I write about the history of maintenance management.
I am the engineering manager for an aerospace carbon fiber production facility. The facility was built by the National Carbon division of Union Carbide. National Carbon was founded in 1886.
The facility is 55 years old and was developed to produce carbon motor brushes and seal rings. The facility was the site of several technical “firsts,” including the first commercial production of Leonard Singer’s pitch-based Thornel 25 carbon fiber in 1977 and the first US-based production of PAN-based carbon fiber in 1982. The facility made components for the Space Shuttle’s heat shield system. The site commissioned a new carbon fiber production line in 2016, and a new prepreg facility is under construction.
Being physically surrounded by history leads you to appreciate what came before you. I’ve found many records that show that we struggle with the same kinds of problems as in the past. The records are in a variety of amusing formats: typewritten memos, microfiche, punch cards, hand-written equipment inventory cards, dot-matrix printouts, every format of floppy disc imaginable, tape reels, and even Excel files that are nearly 25 years old.
I served the US Navy’s submarine and nuclear power maintenance programs first as a Sailor, then as nuclear engineer, project superintendent, financial program manager, and marine surveyor.
My first ship was 32 years old when I arrived; my first shipyard had the oldest drydock in the western hemisphere, where a 74-gun ship of sail was built in 1833.
My second shipyard in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, was 103 years old when I reported. The drydock where I spent most of my time overhauling a modern attack submarine was bombed on Dec 7, 1941. The dock and cranes are visible in some of the most famous pictures of the attack.
My last Naval assignment as a marine surveyor was an auditing organization founded in 1868. Even then, its purpose was to assess the materiel and maintenance status of ships independently of its commanders…a final quality control check on the asset management system on behalf of the US Congress.
Karl is the author of the History of Maintenance Management article series.
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