|Steve was a senior manufacturing engineer
responsible for all electrical and control engineering for a
$50 million facility.
See pictures and part of the story here.
Steve joined part-time in 1988 to assist in the startup of
a new press fabrics plant in East Greenbush, NY. He
hoped to be part of the startup team, not realizing that he
would be the startup team for many of the plant's systems.
Steve immediately took over the electrical, computer and
control systems operations of the plant. This included
an 8 megawatt power system and computerized controls from a
half-dozen countries and over a dozen vendors.
Managing such diverse systems proved to be quite difficult,
especially on machines without any English
documentation. To correct this, Steve began designing
his own control systems for new machinery. This was and
is very unusual, when the customer for large machinery takes
several hundred tons of machine, but builds their own computer
controls for it. By going this route, Steve was able to
standardize on a single master system design using the same
controls across the facility. In addition, Steve
developed a standardized, structured approach to control
programming and architecture that allowed for continual
customization and modification. Unlike typical computer
software, factory machine control software is typically
changed on a weekly or monthly basis, often while the machine
is actually running. This is rewriting a computer
program while it's running, similar to changing the motor in a
car while driving.
Steve's controls were very sophisticated, typically
involving a mix of distributed controls, robotics, motor
controllers, touch screens and PCs for MMI (man-machine
interface). Typical systems could be built for
Steve also built, trained and managed a team of up to nine
electronics and systems technicians, using them to do design
and software programming work, which is very unusual, as that
work is normally reserved for engineers. This allowed
for very low cost development of these systems.
A pair of his last machine projects included a pair of new
$2 million needle and weaving looms. These are enormous
machines that take 1-2 years to order, build, install and
start. Steve's engineering involvement on the needle
loom resulting in over 100 improvements over the machine's
predecessor, which was only two years old. The weaving
loom involved the revolutionary use of standard controllers
instead of custom systems and resulted in the world's fastest
weaving system in the 15-20 meter size.
Steve's final project at Albany International was the
development of IMADS, the Integrated Manufacturing Data
System. This integrated product design and key
measurement information and data on the plant floor, including
the design and integration of several new measuring
systems. These included putting together portable
radioactive, caliper (thickness) and air/water permeability
measuring systems, plus wireless (in 1993) computer and
database systems. This allowed any engineer,
manufacturing technician or customer could access the complete
manufacturing record for each product.