95-year-old Manufacturing Engineer Says Industry Transformation is on Its Way
Category: IMTS Network • Aug 13, 2021
With a career spanning seven decades (from 1951 to present), Al Albrecht is passionate about manufacturing technology for its potential to enhance lives, solve challenges, boost economies, and defend countries. You can’t help but be inspired as Albrecht shares his career highlights, the changes he’s seen, the transformations he believes are coming, and the dynamic careers the industry offers.
“Albrecht is one of a few remaining from the Greatest Generation. He lived through the Great Depression, served three years in WWII, was educated on the GI Bill of Rights--earning a B.S. in engineering from Ohio State University in 1951--and has been employed longer than anyone I know in manufacturing technology,” says Peter Eelman, the Association For Manufacturing Technology's (AMT) CXO & vice president.
Saturday Mornings with Dad
Albrecht’s love for the industry began as a boy accompanying his father on Saturday mornings to Forsberg Manufacturing Company in Bridgeport, Conn., where he was superintendent. Albrecht remembers feeling fascinated watching employees operate the machines.
He learned the business at Monarch Machine Tool Company in Sydney, Ohio; the sales and marketing at Kennametal, Inc., in Latrobe, Penn.; the conglomerate mindset at Waterbury Farrel-Jones & Lamson, a division of Textron; and the management and ownership when he purchased NATCO in Richmond, Ind.
Part of the Boeing 747 Team
Albrecht lights up as he recalls working on the jumbo jet. “The landing gears for the Boeing 747 were beyond anything you could have dreamed of at that time. They were so huge that they had to be bored from inside of a large casting, which required a completely different approach and different machine tool.”
Eyewitness to Technology Advancements
In the early decades of his career, he remembers the introduction of Computer Numerical Control (CNC) and its dramatic impact on the transformation of the 1940s stand-alone, one-person-operated machine into today’s smart factory abuzz with multiple connected autonomous machines.
“When I started in manufacturing, we took six to eight hours to set up machines to mass produce thousands of parts,” says Albrecht. “The introduction of CNC gave us a completely different way of manufacturing. Today it may take 30 minutes or less to set up a machine. An operator can monitor multiple machines with a digital device from a Florida beach. Today you can design a part on the computer, send it to the machine, and automatically get your part.”
Spirit of Innovation
Not only did he live through the transformation of the machine tool into manufacturing technology, but he also experienced the thrill of constant innovation. Early on Albrecht sensed that manufacturers have the ability and the passion “to do better, do it correctly, and get it done.” He believes the healthy competition among manufacturers provides an environment conducive to continuously innovate and achieve greater heights.
Immense Value in Manufacturing Technology
Albrecht explains how careers in advanced manufacturing not only promise innovative work, but also offer prosperity to people and contribute positively to a country’s economic well-being and national security.
It’s Digital. It’s Fun.
Albrecht wants more young people to pursue careers in manufacturing. As he says, “It’s digital, engaging, rewarding, and absolutely fun.”
Get Ready for a Technology Transformation
Albrecht believes digitization is changing advanced manufacturing and that we are on the verge of another manufacturing transformation. “Today, revolutionary new technology and advancements like MTConnect® [an open-source standard] that enables machines to communicate like never before,” says Albrecht. “We’re at the verge of a new generation of manufacturing technology.” He encourages young people to pursue paths of study that prepare for careers in advanced manufacturing.