Time Marches On

March 18, 2015


It seems hard to believe, but 25 years last December marked the start of my career in bulk solids handling in Australia.  This was followed by a move to the US 18 years ago to work with Jenike & Johanson.  The years have flown by, and I’ve worked on many interesting projects, traveled to many interesting places (maybe living in a shipping container was not one of them…), and met many interesting people along the way.  What has, and continues to amaze me is the number of industries that handle bulk solids and use (or need) engineering help in making their systems better.

Technology has, and continues to evolve.  The use of computers continues to make our lives easier and today we are much more efficient with our work.  We can do things like 3D modeling (DEM – discrete element method) and numerically model individual particles, something that we didn’t even think of 25 years ago.  The internet, cell phones and email have also meant we are in continual contact with the outside world, which has brought the world closer together.

This reminds me of a recent story when my family and I were flying to a warmer climate (to get phone-oldaway from the harsh Boston winter this year).  At one airport we saw an old pay phone, where I mentioned to my children that years ago we had phone cards to call into the office.  Typing in the correct 30 (or so) number string allowed one to make a call without the need for money.  The problem I had was punching in the 30 numbers correctly so I could make a call!  We can also share information easily today using these same tools.  However, nothing beats face-to-face contact.  Conferences continue to be a good area to learn the latest developments and understand what others in the field are working on and what is important.  The CHoPS 2015 (Conveying and Handling of Particulate Solids) conference in May 2015 in Tel Aviv, Israel will be one such event this year.  CHoPS 2015 is celebrating 20 years.

As with everything, time marches on.  However, as my Professor from The University of Newcastle always reminds me, “don’t forget what was done in the past”.  It’s all too easy to get caught up with the latest technology, but knowing the past and the basic technology allows one to be skilled in the field and to solve many important problems.  As we move to the next 25 years, the field of bulk solids will continue to evolve, but we need to remember and learn from all that has been done before us so that the field will be that much brighter 25 years from now.

To this end, who knows the name Janssen?  Probably all.  Who knows the name Ketchum?  Probably few.

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