In The Fast Lane

In many ways our lives today seem more complicated and faster paced than our parents' were. My mid-life tendency to wax nostalgic notwithstanding, it's a fact of life today that we all pull from numerous and different skills to get through what's become a more complex life-style.

Columns From: 4/28/1998 Modern Machine Shop, ,

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Chris Koepfer

In many ways our lives today seem more complicated and faster paced than our parents' were. My mid-life tendency to wax nostalgic notwithstanding, it's a fact of life today that we all pull from numerous and different skills to get through what's become a more complex life-style. We're employees, employers, parents, coaches, members of sundry associations and citizens, to name a few. Under each broad category, there are more specialized roles to get involved in. Sure, every generation deals with these things, but it seems to me, and my folks confirm this, we are all just a lot more busy than ever. Part of the reason perhaps lies in the amount of "stuff" vying for our attention and time. While it's true there are many things that exist to help us be more efficient both in our professional and private lives, many of us seem squeezed to take advantage of the savings.

Even as the influx of new things accelerates, it's surprising to me how adaptable most of us have become to the continuously updated technology that's so much a part of our everyday lives. There's a nonchalance about what seems to me, at least, as incredible. Who could imagine, for example, that we'd have a device in our cars that can track our movements, using orbiting satellites, and interactively give us our present location, time to destination and best route—all with the touch of a few buttons.

We use the pervasive computer, view cell phones as necessities, and use words like PIN (words we never even heard of ten years ago). It's an exciting time with changes happening at geometric rates.

At the forefront of these technological changes is the art and science of manufacturing. It's not enough to think up neat new ideas. Without the capability to convert ideas into reality, what you have is science fiction. Manufacturing makes science fiction into science fact. And it's gotten so good at the task that society has come to expect the fantastic as routine.

Although generally we accept that ours is a market driven economy it is arguable that we also have a manufacturing driven economy. It is manufacturing that defines what is possible and what is not. The latter is, of course, what drives innovation. Market forces push us to want and need new things while manufacturing pulls from its talent pool the methods of innovation that create these new things. It doesn't take much observation to see that it's working.

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