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  • By Paul J. Galeski, PE, CAP
  • Executive Corner

By Paul J. Galeski, PE, CAP

If you’re old school, like me, sometimes you enjoy seeing or even driving that great “classic” car you remember from when you were growing up. Maybe it was your dad’s car, and you couldn’t wait to drive it the minute you got your license. Perhaps it was that special car you always wanted but could never afford when you were a teenager. Is it a 70’s “muscle car,” or that old station wagon your parents drove to take you on those memorable family vacations?

What is it we like about driving those great old classics? Well, for one thing, when you slide into that car seat, it’s so familiar, so comfortable. Driving is so uncomplicated, and the machine itself is easy to understand. Want to start the car? Just turn the key . . . or hot wire it! Want the window up? Manually crank it with little risk of failure. Dim the lights? Hit the floor switch.

Oh, and the engine. It rumbles just right, with a sound you’ve known forever. Sure, it may cough and sputter a bit, and it gets terrible gas mileage, but you’re sure Ol’ Bessie will keep on rolling—it never let you down before. Add an extra quart of oil here, some fuel additive there, kick the left rear tire, and then hope it keeps on cruisin’.

Driving a classic is a lot of fun, and workarounds somehow keep the car going. Still, do you sometimes wonder if there is enough life left in it to make that road trip to visit the family over the holidays? And, really, is it safe?

Perhaps the plant or mill where you work is one of those legendary classics, loaded with history and personality. You’re at home there. It’s comfortable, easy to understand, and even fun sometimes. It also might feel pretty good to seamlessly and fluently navigate the system as younger engineers look on with envy. But keeping the old operation up and running is getting more and more expensive, and workarounds—not to mention parts—are harder to come by. Maybe you are thinking about modernizing, but change feels risky. It is hard to imagine leaving behind the status quo and investing in a new unknown, unfamiliar technology.

Like your legacy system, an older car will reach a point where it costs more to keep it running than it does to buy a newer one. We all know that a “classic car” is expensive to buy or restore, and it continues to be a money pit as parts become impossible to find and must often be “custom” designed. It’s had a good run, but it’s unreasonable to expect to drive it forever without the consequences of obsolescence.

The savvy car owner—like the smart manufacturer—must ultimately upgrade and bring in a shiny new model. It may not feel right at first, but once you’ve let go of the past and invested in the future ... wow!

Your new automobile features modern connectivity, advanced safety features, improved fuel efficiency, and reduced emissions. It helps you avoid collisions and can parallel park all by itself. You now enjoy livestreaming your favorite satellite music channel while following the enhanced GPS navigation. The onboard computers make your ride stable and smooth, allowing you to select from various traction and transmission setups as the driving surfaces or your preferences change. Then you wake up one morning to find that your car upgraded itself overnight by downloading a new dashboard software from the manufacturer!

The good old days were great, but when you drive your new “smart car,” you won’t be able to imagine how you ever got along without it.

Are you driving a classic at your legacy manufacturing facility? Is it time to make some changes that will allow your operations to be flexible, agile, easier to operate, and more reliable? Want the total cost of ownership to be more predictable and manageable? Want to stay competitive using new technologies like augmented reality, artificial intelligence, and advanced analytics? Of course, you’d like your process operation to be safer and more profitable as well.

Maybe it is time to talk to a knowledgeable consultant who can help you find the right make and model to best serve your operational needs. It’s time to move forward and enjoy the benefits of today’s technology coupled with smart manufacturing strategies. Don’t fear change. Embrace it. Drive it. Benefit from it. The old tech will always be there to visit in a museum or in your memory but, bottom line, there is no future in the past.

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About The Authors

Paul J. Galeski, PE, CAP, is the CEO and founder of MAVERICK Technologies. The company specializes in high-level operational consulting, as well as the development of automation strategy and implementation for automation technology. Galeski is also involved in expert witness testimony, and is a contributing author to Aspatore Books’ Inside the Minds, a series of publications that examine C-level business intelligence.