December 15, 2020
Leaders and Inspiration

All projects need a leader and all projects need followers. Projects also need inspiration from legitimate contemporary sources.

I was involved in construction of a new mill over a decade ago that was very peculiar. Somehow, a senior person in the parent company had convinced the Board of Directors to build the mill of his dreams. And, I must say, it was and is a beautiful mill. It probably cost $100 million more than necessary, but what's money when you are building your dreams and using other people's money?

This leader had gathered his inspirations over a long and distinguished career. No doubt, most of the features in this mill answered some problem or frustration he had seen over his lifetime. The only problem was this--others had leapfrogged many of the problems he had experienced with new ideas that, in some cases, eliminated the problem to start with. These new ideas "jumped the shark" and have fully eliminated the issue that was serious in times gone by.

It was nice the Board let him have his way, and, I have got to tell you, touring this mill is a delight. Yet, it is something like comparing an automobile of 1968 to one of today. In many cases, to continue this analogy, time and money was spent on building a better carburetor when the modern solution is to forget the carburetor and go to fuel injection. There are countless examples of this throughout the facility.

So, senior project leaders, the cautionary tale is this. Use your history of problems and solutions to carefully examine contemporary inspirations for those issues that drove you crazy 20 or 30 years ago. You just may save your employer $100 million.

What is your opinion? Drop me a line at I would like to hear from you.

Young Engineering Manager of the Year, call for nominations

We are looking for an individual who has done an extraordinary project, one that almost defies belief. Its extraordinary features can be schedule, technology, cost or all three. There is an age limit on the manager eligible for this award: they must be under 35 years old when they completed the project.
We have often gotten nominees that go something like this, "I nominate Joe because he has done a great job of running our engineering department for the last fifteen years." Quite frankly, we are not interested in such nominees.
However, if you know someone who has led a very exceptional project in the recent past (the last two or three years) and meets our age requirement, we want to know about it. We want to honor them and hold them up as an example for Engineering Managers in every pulp and paper mill around the world.
Just send your nomination, with as much details as you can provide, to We will seriously consider it.
Current Patent Activity is available here.

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