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Rustbelt becomes the 'Powerbelt'

Rustbelt becomes the 'Powerbelt'

Albert Moore became president of AMT--formerly the National Machine Tool Builders' Association--in 1989. Before assuming his present position with the organization, and while still employed by Gleason Corporation, Moore was active on AMT's Board of Directors. He joined the board in 1982, and worked in a number of different positions, finally serving a term as chairman from 1987 to 1988. Moore's industrial career began with Gleason Corporation, Rochester, NY, in 1959. He rose through the ranks at Gleason, and served in a series of executive positions, finally becoming executive vice president--operations for the corporation. Moore received an undergraduate degree in business administration from Clarkson College, Potsdam, NY, and an M.B.A from the University of Rochester, Rochester, NY.

Manufacturing is critical to the future of the U.S., says Al Moore. And sensible behavior by government and industry can keep manufacturing a prominent part of our industrial landscape.

Design News: What trends do you see emerging in the design of modern manufacturing equipment?

Moore: More computer-control-based machinery is in the offing for the future. It will incorporate a wide array of sensors for process control, and also for maintenance diagnostics. These fast-operating computer controls, and the incorporation of the sensors, will put the final touches on machine design in the future. They will make the Up time on equipment extremely high. Also, we're probably going to see more composites used in machinery design. We as an industry will probably not have enough volume to develop these composites ourselves. It depends on whether this material will be designed by large-scale users, and therefore generate cost reductions that will allow us to employ them.

Q: What future do you see for the "lights-out" factory?

A: It's probably more an interesting philosophical idea than a practical concept. Most of those who have tested that idea, and it's been tested now for 15 or more years, have probably come to the conclusion that there are some drawbacks. Now there are things that can be done in a lights-out mode. The real question is: Will the approach be more widespread in the future, both here and abroad, than currently is the case? While it's a fascinating subject, I'm not so sure that you're going to see more application of the concept than you see today.

Q: How important is software to U.S. manufacturing technology today?

A: Today it's critical, tomorrow it'll be more critical. As we computerize more of the shop floor, software is going to be tremendously important. As you work to drive out inefficiencies in the factory, you're going to have to knock out the inefficiencies already present in the current software. But software is front and center.

Q: How do you respond to the argument that American companies are foolish to invest in countries that will soon give birth to low-cost competitors?

A: You can't ignore the global market. A lot of people who try to sell in foreign markets, for instance aircraft manufacturers, find that they cannot sell unless they're willing to put some manufacturing capability there. They're forced to invest in those countries whether they want to or not. Playing in the international arena, albeit not easy, clearly is the way to go. You find out what your potential competition is doing, and the needs of the different marketplaces. And you develop products that can generally handle the requirements of the whole world.

Q: What future do you see for "smokestack" companies in the U.S.?

A: There's always going to be a manufacturing base here in the United States. And maybe we ought to stop using terms like "rustbelt" and "smokestack" to refer to manufacturing companies. We ought to be using a term like "powerbase." We somehow have to get everybody to realize that there's value in being a manufacturer, as opposed to being a non-manufacturing country. If we get rid of a lot of the manufacturing in this country we will more rapidly become the victim of what the rest of the world wants us to do or not do. We've forgotten what made us strong, and getting away from the formula has created a big problem for us.

Q: How can the government help U.S. manufacturing survive and prosper?

A: Other than get smaller and stay out of our way, which are always good ways to help, a classic example in our industry is product liability. We've spent 20 years trying to come up with some reasonable product liability reform legislation. It's just now happening. We hope that by the end of this congress we will have successful change. But why should something that's so obvious take so long? Probably our biggest issue is tax reform. All of a sudden there's this realization that the tax system in the United States is broken. We've got to scrap it. Starting this fall sometime, you'll see a lot of discussion on this issue. And everybody in this country needs to stay tuned.

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