Reader-Submitted Essay On State Of Engineering and Manufacturing Stirs Emotions And Elicits Responses

I just read a very interesting article entitled "Does Engineering Matter and is Free Trade Really Free?" at the following link:

The author, Stephen J. Schoonmaker, brings up several good points and places a deserved amount of blame for the current state (or lack thereof) of engineering and manufacturing on various government agencies and policies. He has received several responses from readers that support his contention.

I think that Mr. Schoonmaker's essay is an extension of correspondence he and I had with regard to the Commentary I wrote for the October 17 edition of MCAD Weekly, entitled " With Few Options And An Uncertain Future, Delphi Files Chapter 11 Bankruptcy"

That was an emotional Commentary for me to write for a number of reasons. First, I'm from the Detroit area and still maintain an office and a residence there. Second, I went to college there and earned a degree in industrial design. Third, I'm actually a union member - UAW Local 1981 - the National Writer's Union. This background and people I come in contact with just make me wonder what the bigger implications are for mechanical design, engineering, and manufacturing in this country - whether innovative or at all.

Delphi's (and now GM's) serious problems have prompted heightened discord between salaried employees and UAW members on who is to blame for the woes at Delphi and the American automotive industry in general. While there has been a lot of the finger-pointing in the between those two groups, no one seems overly concerned with the party (pardon the pun) who may be the real root cause of the problem - the government.

In response to his question, "Does Engineering Matter?," it sure doesn't seem to in this country anymore. We interest and graduate only a fraction of the engineers that countries like china and India do, and the disparity grows every year. Just this morning I read a Reuters news story entitled, "Is U.S. Becoming Hostile To Science?" It described the bitter debate about how to teach evolution in U.S. high schools is prompting a crisis of confidence and is a warning sign that science itself is under assault and an issue with severe long-term consequences, because a good foundation in math and science is essential for pursuing engineering.

This all hits even closer to home for me because I have been a substitute high school math and physics tutor, but the school district has cancelled geometry, trigonometry, and elementary calculus due to lack of interest and enrollment. Algebra is now the highest level of math taught now. Chemistry and physics are combined in a watered-down class, largely because of the lack of math exposure to understand anything beyond the most basic of principles. I'm told this trend is occurring all across the country.

To further the negative sentiment, I was approached by a local community college to teach Mechanical CAD and Fundamentals Of Mechanical Design, but both were cancelled, again due to lack of interest. All very sad, but a statement on the perceived value of technical/technology education in an industry that is in serious decline and dying.

In response to the other half of Mr. Schoonmaker's question, "Is Free Trade Really Free?," I have to answer, "No." The way our government has set it up, so-called free trade has been paved as a one way street that benefits other countries much more than it benefits our country's manufacturers. Eventually, and in the not too distant future, we're going to see not just "Made In China," labels on products, but "Designed and Engineered In China." Are we relegating ourselves to just logistics, distribution, and consumption of products - the Walmart model on a national scale? It sure appears that way because we continue to consume more but actually produce less in this country. It's not only a sad statement, but is contributing to what I consider to be "The Continuing Fall of America" as an innovator and leader in engineering and manufacturing.

So what's going to come of all this? I don't honestly know, but as I said in my last commentary with regard to manufacturing - some things will be better, more will be worse, but all will be different. I hope that thought-provoking essays like Mr. Schoonmaker's continue so that an ongoing Discussion Forum can be created to attempt to address and resolve issues in the mechanical design, engineering, and manufacturing space.

UGS And Adobe Join Forces For Storing And Publishing Technical Data

UGS Corp. and Adobe Systems Inc. announced a technology partnership to enable manufacturing organizations worldwide to tap into the industry's vast reservoir of 3D digital product models -- stored in the widely adopted JT data format -- and publish them as Adobe PDF files.

This relationship between Adobe and UGS builds on existing support for Universal 3D (U3D) in Adobe Acrobat 7.0 Professional and PDF, and extends the reach of 3D JT data to users of free Adobe Reader 7.0 software. Adobe has distributed over half-a-billion copies of Adobe Reader since 1993.

"Today's announcement will contribute to the enhancement of collaboration and communication that takes place among our global locations and outside suppliers throughout our product lifecycle process," said Alfred Katzenbach, director of Information Technology and IT-Processes at DaimlerChrysler's Mercedes Car Group. "JT is our industry's most widely adopted lightweight 3D format for representing digital product models, and Adobe PDF is the de facto standard document format throughout the world. By making millions of 3D product models easy to import into Adobe PDF documents and accessible to anyone with free Adobe Reader software, UGS and Adobe are establishing an open standard for PLM document creation and sharing."

Adobe PDF is an open, published specification created and updated by Adobe and used by organizations worldwide today for more secure, reliable distribution and exchange of electronic documents with embedded 3D objects. Adobe PDF documents represent 3D data such as JT-based digital product models in the U3D format. JT is the PLM industry's most widely adopted open 3D data format for enabling product visualization, data sharing and collaboration. Virtually all major computer-aided design (CAD) applications used by manufacturers throughout the world can export JT files.

