October 15, 2021
The flight of the Bumblebee

When I was in the 5th grade, our school introduced us to musical instruments. We were encouraged to rent our instruments at first, and then if we were interested, purchase them. My parents rented a trumpet. After the appropriate trial period, I was thinking about quitting. At that point, my dad bought a Harry James rendition of "The Flight of the Bumblebee." In those days, he had to go to a real record store to find it on real vinyl. You have probably never heard of Harry James. Here he is playing Flight of the Bumblebee: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=myUOI7Q2Xpg

I still have the trumpet but I never learned to play it like Harry James.

There is a dangerous movement going on in major capital projects in North America these days. A certain company, in the last quarter century, has become well known for building mills efficiently, economically and quickly. As a consultant, not an employee, I have been associated with that company, on every mill they have built.

Now, others are entertaining hiring me as a consultant to help them, these other companies, build mills with the same aplomb as the first company.

I tell them it won't work, after which I usually don't hear from them again.

They think I am insulting them or "picking my home team" (the first company). Not so.

This is where Harry James and "The Flight of the Bumblebee" comes in. Do you think Harry James strolled in one day, picked up a trumpet and played "The Flight of the Bumblebee"? How many years of practice did it take for him to get to the level of perfection in the recording?

What these other paper companies are wanting to do, is just walk in and figuratively pick up the trumpet and belt out "Flight of the Bumblebee."

It is no secret that the first company mentioned is now building their sixth mill. What most may not realize and realize how valuable it is, is this: that company has kept the same team intact from mill one to the mill they are building now--#6 It is a pleasure to watch this team work--on mill #5, it didn't even look like they broke a sweat. These team members know each other, know what each other thinks, know their own jobs and their team mates' jobs. They know their vendors (and their vendors know them). This is not something that comes quickly.

Not that you were, but don't worry about me... when these Johnny-come-lately's let their egos get in the way of common sense and plow ahead without the experience, promising their boards the same results, I have sometimes been asked to be an expert witness in the massive lawsuits that ensue. It has happened more than once, and I have made a excellent living in the lawsuits as well.

But for the sake of the industry, for the sake of your shareholders, and to uphold your fiduciary duty, quit letting your ego convince you that you can, without years of practice, play "The Flight of the Bumblebee" like Harry James.

What is your opinion? Drop me a line at jim.thompson@ipulpmedia.com. 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 jim.thompson@ipulpmedia.com. We will seriously consider it.
Current Patent Activity is available here.

Please write when we tickle your brain cells! Email jthompson@taii.com