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Written by Harald Wack, Ph.D.   
Monday, 01 March 2010 00:00


Don’t let the accountants sign their own checks.

We have heard scores of times the call to participate and spend time for the greater good of something. When it comes to human catastrophes, everyone drops their pencils and quickly understands the principle of prioritization. The fight for someone’s life or livelihood clearly comes before internal deadlines or sitting on a committee a few times a year.

Today’s “tragedy” is that we are bombarded with emails and daily internal and external correspondence, while trying to finish our regular responsibilities. Globalization has done its fair share: It allows us to focus on what is most important for our companies, which generally is a good thing. As a result, however, many companies do not allocate sufficient staff and resources for things other than just day-to-day work.

It is here where I think the mistake is made. It is difficult to see beyond one’s current and daily set of responsibilities; plan strategically and visualize the bigger picture and, thus, greater good. Let me explain.

When it comes to volunteering time and resources, there are always the “10-percenters”: i.e., those who always stand ready to help. Working for and with IPC, an internationally recognized body, however, requires all of us to participate, regardless of location. This is my call for help! It is meant to recruit more participation as, at the end of the process, we all benefit from the published standards. A standard is merely an established norm or requirement documenting uniformly recognized and accepted criteria, methods, processes and practices. For those currently working below these norms, a significant benefit suddenly emerges as standards provide guidance.

Over the years within our organization, we have coined the term “borderless engineering.” It symbolizes the power of local, yet global knowledge and expertise. We have chemical engineers all over the world, and we recognize the value of the internal sharing of local engineering expertise to create a global knowledge database. Upon implementation, we became better equipped to assist each and every customer. Yet, at the beginning of this process, had I asked an engineer in Germany or China to volunteer their time to sit on a committee, I think I would have had a hard time explaining the bigger picture to them. They might have found numerous reasons why it would have not been worth the time. But by letting go of our self-interest and domestic focus for a second, we have come to realize how some things pay off in the long run.

A few weeks ago, I participated at the IPC Winter Interim Standards Development Meetings in Arizona. Unfortunately, I did not see enough active members present during the cleaning handbook session. This lack of participation could have been simply due to most people’s general aversion to chemistry; but, on further thought, it was probably due to the economy and maybe a matter of priority. Encouragingly, some members did take advantage of calling in to our “go-to” meeting. On a positive note, we did not witness the often-seen “drive-by-crowd”: those who come once, participate with vigor, and then forget about future meetings.

The low turnout should serve as a warning to everyone. I purposely chose the word “warning,” as the impact of insufficient attendance cannot be overstated. For one, this set of handbooks is revised every 10 years, and much can and does happen in a decade. Customers, engineers and vendors not present at the time consequently have no input and run the risk of not being heard or included. Afterward, the process engineer must adhere to the published “industry accepted” guidelines, which they could have actively created.

Second, each handbook also undergoes a process called peer review. It was established to promote objectiveness during the adoption of an industry standard. As the peer review is one of the final steps prior to publishing, it is only as valuable as the participating group. Key subject experts are needed to add critical substance. The smaller the group becomes, the more it mirrors the scenario of accountants signing their own checks; thus, the quality of the overall manual/handbook is at stake.

I believe you now understand the moral of this column. There are larger things in life and this industry worth the effort and participation. While your time will not be compensated directly, your company will benefit in the future from the expertise and input of other companies and engineers who know things you may not.

Take advantage of this tremendous opportunity. I personally look forward to our next IPC standards meetings at Apex next month.  CA

Harald Wack, Ph.D., is president of Zestron (zestron.com); This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


Last Updated on Tuesday, 09 March 2010 11:49


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