"JT is the PLM industry's most robust format for 3D collaboration," said Chuck Grindstaff, executive vice president PLM Products, UGS. "Its flexibility together with JT's widespread adoption throughout the global manufacturing industry and the ubiquity of Adobe PDF will enhance the value of all documents used throughout the PLM process such as manufacturing instructions, requests for quotation (RFQs), marketing brochures and much more."

The Adobe-UGS relationship enables an open technology exchange between the two companies involving Adobe PDF and JT. Now, through access to the Adobe PDF Library, UGS will have the ability to enable its customers to directly export content-rich PDF files through its entire suite of PLM software solutions. Similarly, using the JT software development toolkit (SDK), Adobe will allow users of future versions of Adobe Acrobat(R) software to import JT-based interactive 3D product models into Adobe PDF documents.

"JT and Adobe PDF are already well established and highly regarded by manufacturing organizations around the world," said Eugene Lee, vice president of product marketing, Intelligent Documents Business Unit, Adobe. "JT is an invaluable 3D data format for visualizing accurate, detailed product models, and much more. The manufacturing industry already relies on Adobe PDF for many of its traditional strengths, as well as new U3D support in Acrobat 7.0 Professional and Adobe Reader. With UGS, Adobe will enable customers to dramatically expand the utility of both JT and Adobe PDF, helping drive more efficient communication and greater productivity throughout the product lifecycle."

So Adobe has become the newest member of the JT Open Program. The announcement was made in conjunction with a separate announcement of a relationship between the two software companies that will let manufacturers publish 3D digital product models, stored in the JT data format, as Adobe PDF files.

The JT Open Program is an organization consisting manufacturers, PLM vendors, and universities focused on making JT the de facto industry standard for storing and sharing 3D digital product data. The grand theoretical plan of all the members of JT Open is to work together to help eliminate barriers to product development caused by incompatible proprietary data formats. Again, it's theory and something I'd like to investigate further myself to see how well it actually work - in practice.

According to UGS, since it established JT Open in November 2003, it has grown to more than four million JT-enabled software seats installed today. Beyond Adobe, JT Open has recently added several new members, including Siemens, Autodesk, Capgemini, and Asahi Electronics.

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Review Article
  • Wonder No More! January 01, 2009
    Reviewed by 'Stephen J Schoonmaker'
    In this October 2005 essay that you wrote (commenting on what I wrote), you posed the following question:
    So what's going to come of all this?
    It took a while, but 2008 has given you the answer: National Economic Collapse. Oh, we can say we managed to weather the storm, but in reality, we are still pursuing consumption (with borrowed money) of cheap Asian goods from WongMart. Keep in mind that China/Korea/Japan are just gradations of the same one-way street economic model made possible by the traitor CEO's, corrupt politicians, and industry-hating media. I wonder how many tree-hugging Left Coasters driving Subarus (Fuji Motors), Toyotas, and Hondas care that Japanese women are second class citizens, and that they're still slaughtering whales and decimating fisheries? I suspect they know full well how bad Japan is; they just hate people like me, and love to feel the rush of power as they squash me like a little bug (trees apparently need to be spared more than I do).
    And now, instead of selling more technology or factories (they're all gone), we are selling our sovereign rights. China SAFE Investments, Ltd. is now a "partner" with Bank of America. Budweiser beer is now European (its all about greedability). Do you think we control any companies overseas? I know we don't. In dealing with Asia and Germany, I find that their governments actually control the plants, not us.
    In fact, I dare anyone to find a case where an American company fired one single manager anywhere in China, Korea, Japan, France, or Germany. And I mean fired American-style (not some local law process). You know how American-style goes: Hi Fred. How's Wilma? Great. Well, this is your last day, Fred. Here's your box, Fred. There's a ClintoNAFTA-era program to turn you into a bedpan-changing nurse's aid. Sorry you used to be a skilled manufacturing worker. But, I need the money to build a factory in Viet Nam. Bye, Fred.
    And don't think Mr. Obama is going to fix this. He wants to make jobs doing construction. Well, I am an engineer in construction equipment, and every time I look at the glitzy company newsletter, its all about "partnering" with plants in Asia (or building your "own" factory like JLG/Oshkosh). Mr. Obama is going to wind up spending US tax money to buy foreign equipment (you'll think its a US name, but just like with auto's it will be with foreign content for the expensive stuff). And the media will be silent. And the academics will remind us, "you can't stop globalization". Only now they add, "even if it means we become economic vassals of sexist/nationalist/socialist governments".
    Maybe the wacko's were right. It makes more sense now that the moon landings were faked. How could we have done that? With no free trade? With no malls? With no overpriced real estate? With unions controlling all the factories? And no Japanese parts? And Mom's all at home raising kids.
    Boy, I sure miss having my own country already...

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