As Time Goes By

Turning Point

I like the month of July. It’s generally warm (which, after this year’s winter, is most welcome) and offers lots of summer activities. Moreover, it’s the birth month of the United States and me. 

On the 13th I will turn 62. Some say they can’t believe I’m that old, while others look at me and say they can’t believe I’m that young. Oh well, it is what it is. 

What is undeniable is that we boomers are on the downhill slide. Many of us are not done yet, but we can see it from here.

For the first time in my career I’m being asked, with increasing frequency, how long do I plan to work?  If good health continues, I can physically do my thing indefinitely. As it has been for many years, my mental health is a more subjective question, but so far so good.

I’m actually quite pleased with the time I was born into, and especially pleased that my course was steered toward manufacturing, which has allowed me to see its sine wave like feast to famine and back to feast. What a ride. And all the time being up close and personal in reporting about it.

Many of the developments that have come to pass in my career were unimaginable at one time and later have become simply commonplace. Much of this has been because of the advances in computing power and data processing speed.

When was the last time anyone sweated dwell time when milling an interior corner? The speed at which lines of code are crunched have made such issues moot.

Likewise, I remember taking a manual programming class many years ago and trying to pull from woefully inadequate knowledge of trig to calculate tool nose radii on a turning application. Today, it’s all in the CAM software. In fact, few even see a line of G-code anymore, much less write one.

These are all good things, and my bet is that we’re just getting started. Development speed is accelerating, and the work is more about trying to keep up with things that are useful to one’s manufacturing needs. Sometimes it’s easy to get distracted by what I like to refer to as “shiny baubles” that catch the eye, but don’t really help the mission.

 The cover story (page 32) in this month’s edition of Production Machining is an example of how a culture of innovation can lead to longevity. It is an article about a 155-year-old padlock manufacturer that has weathered it all.

Yet even though they know how to successfully make locks, they have a determination to find increasingly better ways to manufacture. Moreover, they make the investments necessary to ensure the next century and a half. 

I first visited Wilson Bohannan in its Marion, Ohio, facility in 2010. I was pursuing a lead about how the company implemented a Tornos CNC six-spindle multi. It was their first machine of this type, yet they made it work for themselves.

This month’s story is about a sophisticated, automated cell centered on a Hydromat rotary transfer machine and parts washer. Again, they didn’t know what they didn’t know, but made the commitment to innovate as the company has done throughout its long history.

Luckily, there are many such enterprises across this country that are innovative and successful, and I think they represent the current upturn in the manufacturing sine wave, however not many have been around as long as Wilson Bohannan.

Veterans of manufacturing such as Wilson Bohannan, and me, for that matter, understand the importance of our field and how lucky we are to have a role in it. In my case, advancing technology from typewriter to PCs have made what I try to do much easier, faster and better.

Once for me to file a story, it required a lead time of 3 months to be published. Now, the print cycle is a couple of weeks or less. Online can be published daily.

Relatively speaking, this is the kind of change I’ve seen in manufacturing as well over my career. I can’t hazard a guess as to all that Wilson Bohannan has seen. However, one thing is certain. Moving forward and embracing appropriate technology is the key to success and longevity in any field.