25 November 2006

Manufacturing and engineering today

I've been remiss in following up on a previous post dealing with the realities of working in an engineering capacity in the American manufacturing world today. And part of that is a reluctance on my part, a reluctance in part born out of fear. A fear coming from experience.

Let's start with what we can see and I will speak of personal experience. Many of the industrial activities that I observed growing up are no longer around. I spent my early years down on the border of Ohio-West Virginia - Pennsylvania. Coal mining country. Appalachia, if you like. Places of great poverty and want, where the only occupations to speak of were farming, coal mining, or servicing one of the above, like driving coal trucks and working in the little truck stops. Oh, and yes, moonshine running was still done there and probably still is. I was in the little hamlet this summer where we once lived, and some of those homes still have outhouses and dirt floors. Yes, it still happens. But there's little going on today, little coal mining being done. More on that in a moment, but note that there is a large segment of endeavor now essentially gone.

Later we relocated up into that area bounded by Akron - Pittsburgh - Cleveland, including the industrial towns of Youngstown and Warren. Places where the industrial activities were the tire companies in Akron and the steel-related plants in Pittsburgh-Cleveland-Youngstown-Warren, including the ports up in Ashtabula and Cleveland. The steel plants were major users of the coal mined in the operations previously noted. Only most of the steel plants are gone. Without them, of course, no need for coal. Or metallurgical engineers, or designers of ladles, or protective clothing, or a lot of foundry equipment, or coking furnaces, or specialized rail cars or trucks or .... you get the picture. The tire plants are mostly gone from Akron also, which affects the makers and designers of things such as tire molds, or all the specialized equipment involved in being the world's tire center. Which it isn't any more.

Some of the steel coming out of Pittsburgh and Youngstown went to the US automakers. Back when the Big 3 really were dominant, and cars were made out of honest US steel coming from American steel companies who smelted American ore with American coal. Not so much the case now, is it? So changes there also.

I could go on at greater length and a whole lot more detail. But let's pause there for now.

I'm in the business of being a change agent, of finding a better way, of refusing to settle for the line ''but that's the way we've always done it''. At the same time, it's been painfully evident that a lot of what has been touted as improvements are nothing of the sort, at best neutral and sometimes injurious to the cause.

While America has been a dominating industrial center for a century, that is less the case every day, and in some of the remaining operations the important decisions are being made in Yokohama, or Dusseldorf, or Liverpool, or Wuppertal, or Seoul, or Shanghai. Chrysler is a German company now. Firestone Tire and Rubber is owned by a Japanese company. And remaining ones continue to shove production outside the borders. The last report I heard of the Whirlpool plant in Ft. Smith Arkansas showed a loss of some 1600 jobs (and still counting) most of which are going to their new facility in Ramos Orizpe, Mexico. And corollary damage - Moll Industries which had been a major supplier to Whirlpool is giving that business up totally - roughly a third of their entire production. I understand another firm with a Mexican operation will take it over.

We all have examples of this we can cite. Some are much worse.

To respond to this onslaught, a number of approaches have been taken. Some are the desperate flailings of an organism under attack and in danger of death. And, in such circumstances, unanimity of purpose, marching to the beat, is sometimes more valued than marching in the right direction. I think that I've been involved to some extent with just about every one of them over the last 20-odd years or so. Anybody out there stil refer to their copy of A Book of Five Rings which was very popular around 1982 or so, and supposedly allowed the words an author put into the mouth of a long-dead Japanese swordsman to be the path to True Manufacturing Greatness. Yes, people really bought into this stuff. Lot of money got spent and some people were greatly rewarded. Those who had some reservations were labled obstructionists and many were pushed out. Not marching to the beat. Same thing for every other such fad. Problem is that no matter how worthy a concept, it has some limitations that too many management types can't or won't comprehend. So any failures are blamed on the ''obstructionists'' and the 'champions' go off to tout the next management fad du jour

Most of us know this. And we all know that the most dangerous of these fads are those which correspond to the personal preferences of top managers. For example, take 5-S. Anyone want to dispute the merits of organized workplaces? It makes sense in an operating theater to have all the scalpels, clamps, retractors, etc. ready for used and in a particular place. Not the place to have a stray toilet mop show up, nor to run out of something necessary. But organization is to be directed to a purpose, it should not be an end in itself. But I once ran into a top manager with what I called Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. He would have demanded that the scalpels be serially numbered and placed in the OR tray in that order. A nut, in other words, the kind that actually spends his evenings combing the fringe on rugs in his home. To him, 5-S is not a useful technique, it's a religion, a way of life, and doubters are worse than heretics, they are dangerous enemies to be liquidated. This is a useful way to improve your company? And there are many other examples that might be cited.

Those of us who took our engineering education into the manufacturing arena find ourselves dealing with most of the standard engineering issues, but we also find ourselves dealing with human factors, imbecilic regulations, avaricious investors, idiotic accountants, crooked union officials, and off-shore competition from slave labor countries like China. And yet we are periodically assured that what we do is valuable. Generally right before a major downsizing or corporate takeover.

I enjoy what I do, all things considered. But I wouldn't recommend it to my children.

Today's Reading - November 25

Ezekiel 34, 35 and I Peter 2

The ''Religion of Peace'' Murders, Teachers this time

After a while, the phrase ''murdered by Mohammedan heathens'' becomes sort of a yeah, so what else is new? thing, we are becoming accustomed to the reality that those who worship a demon will do other evil in consequence.
Comes now a story out of Thailand via CNN of yet another murder of a school teacher by more of these truly evil people. See Teacher slayings shut Thai schools with a tip to Little Green Footballs for pointing us at the story.

Mohammedans have a great deal in common, more than they realize, with the ancient worship of Baal, Dagon, Moloch, Asherah, etc. Allah is simply another name for the demon that they worship, albeit unknowingly. They are deceived. Attractive as the urge to bomb and shoot them into oblivion, I believe that God Almighty has another plan, and in any even has reserved such things to himself.

Another approach on illegal aliens - going after employers

One of the elements that must be included in dealing with the invasion of illegal aliens that our federal government, most especially starting with the President, has steadfastly (and in violation of law) refused to do, is to deal with employers who deliberately or recklessly employ this illegals.
Check out this site, entitled We Hire Aliens.com. Just like calling your local police to report a crime in progress, this provides an avenue to publicly call attention to this sort of criminal activity and also to alert other citizens of the situation.
Check it out.
And shame on the feds for violating their oaths and public trust.

You know you live in the South when ....

Your wife's cat climbs up on her lap and ''shares'' her plate of grits. Betcha they don't see that in Manhattan or Chicago or San Diego. Durndest thing I've seen this week.

I'll be posting later as we recover from the holiday's events. Oh, and this marks the day that my One True Love In This World turns 29. Again.

19 November 2006

Yet more of the heathen horde

Some thiings are too awful to be described in words - the visual images are adequate.
This link is to a site with some images that should not be seen by children or those who are easily impressionable.

The next time one of these liars tells you Islam is a great religion
That all cultures are equally valid
We have no business judging other societies

Consider: the scenes depicted here have been the rule, not the exception, through the entire history of Mohammedanism. And they want to bring it here. In fact, chances are good that there is a mosque dedicated to that and it's not far from where you live. Does that make you feel good?