During a recent walk I spotted a small four-sided nut for a bolt on the ground, and it struck me how much we take seemingly simple components for granted.
So what’s so special about a bolt, you might ask. You can buy one at your local hardware store or home improvement center for a few pennies. But what if you had to start from scratch, going through all the steps to manufacture and distribute that simple bolt?
Let’s say we start by setting up the company to manufacture the nut. That involves attorneys to handle the legal matters; lenders and financiers to provide funding; architects and builders to design and erect the plant; and various office personnel, including managers.
For the actual manufacturing, you would need someone to design the item, someone with an engineering background. Of course, that person would have been taught by many other persons and would be applying knowledge acquired and passed on through generations. Someone also would need to recruit, interview, and hire that design engineer.
The design engineer must consider how and where the nut will be used, what strength requirements and standards must be met, determine the best materials and processes for manufacturing the piece, and factor in costs. Specialized manufacturing equipment will need to be fabricated and installed. Workers will need to be hired and trained.
As you can tell from this partial list, it takes many people just to get to the point of producing the first nut. When we finally do begin manufacturing, we’ll need to market and sell the product, to fulfill orders, and to account for the money coming in and how it’s spent. And let’s not forget environmental and maintenance workers, among others.
Let’s switch now to paper. As with the nut, most people are totally unaware of what’s required to manufacture and distribute a sheet of paper. They have no concept of the number of people involved, the science and skills involved, the costs and resources involved. Even persons working within the industry may not fully appreciate how much goes into producing a piece of paper that will make it through a desktop printer without jamming, and come out with a sharp image.
If we in the industry under-appreciate the products we manufacture, we can expect that our customers might value those products even less. The better we understand the entire process, appreciate its complexity, and perceive that we and others play an essential part in making a valuable product, the better we can share that knowledge and perception with others who buy and use paper in its many forms.