I haven’t seen any shocking news, but here’s a roundup of some thoughts on this Friday afternoon.

WBF Conference

The annual WBF Conference is shaping up to be a good one. This year’s gathering is in Delaware, May 23-25. You can visit this Web site to see the agenda and register. It’s on my calendar to attend. Hope to see you there.

Alarm Management

Jim Cahill at Emerson Process Experts wrote a good entry on alarm management. This is a crucial topic that is getting well-deserved attention lately. Certainly operators are tired of alarm overload–as someone told me once, we discovered we could instrument more things, but that meant that we had more information, so we thought we feed it all to the operator.

While I’m on that subject, I have the Second Edition of The Alarm Management Handbook by Bill Hollifield & Eddie Habibi to review. I’ve been too swamped to read it (kind of like the operators, I guess), but it’s next up on my list. Habibi is CEO and founder of PAS, and I met with him during the ARC Forum this month. He is now talking about “human reliability.” Given the serious incidents over the past few years in the processing industry, serious thought that is occurring at Emerson and PAS (among others) on this topic is welcome.

Media

I listen to a podcast with Dave Winer and Jay Rosen (journalism professor at NYU). A couple of weeks ago, Rosen made an interesting and provocative observation relative to coverage of the unrest in the Middle East. Talking about Al Jazeera, he said that everyone inside the company knows the are pro-democracy in the Middle East and it infuses their coverage. Its hosts know the background information and are not afraid to argue with officials who are spreading BS. It also plays videos as a news item. Meanwhile at CNN, it has hosts who know nothing talking with “experts” who know nothing and they talk over the videos as if it were just wallpaper.

Supposedly Fox News and MSNBC have a point of view that bleeds into their coverage (you can use me to prove it–I watch none of them), but I quit watching when I perceived the “know nothing” approach and grew tired of the sensationalism. Same way that I am now tired of watching the Weather Channel and Jim “Bad News is Great” Cantore.

Sorry, but that’s why I’ve crafted Automation World to have a stance (how automation makes manufacturing and production better and more profitable) but to tell a story and not just hype marketing stuff. Every time we slip from my ideal on that, I hurt (because I know that the readers hurt, too).

Fiscal Sanity

Check out this article on TechCrunch about a study made of the finances of the U.S. government. This is actually well-known information–but no one discusses it. Why? The political reality is too hard. The Republicans and Democrats can quibble all they want–until they tackle Medicare and Medicaid, they will not solve the fiscal issues they are arguing over. (By the way, I’m not that far from 65 and eligible for it .)

The issues are more complex than I can handle. I guess that’s why I’m not running for Congress. On the other hand, I hope my reputation is better than that of a Congressperson. But I know a few things from business. There are three approaches to fiscal issues. You can hack costs to as little as possible. We know that only works on the very short term (ask “Chainsaw Al” at Sunbeam). You can invest tons and not watch costs (but that will bleed you dry or you’ll owe so much that you lose the company). OR, you can watch your costs and invest wisely for the future.

I cover many companies who do just that. Rockwell has been doing that. So has Emerson. And National Instruments. And Opto 22. And many more. These are companies that are growing and thriving (sorry Jim Pinto, who has this theory gleaned from some “expert” who thinks companies the size of Rockwell can’t grow anymore). I believe, with Thomas Jefferson, that debt enslaves you. But I also believe, as Jefferson did with his actions buying Louisiana, that you must also make investments for the future. I’d like to hear more balance.

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