#atozchallenge: Industry

I tend to conflate the word industry with heavy manufacturing, preferring to use the word business for anything less rigorous. So it’s the steel industry and the banking business. That’s still pretty common, although some people use them interchangeably.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

I have a degree in Production and Operations Management, which as you can guess by the name has a lot to do with managing manufacturing operations. We studied two topics, Motion and Time Study and Statistical Quality Control, that were actually courses in Industrial Engineering, taught more from a business perspective than an engineering one. Mom always wanted me to be an engineer…

I received the Production Management Key at the end of my days at Loyola, which I can no longer find because it probably was inadvertently thrown away. I didn’t know what to do with it, so it sat in its little plastic case until around the time we moved to Atlanta, whereupon it was discarded as just a little more flotsam and jetsam that gets thrown away when you get ready to move 750 miles (that’s 1250 kilometers for you metric fans) to a new home.

I chose a particularly lousy time to get a degree in it, because it was right around then that many manufacturing operations left the United States for other locations in the world (primarily Mexico). They knew that, of course, but didn’t bother to tell me. They figured I had a Bachelor’s degree, which documented the fact that I was smart, and I’d figure out what to do from there. And I did: I got into IT, which was called EDP at the time, and wrote COBOL programs for about six months until I got the itch to try to get a job that "used my major."

I spent a year and a half working for a food manufacturer, supervising a crew of three in making cracker meal for use in breading chicken and fish. I worked third shift and my job consisted mostly of drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes, and watching my guys do what they already knew how to do. Finding this a little dull, I sought out and found a new job, working for an auto parts manufacturer, supervising a crew of sixteen on the second shift. They needed someone who could stand around for eight hours, smoking cigarettes, drinking coffee, and watching men and women do what they already knew how to do. That job lasted six months and ended when they decided they didn’t need a second shift and laid me off. Needing a job, I fell back on my computer programming skills and left manufacturing behind for good.

I realized that making stuff was no longer as important as it had been twenty or thirty years earlier. It was all being done elsewhere, places where they already had guys to stand around for eight hours, drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes, and watching people do the jobs they already knew how to do.

19 thoughts on “#atozchallenge: Industry

  1. Ahh Industry in North America…almost has gone the way of the dodo. Loved reading your post as i have seen many smoke cigs and drink coffee.

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  2. Industry made America great. Don’t know how much I’d enjoy working in the kind of environment you describe, but I never did and likely never will. Thank goodness someone does it though.

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out

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    1. Starting in the ’70’s, people were saying that the US was moving to more of a services-based economy as manufacturers were starting to build their factories where labor was cheap. That was just wrong: the middle class was primarily families whose main breadwinner was either a skilled laborer or a tradesman, and we pulled the rug out from under them by saying blue-collar work was dead. Not everyone was meant to go to college, and here we were pushing every kid to get a bachelor’s degree. The trouble we’re seeing now started fifty years ago…

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  3. Quite an interesting path, John. I would not have survived in the standing around times. Our daughter is a chemical engineer who works in manufacturing. All Sixth Sigma now – no standing around supervising jobs much anymore. When I got into IT, it was referred to as Information Systems. Were you ever a member of DPMA?

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    1. We had a chapter at Loyola in my last semester there. I looked into it, but it never got off the ground…

      I think my brother Pat is 6-Sigma certified. I remember it was all the rage earlier in the 21st Century.

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  4. Interesting to hear some of your back-story John. I have had to come out of semi-retirement (two days a week) and do four days a week to supervise moving to a larger factory – so many issues to get to grips with…

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  5. We backed into IT along similar paths, John. After getting an undergraduate degree in chemistry, I was counseled into getting a masters in business administration from a “quantitative” program. My focus was operations research. I wrote COBOL and Algol programs for a while before moving (briefly) into transportation, the number industry, consulting and finally, insurance. Cheers to the skills we never used (directly) 😏

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