Lynn Stanley headshot

From the Editor

lynn stanley, SENIOR EDITOR

Lessons Learned


harles Kettering said that “99 percent of success is built on failure.” The Loudonville, Ohio, engineer considered failure a close friend and an important teacher. Kettering’s “failures” led him to invent the electric self-starter for the automobile. He helped to develop the first cash register and was instrumental in developing quick-drying automobile paints and finishes, the variable-speed transmission and the refrigerant Freon.

As an Ohio native, I’m a little biased when it comes to the Buckeye state’s long history of individuals who pioneered technology that changed the way people lived. Not far from where I live, Orville and Wilbur Wright made history at Huffman Prairie when they achieved the first sustained flight. Thomas Edison, another Ohioan, invented the first vacuum bulb with metal filaments for practical lighting, the movie camera and the first alkaline storage battery. Granville Woods, self-taught, worked his way up in the rail industry and is credited with 35 patents for electrical and mechanical devices that made significant improvements to the railroad system. Neil Armstrong, born in Wapakoneta, Ohio, was the first man to walk on the moon.

I was exposed to that intrepid spirit at home, as well. My mother grew up in the Appalachian foothills of Virginia. Her family relied on the land for their food. My grandfather worked with his hands, as a blacksmith and furniture maker. During World War II, employment at Wright Field [now Wright-Patterson Air Force Base] grew to 50,000 and from 30 buildings to 300. Wright Field established the first modern paved runways for the Air Corps. The activity and the chance for a better life drew my grandparents from the mountain to Dayton, Ohio.

You might wonder why I’m relating these bits of history to you and what they have to do with each other. If you look closer, an innate sense of curiosity, the passion to build or create something and the tenacity to follow through are the ties that bind these people and these events together. In the midst of a broken supply chain and a logistics network that’s been turned on its ear, it’s important to remember our roots as people, as an industry and a country.

If someone didn’t have what they needed, they figured out a way to make it. Ingenuity and a can-do attitude helped individuals and communities power through tough times. These characteristics also contributed to shaping the mainstays of manufacturing.

This month FFJournal introduces readers to three men: Dr. Don McNeeley, Ken Kaufmann Jr. and Scott Schrinner. They talk candidly about the challenges they face on a daily basis and offer perspective on some possible fixes to an infrastructure that has collapsed. After talking with each of them, I was reminded again of our roots.

I was also reminded of Charles Kettering’s words: “An inventor is simply a fellow who doesn’t take his education too seriously. You see, from the time a person is 6 years old until he graduates from college, he has to take three or four examinations a year. If he flunks once, he is out. But an inventor is almost always failing. He tries and fails maybe a thousand times. If he succeeds once, then he’s in. These two things are diametrically opposite. The biggest job we have is to teach a newly hired employee how to fail intelligently. We have to train him to experiment over and over and to keep on trying and failing until he learns what will work.”

From what we’ve experienced over the last couple years, maybe we can learn what will work.