Valuing your human 'cogs' and keeping them safe

We don't think of our plant employees as just another piece of manufacturing equipment. Perhaps it's time we should. After all, when things are running well, don't you go into the corner office and tell your CFO that the floor “is running like a well-oiled machine?” Don't you suggest in the staff meeting that productivity gains are due to your staff “working like cogs in a gia...


We don't think of our plant employees as just another piece of manufacturing equipment. Perhaps it's time we should.

After all, when things are running well, don't you go into the corner office and tell your CFO that the floor “is running like a well-oiled machine?” Don't you suggest in the staff meeting that productivity gains are due to your staff “working like cogs in a giant machine?”

Our employees are not machines, of course. Our employees send their kids to college and face the mortgage crisis and celebrate birthdays and experience moments of faith and joy and challenge %%MDASSML%% things that don't happen to your average stamping machine.

But your average stamping machine has a personalized program of scheduled maintenance. It gets regular attention to keep it running smoothly, it gets special attention when something breaks and it receives regular software upgrades to keep it current with the latest innovations. The result is a machine that runs efficiently and safely and, as a result, provides value for your organization.

Do you have the same program for your employees? Do you make sure they are trained? Do you provide them with the attention to sense when things are wrong and to offer them incentives when they succeed? Above all, do you make sure they are safe on and off the job?

Unsafe manufacturing is a pet peeve of mine. There's simply no excuse for an unsafe workplace. When workers are treated as commodities rather than those valued cogs %%MDASSML%% or worse, when you believe they can be replaced with the same ease as any cog %%MDASSML%% then you have a recipe for tragedy. A disaster is when things are broken. A tragedy is when people are broken. It's important to understand the difference.

Workplaces in the U.S. are generally safer today than ever before. From a global manufacturing perspective, we have a long way to go. China's factories and mines are unsafe at any speed, and they're hardly alone in the world.

We have yet to conquer the global issues of too-long work days, inadequate training and slipshod equipment maintenance. Until we do, the issue of wages will be offset by the challenges of workplace injuries and fatalities. When taken in that context, the total cost of manufacturing still favors the American worker. It's a message overlooked in many quarters, yet a number of Labor Day studies touted American workers as among the world's most productive. Norway was first and the U.S. was second. That's easily explained. Norway doesn't have fantasy football leagues.

If you want to make a case for American manufacturing, start with safety. That's a point we make in this month's cover story. If you are willing to make the same commitment to your people as you are to your equipment and to the finished product, the finished product will reflect that commitment to people.

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.
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
June 2018
2018 Lubrication Guide, Motor and maintenance management, Control system migration
August 2018
SCADA standardization, capital expenditures, data-driven drilling and execution
June 2018
Machine learning, produced water benefits, programming cavity pumps
April 2018
ROVs, rigs, and the real time; wellsite valve manifolds; AI on a chip; analytics use for pipelines
Spring 2018
Burners for heat-treating furnaces, CHP, dryers, gas humidification, and more
August 2018
Choosing an automation controller, Lean manufacturing
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
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