retrofit activities that might fall into that "who knows what else" category.

Our research shows that 97% of plant engineers are involved, either directly or indirectly, in the design of plant facilities, systems, or equipment. And I think it's a given that virtually all of that design activity is aimed at improving productivity in one way or another.

And let's not forget the better business practices, like preventive maintenance, predictive maintenance, better planning and scheduling, asset management, and energy management, to name a few.

Add it all up, and you've made one huge contribution. So, take a bow. You deserve it.

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