1985: GM’s James Falloon speaks at Ivy Tech Fort Wayne’s graduation

Throughout the first 50 years of our history, Ivy Tech Community College Fort Wayne has been a champion of improving the local economy and staying at the forefront of technological advances.

In the early 1980s, Fort Wayne had been hit by a recession and was in rough shape. During the fall of 1982, International Harvester, Fort Wayne’s biggest employer, announced it was shutting down its heavy truck operations, devastating the local economy.

Three years later, GM announced it would be opening a new light truck assembly plant in Fort Wayne, giving the economy a much needed boost.

On May 19, 1985, Ivy Tech Fort Wayne invited the new assembly plant manager, James G. Falloon, to speak at the College’s 15th annual Commencement. Falloon spoke with graduates about the changing economic landscape and how using advanced machinery and technology are creating a new industrial revolution.

The following passage is a portion of Falloon’s address, which was reprinted with the author’s permission in the Summer 1985 issue of the College’s community-focused newsletter.

A New Industrial Revolution
By James G. Falloon
May 19, 1985

James G. Falloon

Countless opportunities are being generated today by the dramatic changes taking place in our society, especially in the industrial world that serves us. In effect, we’re on the brink of a new industrial age, an age when a major change is coming to industry, a change so great that it may indeed deserve the name “Revolution: the new industrial revolution.”

This revolution I speak of will be a revolution in industrial machines and processes. It will be an age when machines take on more and more of the hardest work, an age when increasingly sophisticated machines will perform more varied tasks with greater speed and precision than ever before dreamed possible, an age that belong to man’s mind, not his muscle.

For one thing, the new age will improve the quality of everything we build. With more sophisticated exacting machines in use, we will build with fewer human errors. We will build closer to engineering specifications. We will build trucks, cars and other products better than they’ve ever been built before.

In short, the most significant mark of this new age will be a profound increase in product quality, and the same tools that give us better quality will also help improve productivity. Quality and productivity are natural partners. When we build quality into product, rather than trying to inspect in it after the fact, productivity improves proportionately and as productivity goes up, costs naturally enough go down.

With lower costs, our industries will be far more competitive and able to compete in the world market. This in itself will generate even more opportunities as we learn to make better use of our resources. But there is still one other effect, one perhaps even more important than the rest. In the new industrial environment, the character of work itself will change.

The age when workers toiled in monotonous repetition will come to an end. People who once put only their backs into their work will asked to be put their minds into the job. People will not be asked to behave like machines or extensions of machines. They will be asked to watch over the behavior of machines. They will be provided with the opportunity to think

With stronger industries, there will be a greater degree of job security, and an increased emphasis on training and education. Our educational systems will be challenged to keep abreast of the ever increasing industrial requirements.

In this new age, in which machines will see through steel, and lasers will measure space the eyes cannot discern, the human qualities of the worker will come to the fore. There will be more machines working, it is true. But at the same time, there will be more people thinking. There will be less tedium. There will be increasingly better, safer working conditions. There will be the potential for more cooperative, harmonious relations. Work itself will become more meaningful, more satisfying, and the human element of the industrial enterprise will be increasingly more important.

Perhaps that statement is surprising, coming in the middle of a discussion on the new industrial revolution. But even in the more highly mechanized world of the future, it is still people who will run the machines, people who will program the computers, people who will do the strategic planning, and people who will oversee the service of customers.

So the ability to manage people and to get them working together will be assigned an even higher priority than it is today. In the future, even more than we will need integrated circuits, we will need innovative individuals. More than parts to make our products, we will need responsible participants to get involved.

The same is true of the new plant we are building here in Fort Wayne. Even though the technology will be gone will go beyond any facility we have built to date, its success will still be with its people. Our strength will come from people like yourselves, who have taken the opportunity to learn and want to participate in the challenge the future holds.

Remember life is not a spectator sport; it’s a participation sport. You don’t sit on the stands or stand in the sidelines and watch life go by. You get in and live life. You get active. You contribute and accomplish and work in order to be successful.

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