Monthly Archives: April 2016

Working at Henry Pratt Company: Part Two

Of the two senior Industrial Engineers with whom, and for whom, I worked, Lynn was a bit older, and perhaps a bit more “grounded”, and as such was, I felt, the senior I.E. and the procedural foundation of the department. Joe on the other hand was more of a free spirit, making him more of the “think out-of-the-box” innovator. From my perspective, as mentors go, this was a nice mix

At first, I associated more easily with Joe. Also, he was a great fan of football and had been a coach at some Junior League level. He and I attended many semi pro games in nearby Joliet Illinois, were he lived. Also a couple of preseason “College All-Star” games at soldier Field.

Despite this it was Mr. Beu with whom I formed a more lasting friendship, which continued after we had both left Pratt, fading only with my relocation to another city.

Despite the differences, or perhaps because of them, I valued my associations with each, learning enough from them so that by the time I moved on to a new job – as a real Industrial Engineer in my own right – I had been given a sound foundation, from which I was able to advance fairly rapidly.

But despite the work, and the learning, I had a great deal of fun working at Pratt. The people of the various departments by whom I was surrounded in the crowded office were, for the most part, easy to get along with. And my immediate colleagues, Lynn and Joe were, each in their own way, pranksters, assuring that the department environment was always, to say the least, interesting.

Working at Henry Pratt Company: Part One

Henry Pratt Company, headquartered in Aurora with, at the time, a second plant in Dixon Illinois, was, and is, a manufacturer of valves. In particular, butterfly valves, which are opened or closed by the rotation of an internal disk (the butterfly of the somewhat stretched metaphor).

My job, as “rate setter” was to apply work standards to various machining and assembly operations – such as the drilling of necessary holes in component parts, or assembling a disk to a valve body. This meant, mostly, adding calculated time values to the controlling paperwork of such work assignments, for the purposes of establishing costs, scheduling, and of course measuring the performance of those actually doing the work.

I have often been asked, over the years “what does an Industrial Engineer do”. To this I have responded with the oversimplified, but accurate answer that “an I.E. is a sort of combination time study man*, and efficiency expert”, and developing, and applying, work standards is at the very heart of all. So, as I would discover, I was in a pretty good position to learn the basics.

Other than IE Department supervisor Frank Fontana, who turned out to be much more than a pretty good boss, there were two genuine Industrial Engineers in the department. In the curious title structure which named me a rate setter, these two senior engineers both held the title of “Methods and Standards Analyst”.

I can only say that I am eternally grateful for these two fellows, Lynn Bue and Joe Ryan, who, each in their own way, quickly became colleagues, mentors, and friends.

*Or woman, as was becoming a reality in my early years in the profession.