I recently caught the tail end of a BBC Radio 4 programme in which a man described his unique approach to his congenital heart condition. Tal Golesworthy suffers from Marfan syndrome, which weakens the valves going into his heart, to the extent that it was likely at some point the valves would rupture and he would die. The only surgical option on offer was incredibly invasive and was followed up with anticoagulant drugs for the rest of his life.
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It so happened that Mr Golesworthy was an R&D engineer. He went to a conference and listened to a professor speak on Marfan syndrome, and when the professor called for questions at the end, Mr Golesworthy asked why no one was using CAD modelling, scanning the aorta and designing some kind of support for the valve. Ultimately, Mr Golesworthy was the first patient to trial the solution he designed, and since then more than 40 others have also received the treatment.
The story caught my attention because just a few weeks earlier I had visited the Steetley Dolomite Whitwell plant where I got talking with Managing Director John Carlill and Project Manager Jim Bowman about the beauty of giving engineers the freedom to do what they do best. We were discussing the ambitious kiln 2 project at the plant, which is described in detail on page 68. The project was managed by the plant, but both John and Jim emphasised the partnerships they have developed with equipment suppliers that have enabled the plant to be innovative and daring and, crucially, to take ownership of their project, to get to know their equipment and to fully understand how best to optimise their process. Steetley Dolomite designed its own treatment.
Aside from illustrating the strengths of engineers, Mr Golesworthy’s story should also serve as a reminder that being a skilled problem-solver, as engineers are, is not specific to a particular job. Likewise, many of the challenges being fielded in the cement industry right now are not industry-specific. Energy efficiency, energy security, environmental regulations, waste management, community relationships, civil unrest, economics – the cement industry is by no means alone. Alongside World Cement, Palladian Publications publishes several energy titles and each of those is dealing with the same issues. Car manufacturers are dealing with the same issues. Business leaders – and, yes, governments – the world over are dealing with the same issues.
Engineering offers a way through these challenges. Maybe not all of them, but most. Our readers are constantly working on new solutions – new treatments – and we will do our best to bring you news of them. I know many of you are already working together with other industries and I’d encourage you to share your developments with us and with your fellow engineers. I said it in the December 2013 Editor’s Comment and it’s a phrase I’ve been repeating all year long: a rising tide lifts all boats. Who better to raise the tide than engineers?