UpFront: In Search of Terra Firma
By Sarah A. Webster
Editor in Chief
As I sat down to write my column for this month’s issue, I planned only to tell you about all the great things we have in the November issue and encourage you to attend SME’s upcoming FABTECH event in Las Vegas.
In this month’s issue, for example, we have an excellent story about deburring by two SME members, Jack Clark, chair of the SME Deburring, Edge-Finish, and Surface Conditioning Technical Group, and David A. Davidson, chair of the SME Machining/Material Removal Technical Community. In their article, they write about how often manufacturers that machine parts with attention to detail and precision are deburring those parts manually, eliminating the consistencies and care that went into machining the part in the first place. Their piece is about advancements in mass deburring, which can ultimately extend part life and performance, and it’s worth a read.
Then, we have two of the utmost “Toyota Way” authorities on lean processes, Jeffrey K. Liker and James K. Franz, co-authors of The Toyota Way to Continuous Improvement, writing about problems they see with the application of lean today. Some companies, they observe, are treating lean with what they call “a machine mindset,” using outside consultants to conduct kaizen blitzes, rather than building a cultural transformation around the mindset, which is what leads to deep and lasting results.
We also have two excellent articles by Senior Editors Jim Lorincz and Patrick Waurzyniak, who write about new trends in alternative technologies and PLM software, respectively.
But as I continued, it was difficult to avoid mentioning current events.
Just as I began writing, the US unemployment rate for September came in at 7.8%, the lowest level in three and a half years. The US presidential election was tightening after the first debate. And the economies of Europe and China were increasingly showing signs of jeopardizing the modest US economic recovery, especially for manufacturers.
In my mind’s eye, the world’s manufacturers were all standing on one sheet of ice that represents the global economy. The ice under the US is, at the moment, just a little bit thicker than what some of our trade partners are standing on. But it’s one sheet of ice. So we’re all in danger if it cracks.
Whoever is elected president must work to build up the global economic foundation on which we’re all standing. Among other things, that means working to level the playing field when it comes to trade, especially with China, if the US manufacturing recovery, and renaissance, is to ever get on solid ground.
This article was first published in the November 2012 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine. Click here for PDF.