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You Have to Build It For Them to Come

Posted on October 29th, 2015 by in Chemical Manufacturing Excellence

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What good is the most innovative product of the century if you can’t produce it at scale? When considering topics for this blog it was obvious from interactions with customers and industry leaders that innovation is perennially of interest. However, since statistics show that 95% of all new product development initiatives fail, bad ideas alone could not account for this significant failure rate.

The more we spoke with R&D leaders in the chemicals, oil & gas, and other industries, it was clear that economically and efficiently producing their end products was just as important as innovating new products. The amount and gravity of critical engineering and technical decisions made by manufacturing engineering teams in the realization phase of new product development rival that of the R&D engineering teams during the ideation phase. So it seemed a natural fit to dedicate a portion of this blog to manufacturing excellence and who better to lead the conversation than a lifelong maker.

My name is Ken Klapproth, a Mechanical Engineer, and I am thrilled to be leading the manufacturing excellence portion for this blog. I spent a decade in the aerospace industry making jet engines and another two decades in the engineering software business helping companies make better products from process chemicals, to toasters, to submarines, and even unmanned space launch vehicles – yes, at one point in my career I could legitimately tell my children, “In this case, it IS rocket science!”

Even as a child, I was fascinated by how things are made. Growing up, my favorite book was Things to Make and Things to Do by The University Society, Incorporated – which I still have today. My mother had the foresight to understand the emotional connection I had developed for it over the years, store it safely away, then present it to me upon my first child’s birth. Dog-eared from decades of frequent use, it introduced me to the concepts of taking a raw material through a controlled set of steps to a finished product. How attention to quality at each step and learning out a process could not only improve the final product but the amount of yield. It also taught me how the pain – and expense – of scrapping a piece increased the closer you came to the finished product.

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Definitive works always retain relevance.

While speeds and feeds are always important considerations and a source of discussion concerning manufacturing, we should also use this forum to explore the engineering innovation we all create in overcoming constraints implied by new end products or improved processes. What were the limiting factors in your choice injection molding for a thermoset? How did the addition of new filler in a polymer to reduce cost negatively impact your extrusion process and how did you fix it? What lead to – and how did you overcome – undesirable thickness variations in your calendaring of a thermoplastic? There are tremendous engineering feats in what we do every day which can be a source of great inspiration – or offer a well advised warning to others.

I look forward to continuing this journey with you and sharing your ideas on current issues, challenges, and triumphs about the realization of your company’s products. Together, I am confident we can make this blog a thriving community to advance knowledge on manufacturing excellence and hopefully create a resource that won’t just be stored for posterity by somebody’s mother but will be actively shared and grown.

What where the formative events in your career? What gave you your start in engineering or manufacturing? Be sure to leave them in the comments below and don’t forget to follow us on your favorite social media channel.

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