Foundry commitment to education is strong.
The great Roman philosopher, Epictetus, said 1900 years ago that only the educated are free, adding that one must "first, ask what you would be, then do what you have to do." Aristotle, the equally great Greek scholar, agreed, stating that educated men are as much superior to uneducated men as the living are to the dead.
Both scholars were perhaps a little extreme in their views on education, but their concerns for furthering education were echoed by speakers at the recent College/Industry Conference (Chicago, November 1991) sponsored by the Foundry Educational Foundation. The conference theme was Technology Transfer and it explored with the 300 attendees the processes inherent in getting and implementing ideas.
Several speakers called on college educators and industrial leaders to intervene on behalf of a technical education for their students, preparing the students to facilitate the exchange of ideas and concepts necessary to reexert an industrial renaissance in the U.S.
It is important, they said, that students be made aware of the personal and economic advantages of technical training in a nation that has become more oriented toward service training than to manufacturing. Technical innovation and production expertise have been the bulwark of this country's prosperity for two centuries, but these elements have been seriously eroded by emerging off-shore producers long regarded as inferior to American industry.
Forest J. Farmer, president of Acustar, Inc., Chrysler Corp.'s successful $2 billion component parts subsidiary, said that students of today are the single most necessary ingredient on which America's industrial survival depends.
"Intelligent use of innovation is the product and the process of a nation that values its people for what they know and can learn. Untapped brainpower is more wasteful by far than untapped industrial capacity. More than any other factor, technical training has played a major role in shifting the global economy and has lead to the rise and fall of nations," he said.
"If we are to grow as a nation, if our businesses are to survive, we must tap the full potential of our people, increase productivity, overcome resistance to change and make innovation feasible and welcome," Farmer concluded.
Conception of an Idea
The conception of an idea was addressed by Paul Sanders, a graduate student at Northwestern Univ. He spoke of the strength that can be present in the amalgam of inexperience (new people with new ideas) and experience (foundry veterans) and how the two can use each other to extend production efficiency and effectiveness.
He learned, he said, that the theoretical methods of the college lab are often slow, expensive and sometimes impractical, but when they are combined with established foundry practices, they can produce workable alternatives to many foundry problems. A good education teaches not only important information, but, according to Sanders, it encourages newways of approaching difficult issues.
Of most importance, he said, is the need to consider everyone involved in moving or proving an idea as part of a team, a conjunction of new and old, each willing to give what is necessary to validate a given concept. idea generation is not something one decides to do for a day or two, but a learned process that occurs over time. It is the recognition of new potential seen by one and developed in discussion with others.
Transferring the idea
Paul Mikkola, technical director, GM Central Foundry Div., in his talk on transferring ideas, said that the U.S. has had enough of MBHA (management by hunting around). Nothing substitutes for an educated approach to ideas that combines skilled research with day-to-day work experience.
New technologies or ideas are futile if they do not create accessible value, but, he said, Americans, to their detriment, have had a traditional problem with transferring ideas in their intramural contest for gaining and holding fast to strategic and competitive information and advantage.
He enumerated several steps that manufacturing teams must adopt to strengthen the country's faltering economic position and eventually move it ahead of global competitors. First, he said, it is important to be prepared educationally, to know your stuff, then work cooperatively to encourage the free flow of ideas. Make your work fun since it is the consuming part of your life; be quick to share credit because success seldom happens without collaboration with others; and do not fear failure. He warned that transferring ideas is a difficult, full-time task that requires training, cooperation, dealing with reality, zealously guarding company objectives and willing leader-ship.
When implementing new technologies, the perceptive manufacturing team should immediately begin a search for subsequent ideas that have potential for improving associated manufacturing capabilities because of the technological advances, said Rose Torielli, manufacturing engineer, Casting Div./Ford Motor Co.
This search, she said, should include all available resources from in-plant specialists, suppliers, academics and networks established with flanking industries in and outside the foundry industry. The key to successful idea generation is early involvement with the newest installed technologies.
It is important to remember that one can't work alone and that to be successful in the launch of a new idea, one must have support from everyone who might play a part in its implementation.
She said the three essentials of this involvement translate into running effective meetings, developing the use of superior communication skills and learning to collaborate with other departments affected by the new idea. In addition, she pointed out the utility of system thinking, timing charts (critical path) and question logs as tools in the cross-functional team approach to new program implementation.
When developing and/or launching a new concept or process, Torielli said, the implementation team must keep in sharp focus the human factors, training implications and maintenance liabilities that are part of it. The human factors include safety, health and ergonomic impacts, all of which must be timely and effective. When a process is finally brought on line, it is important to use statistical tools to limit the process parameters and analyze the process capabilities.
In his luncheon address, Gerald A. Collins, general manager, Foundry Operations/GM Powertrain Div., recounted the implementation of a new concept at the world's largest manufacturing organization as being little different from introducing a new product or process at a small foundry. The steps toward change are the same, he said, because they involve people, every organization's greatest asset.
In making its foundry division part of the new Powertrain Div., GM was faced with a new idea for improved manufacturing concepts that changed the old order of individual specialties bound to specific operations. in a massive effort, the corporation made the changes only after equally massive technology transfer. It knew its greatest resource, its employees, had the ability to change once they were aware what necessitated those changes.
He recounted the experience of a foundry that was close to being closed until its employees were given a new idea. Its last line of diecast parts was about to be phased out when the new idea and the foundry's people took hold. Diecasting was replaced with expendable pattern casting (EPC) with such success that the once moribund plant is filling up again with new work from new customers.
Collins concluded by calling attention to the tight schedule the U.S. has to get its manufacturing house in order. "We need the best and the brightest to get us there," and he hailed the assembled students and the FEF as two reasons that the country's world economic place will be secure.
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|Title Annotation:||Foundry Educational Foundation|
|Author:||Kanicki, David P.|
|Date:||Jan 1, 1992|
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