Get ready for the virtual workplace

DN Staff

January 22, 1996

4 Min Read
Get ready for the virtual workplace

Charles Hora became president of Lord Corporation in 1993, after serving as vice president and general manager of the firm's Chemical Products Division since 1989. Hora also worked as vice president, corporate research and new ventures. He joined Lord in 1987 as vice president, new business development. Prior to joining Lord, Hora served as vice president, research and development, at Diamond Shamrock Co., and as a director of Biospecific Technologies Co. After receiving an A.B. in chemistry from Princeton University in 1965, Hora studied at the University of Massachusetts, and was awarded a Ph.D. in physical and inorganic chemistry.

Strap on your wheels and get ready to roll! Charles Hora believes that tomorrow's company will be completely different from the organization you're working in today.

Design News--What are 'virtual alliances' and how will they change the workplace?

Hora: Virtual alliances are collaborations formed by two or more organizations, designed to create the resources necessary to meet a business or marketing objective within a specified time frame. These alliances form the core of the virtual corporation, which will be a radical departure from the hierarchical models most of us know. Traditional offices, departments, and operating divisions will form and re-form according to need. Job responsibilities and lines of authority will regularly shift. Large numbers of employees will be required: Highly skilled, educated people who can understand and use the new forms of information and communication, who can adapt to change, and who can work with a changing roster of team members from inside and outside the company.

Q: How will the virtual corporation affect engineers?

A: Because virtual corporations produce virtual products--products and services that are provided very quickly, available in a great variety of models or formats, and customized to meet customer de- mand--the design factor is more critical than ever. For the most part, a virtual product exists even before it's produced. Its concept, design, and manufacture are well understood by cooperating teams, and stored in computers and flexible production lines. This approach to marketing and production will pose major design challenges and opportunities. All of this will be operated by highly skilled employee teams working with suppliers, distributors, wholesalers, retailers, and customers.

Q: Why should employees not regard talk of cyberspace and virtual corporations as yet one more excuse for layoffs?

A: Primarily because it's just the opposite. Both concepts are part of a business revolution intended to revitalize our manufacturing base and strengthen our position in the new world competitive order. The virtual corporation will be our new engine of wealth creation, powering the U.S. economy, raising the standard of living, and creating new jobs for a skilled work force.

Q: How will cyberspace change the way companies do business internationally?

A: Customers and prospects, suppliers and partners, long-established and newly emerging competitors are all neighbors in cyberspace. And that proximity is causing a major change in the international business arena. Customers can shop the world for the best value. To remain competitive within this environment, companies must squeeze the downtime out of every single process. There has never been an era of more competition or more opportunity, and those companies that master the new technologies will prevail.

Q: What will your firm's new magnetorheological fluid do for design engineers?

A: As you know, this concept has been around for a number of years. We have recently achieved control over some fundamental aspects of these fluids that many former researchers could not solve. Now, design engineers have available a versatile material which can provide controllability to previously passive products.

Q: What should design engineers expect to see happening over the next few years in industrial adhesives?

A: There is no question that adhesives will replace welding in many applications. Structural automotive adhesives are an example. What is going to be required in the future are adhesives with characteristics such as greater strength, adjustable cure rates, and no surface preparation. Endowing a product with these qualities is not an insurmountable problem, it just takes good chemistry. There is no question in my mind that adhesive bonding will see a significant growth in the coming years.

Q: What trends do you see in noise and vibration control?

A: Engineers are designing products with less vibration. Complete elimination is probably not possible. With that in mind, isolators will become much more sophisticated in handling the remaining vibration. There will be even more value in the isolator capable of giving feedback to the operator on the condition of the equipment. We call this the smart mount. It will be the wave of the future.

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