Friday, January 29, 2010

Salamanders and Toads

My brother used to spend quite a bit of time back in the woods looking for salamanders. He has this uncanny ability to look under the right rock or piece of wood. He would also spend a great deal of time with his hands in the window well at the southwest corner of our house. This was the location of his carefully developed habitat for toads - a toad abode.

I thought about this while reading the early pages of Seth Godin's book, Linchpin. These images contrast starkly with the factory life that dictates so much of our existence today. I don't just mean factories as places that make things. In addition to these places, I think about schools and churches and other places that squelch the creativity and wonder that seems so natural in early years. Then, at some point along the way, it almost seems like people have to begin forcing themselves to be creative or experience awe.

The alternative really is death.

That is what any type of factory-like setting runs of the risk of doing - killing. Sure, I'm not talking specifically about physical death. I'm talking more about emotional and spiritual death. I'm talking about zombies walking around saying "yes." I'm talking about people who forget what it is like to be outside somewhere in the country riding bike in the middle of summer. At some point, we trade this in to work in some sterile facility or someplace that is grimy or someplace that is devoid of awe and wonder.

It is time to turn this around.

We recently have started taking steps to turn this around. The addition of many new lights is kind of symbolic of this new way. Quite literally, we have added light at the end of the tunnel.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Define the Problem

As a process engineer, I never have to search for problems to solve.

In fact, I often have to pause and remember that we in fact do some things right, too.

Problems, though, can quickly become rather complex with a myriad of different issues and concerns. All of the sudden, I'm left wondering, "What was the original problem?"

So now this brings up another problem. The answer.

Define the problem. Develop a problem statement.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Before and After

My perspective on work has changed drastically over the last few weeks. This change has resulted from several factors. One of them is the camera that my parents gave me for Christmas. It has become an amazing tool for me in the world of process engineering. Above, you can see a great before and after picture from a recent improvement.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Leading the Way

As part of the facility’s ongoing copper conservation efforts, a formal team was launched in October 2009 to develop and implement new strategies. As a result of these changes, the pounds saved per month in the fourth quarter increased by 221% over the pounds saved per month during the first three quarters of the year. This equated to over $100,000 in savings due to the team’s efforts.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

"Everything Old is New Again"

Plant Engineering (Dec., 2009) recently featured the Siemens plant in Norwood, OH. The title of the cover story is the title of this blog post. The article discusses a commitment to engagement of the workforce, continuous improvement, and fixing up the plant.

This year we are also making a commitment to continue our efforts to fix up the plant. This blower is one of the first items to go in the new year. Stay tuned for a great before and after picture.

In addition, we have a assigned one individual to begin the process of turning one of our departments into a truly world class department. I am excited by the plan that is developing and hope that it offers a path toward excellence.

Saturday, January 16, 2010


Earlier this week, I received a PowerPoint presentation from Matt, one of my colleague at the Bremen facility. In the presentation, he included this statement, "Copper is symbolic." Of course, a statement like this piqued my interested and I replied back, "What do you mean?"

His response:

"Copper [wire] is symbolic because… we are all strands. Individually we are not much use and can become entangled with one another creating more problems and hassles. If we stick together as a “bunch," we can do GREAT things. But, if one of use is not in unison and strays from the bunch, things may not go as smoothly as they could."

This analogy was on my mind the entire week. I shared it in the shift meetings and we are going to post at the multi-wires with the corresponding corporate core value.

Let's do great things!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

New Toy

This week, I started using my new toy in the never-ending journey to improve products and processes. To start the new year, I have been focusing intently on communicating (perhaps over-communicating) observations and improvements. My new camera has been a crucial element of this venture. As you can see in the above picture or at, a picture really goes a long way to report observations. This picture clearly captures the distinct difference in strand color between the fine wire (right) and coarse wire (left).

Sunday, January 10, 2010


As my dad noted this weekend, the blog posts have been a bit sparse as of late. Two reasons for this are adjusting to a new schedule this fall and less accessibility to the Internet. Honestly, I kind of miss this a bit because writing offers this outlet to organize and offload thoughts into written words. For me, though, as soon as some thoughts leave, other ones usually take their place.

This holiday season, though, one image remained persistent in my mind. It has yet to escape. It the image of a stable. As previously discussed, I had a strong desire to visit the manger during the Holy Walk in Bremen. Yet, I turned away. About two weeks later, I was in my basement abode and saw The Chronicles of Narnia and felt a tug to finish reading them.

I start the last book. Shortly thereafter, I am reading about a stable.

Queen Lucy insightfully shared, "In our world too, a Stable once had something inside it that was bigger than our whole world."

The past few days have included some times of reflection. This of course included thoughts and images from work. As I was thinking about our facility, the smells, the grunginess, and the frigid drafts began to morph into something else. I was walking through the plant - basically feeling sorry for myself. Then, after a period of time, I was no longer walking through a plant but was walking through a stable filled with smells, grunginess, and frigid drafts.

Is there something bigger inside these stables?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


Sometime this past weekend, I looked at my improvised nightstand and saw my Chronicles of Narnia book. I read the first five books this past summer or two summers ago - the summers seem to blur together. Then, when I made it to the sixth book, I read one chapter, lost interest, and put the book aside. When, I picked up the book this time, though, and started the sixth book again, I could not put the it down. The book seemed so fresh... so new... like I had never read the first five books.

On Monday, I was reading the last book while waiting for the professor. Someone asked what I was reading and I said, "The Chronicles of Narnia." The person replied, "Why don't you just watch the movie?" A little puzzled, I explained that there are seven books in the Chronicles. The person then asked, "Like Harry Potter?"

Aargh, I just wanted to scream.

No, not like Harry Potter. Sure, Potter is great and I've read all the books, but the Chronicles unlock something more.

When, I read the Chronicles, it is almost like I'm right there in Narnia.

I love it when people from "our world" first get to Narnia and they start breathing the air. It rejuvenates them. It strengthens them. There is just something about the air.

When I go to Wisconsin, I can't wait to get out of the car (usually in the middle of the night) to take a deep breath of the pine-scented air. It is rejuvenating. It is strengthening.

I struggle right now with being cooped up inside - particularly at work. The air seems so stale and the smells from the processes don't escape so easily out closed doors and windows.

I end up longing even more for the air of Wisconsin or the country air of a long bike ride or run.