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Metalworking editor Ashburn Dies.

Andy was not only a mentor and long-time boss, he was a friend.--JJ

Anderson Ashburn, whose writing for and about America's durable-goods manufacturing industries merged technology with citizenship, died in New York Dec. 20 of complications following surgery for an injury. The Tarrytown, N.Y. resident was 84.

In an association with McGraw-Hill's American Machinist magazine that covered 45 years--half of them as its editor-in-chief--Andy Ashburn showed a leadership that was rare among journalists on trade publications.

During a 1977 staff meeting in which he outlined sweeping new historical research to be done for the magazine's upcoming centennial, one of his editors quipped, "It seems Andy can't do anything that's not heroic." That special issue, which traced manufacturing technique from the birth of the "American System" of interchangeable parts through mass production to modern robotics, became a basic text for several college courses on the history of technology.

The magazine issue also brought international attention to the fledgling American Precision Museum (Windsor, Vt.), depicted in a painting on the cover. Soon after, as a trustee of that Museum, Ashburn launched the organization's Machine Tool Hall of Fame, which by now has recognized nearly 50 inventors and innovators of machinery and tools that changed the world.

Ambitious projects were the Ashburn style. As the country faced the social turmoil of the late Sixties, Ashburn devoted a special issue of the already-influential magazine to the role for industry in dealing with the hard-core unemployed. The June 1969 issue of American Machinist won that year's National Magazine Award. It was the fourth time the Award was presented; the three previous years it had gone to mass-circulation newsstand periodicals. The commotion among publishers caused by its being taken by an upstart engineers' magazine led to the Award being split into several categories the following year.

Under Ashburn's leadership, American Machinist won more awards than all other metalworking publications combined. His own reporting was routinely breakthrough: A 1962 report from Japan was the first English-language description of Toyota's "kanban" production control system that gave the automaker an important competitive advantage. In more than 400 editorial opinion columns on issues from industrial policy to factory pollution he came to set the agenda for much of American manufacturing.

By deploying correspondents around the world and by reporting personally from five different continents he helped awaken U.S. factory managers and engineers to the emerging global nature of manufacturing. Not just Americans benefited; his magazine had a worldwide following and licensees in France and China, and during the Cold War the Soviets copied each entire issue and distributed it to their machinery engineers.

Andy Ashburn retired from McGraw-Hill Publications Co. in New York, N.Y. in 1987, but he remained active in the manufacturing industry, writing a monthly column for the German newspaper Produktion and guest editorials in American Machinist, continuing his annual financial Scorecard analysis of the production equipment industry, participating in a world survey of machine tool trade, and conducting balloting for the industry's Hall of Fame.

Ashburn was a Fellow of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers and received its Distinguished Contributions Award. He was a past chairman of the manufacturing activity of the Society of Automotive Engineers, and he was active in the standards work and goals program of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. He served two terms on the manufacturing studies board of the Washington-based National Research Council. The American Precision Museum named him a lifetime trustee.

In addition to receiving several American Business Press Neal Awards for individual articles or editorials, Ashburn received the eighth ABP Crain Award for a distinguished editorial career and the first McGraw-Hill Award for a distinguished editorial career. He has also been honored by AMT--The Association for Manufacturing Technology and by the American Machine Tool Distributors' Association, recently contributing to its 75th anniversary book.

His memberships included the American Society of Magazine Editors, serving two years as its president, the Tau Beta Pi engineering honor society, and the Oriental Order of Groundhogs, a machine-tool industry fraternity.

Anderson Ashburn was a native of Winston-Salem, N.C. and a graduate of the University of Michigan in mechanical engineering and business administration. He started his editorial career at the university's The Michigan Technic and continued it on The Tool Engineer, then the magazine of the American Society of Tool Engineers in Detroit. He joined American Machinist in 1942, leaving for military service with the U.S. Army during World War II and the Korean War, when he served as a captain in the ordnance corps.

Memorial donations may be made to The American Precision Museum, P.O. Box 679, Windsor, Vt. 05089. www. americanprecision.org.
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Publication:Metalworking Insiders' Report
Date:Dec 20, 2003
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