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Management Side
Economical energy is weakening humans in general and may negatively affect our industry
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We all applaud the latest energy saving devices, whether at work or at home. There are many advantages to devices that save labor, reduce the likelihood of injury, and allows us to make products more economically. These devices can perform their functions through clever designs and modern, portable, and economical energy sources.

In some ways, though, they are making our employees dumber. Fifty years ago, many adjustments to operate a paper machine were accomplished by pulling a lever, turning a handwheel, starting a motor at a pushbutton actually adjacent to the pump. Modern power, control and programming have made these functions "on screen" experiences. Operators only see them as pixels on a screen in a dimly lit control room. They don't know if the pump is pumping (maybe the coupling sheared off?)--they only know what the screen tells them.

What the operator sees is the culmination of the inputs from many specialists, not the least of which is the system programmer. Yet, I have met many system programmers who don't know a paper machine basement from the roof. They gathered their data by going to other specialists who know the machine and asking them what they want the machine to do.

Now we are reaching the first inflection point of the schemes we have wrought with modern power and control systems. Many second and third generation control systems (the first generation were simpler and more discrete in their architecture) are reaching obsolescence. Because of the on-the-fly changes that have been made to them over the years, good documentation sometimes is missing. There is no universal, transferable code set that can be taken over to a modern control system. Modern control systems are expensive, even if you do not consider all the manual checking that must be done to assure that all the tweaks and turns of the obsolete system are transferred to the new one. We are reaching a point where we may see machines that are mechanically acceptable for further development and improvement but may be obsolescent because the control system conditions will not allow replacement without an unacceptable period of downtime.

Perhaps now you understand my headline. The Light Green Machine Institute is exploring ways to deal with this problem. If you are interested in becoming involved in its work, please take the short survey found here.

As far as actually weakening humans, evidence abounds. Look at the grow of health fitness clubs--they were few and far between even fifty years ago, for many people were involved in actual physical work then.
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