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MFGis: Robert Nesbitt

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Name: Robert Nesbitt

Industry: Medical

Location: Midwest

Robert, what's your history with manufacturing?
Years ago, my parents – like a lot of other post-World War II parents – encouraged me to follow a career in manufacturing. They believed such a career would provide stable employment, and that the production of tangible products would grow the American economy.

For 35 years, manufacturing has been a very solid career for me. I’ve worked in product sectors as diverse as farm equipment, industrial automation, medical devices and pharmaceuticals. I’ve moved into product design and development, but my love for manufacturing is just as strong as it ever was.

You’re passionate about manufacturing! Why?
No matter what amazing designs are envisioned, or which fascinating new technologies or materials are selected, the result is just a museum display without the clever, innovative manufacturing expertise it takes to produce a product that real people can enjoy.

Product design is outstanding and rewarding. But the ingenuity – the real “magic” – happens when a cool design is transformed into a high-quality, affordable product that improves and enriches people’s lives.

The real “magic” happens when a cool design is transformed into a high-quality, affordable product that improves and enriches people’s lives.

Manufacturing can improve and enrich lives?
Absolutely. It has for hundreds of years!

Think about the transformations and improvements brought about in our world through innovative manufacturing. Right at the start of the 19th Century, American inventor Eli Whitney got a contract to supply the federal government with 15,000 muskets. The concept of part interchangeability in the manufacture of those guns had an effect on American manufacturing that remains today.

A hundred years later, along comes Henry Ford to rock a new automobile industry – which essentially built vehicles for the wealthy – by taking a simple design, and enabling fast, repetitive assembly of that same simple design to create a car used every day by people around the world.

We could not afford a smartphone or carry it discretely in our pockets without the innovations of thousands of unknown manufacturing geniuses – each one a modern day Eli Whitney or Henry Ford.

How would you describe manufacturing to the next generation of innovators?
It’s easy to think of manufacturing as a set of specific and separate processes: welding, robots, computer scheduling or a cool material transformation process (like 3D printing). But, manufacturing is actually the coordination of all of those individual skills or processes – each one practiced, perfected and flawlessly performed – with an orchestra conductor’s ability to know how to bring it all together.

Manufacturing involves getting the raw materials in the right place, at the right time, making them show up exactly when you need them, and then figuring out how to make EXACTLY what the customer ordered – at high volume, in good quality.

To see that happen – to see it all come together - is freakin’ amazing. You can quote me on that.

Robert Nesbitt

This story is a part of SME’s #MFGis campaign.
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