As a career manufacturing engineer, I’ve seen my fair share of different operations’ inner workings. Like any job, there were parts I loved and parts I hated, but when it was all said and done, some of my proudest life moments have been spent with my coworkers on a factory floor.
Within the operations disciplines, we are often measured and judged by our ability to react. In any company I’ve ever been, it’s usually pretty easy to pick out the “core” — those vital few folks who are the ones everyone turns to when things just aren’t going right.
These are the manufacturing engineers who, like the urban legend says, can walk up to a broken machine and place an “X” on the problem area within minutes of investigating. They are the quality engineers who can cut through blueprint contradictions that are preventing product progression. They are the lead people who just seem to have a knack no one else does to get that old tool to produce a good part. In short, the dragon slayers.
After decades in business, though, I maintain that there’s yet a higher level of achievement—one that gets a substantially lesser amount of attention, but is much more important to an organization. At this level, problems are anticipated, recognized and mitigated before they even have a chance to make themselves known.
This happens far more often than we know for the simple fact that the problem never surfaced in the first place to draw our attention to its existence.