From small trucks to analytic software
Readers sent us their opinions on a wide variety of topics, including government help, the beauty of factories, and designing for maintenance.

Another vote for a small truck
I think letter-writer Phil Quenzi was reading my mind about the potential consumer demand for a small, capable, but economical truck (Letters, Sept. 8). I currently own a full-size pickup, which I bought seven years ago in the midst of a major construction project. It performed admirably on that project. But the real need for such a vehicle is occasional at best, and few who buy full-size pickups rarely use them to anywhere near their capacity.

A number of years ago, I owned a Ford Ranchero and loved its carlike handling, room for two (or three in a pinch), and just enough carrying capacity to haul most anything of reasonable size and weight, even the occasional small motorcycle with the tailgate down. It was all most people would ever really need.

If I could buy a two-door modern equivalent of my beloved Ranchero with AWD that got mid- to high-20s mpg, I would be at the dealership waving cash. Why the Australians still can buy these (known as utes there) and we can’t is beyond me. One would think they would sell like hotcakes.

David Voth

The government isn’t helping
I once owned a machine shop and toward the end, we could not find anyone to enter our apprenticeship program because it seems the federal government was subsidizing people to go to college so they wouldn’t have to take those icky manual labor jobs.

So now what do we have? Countless people on welfare being subsidized not to work. More proof that when the government tries to do a little social engineering, and we let it, it raises costs and usually accomplishes the exact opposite of what it set out to do.

Michael W. Morgan

Factories are beautiful things
Many people today forget the benefits of factory jobs (“Factory Jobs and the Quality of Life,” Sept. 8). For example, manufacturing creates lots of nondegree jobs where factory workers earn more than minimum wage because of the value they add to a product. (Take $10 worth of uncured rubber and steel and turn it into a $70 tire using “labor.”) You can’t always say the same about office work.

Also, factories put out products that can be exported to other countries to help with our trade imbalance. I can’t think of any activity carried out in a cubicle that can do that. And finally, some of us actually like working with our hands and making something real instead of pushing information. Neither the government nor Mr. Kessler should take away such opportunities.

Paul Cadden

The thought of a hedge-fund manager making fashionably disparaging remarks about factories is enough to turn my stomach. A self-serving Machiavellian like him clearly lacks the moral authority to be taken seriously on matters of the economy, employment, or the future of America. While a functional economy works on the exchange of value, a hedge fund simply absorbs capital and provides no value in return. Obviously, a finance-based economy is simply unsustainable. Yes, people in factories have to work hard, sweat, and get their hands dirty. Believe it or not, most are okay with that. They are not second-class citizens, Mr. Kessler. They’re simply the ones who have built character, along with all of the material goods you need to prove your worth.

John Carissimi

LOTO just makes sense
Management needs to make it known that failure to follow LOTO (lockout/tagout rules) will earn anyone an immediate dismissal, period (“Inconvenient Lockout/Tagout Likely Gets Ignored,” June 23). If everyone knew what can happen if procedures aren’t followed (physical injury and possible death), why would they do something dangerous? Do you play Russian Roulette when not at work? Why should employees basically play the same game as part of their job?

Even if it’s cumbersome or time consuming to implement, that shouldn’t bother employees since most are typically paid by the hour. If they are not hourly, they should still appreciate what can happen when the procedures are ignored and refrain from doing so. There are enough “scare videos” out there that show what happens when someone inadvertently powers up some piece of equipment being worked on, so make those films part of a safety-training program.

If production gets delayed because LOTO procedures take too long, it’s time for management to improve the system and decrease the time. But this requires that management fully understand that safety actually improves the bottom line as injuries are very expensive.

Mike Wright

Your letter reminds me of some of the short “scare movies” I watched in the Navy. One in particular, “The Man from LOX,” on the dangers of liquid oxygen, comes to mind. (You can see it on YouTube.) It certainly made an impact on lots of sailors and aviators. Funny, those short films on the downsides of alcohol and venereal disease didn’t have quite the same effect. — Stephen J. Mraz

How about Design for Maintenance?
In all of the articles I have read regarding Design-for-Assembly/Manufacturing, including the recent on in Machine Design (“Applying Common Sense to DFM,” Sept. 8), I have never seen considerations for maintenance mentioned. Surely some of these “designs” need to be taken apart for maintenance, calibration, upgrades, or just to be inspected. Or is everything just built as inexpensively as possible and then thrown away when it breaks? Possibly worse yet are single-use items such as surgical tools or appliances that just don’t pay to fix.

Jim Brivits

Regrettably most of the consumer and medical projects we work on are devices designed to be thrown away rather than repaired or reused. When I’m not designing throwaway products, I work on old motorcycles and so I’m acutely aware of how important design for maintenance is.
— Rajan Ramaswamy

No time for analytics
Analytic software might be great tools (Product-Analytics Software Boosts Avanced Manufacturing,” June 23), but when you are working as an engineer with a small team on NASA or government contracts, project requirements dictate certain performance metrics. Most engineers and managers just make sure their products meet those metrics and move on. Sure, there are things like RoHS compliance, but they are usually handled at the QA-department level with suppliers. No engineer or manager has the time or proper incentives to perform the analytics mentioned on products they are working on. If it meets performance requirements and passes QA inspection, the design is done. I can see how the software might be useful for a large-scale manufacturing firms, maybe those that make consumer products.

Margaret Dansen

© 2011 Penton Media, Inc.