History of Plant Engineering in the USA
A plant engineer is a person of wide interests with natural engineering ability, well grounded in fundamentals, mentally alert, and happy with diversified work rather than routine work. As someone said back in September 1948 "he is bound to be a temperamentally stable individual who is able to co-operate with others and work well under pressure."
The plant engineering function, later to become the facilities engineer, is as old as the industry itself. Our ancestors were "the millwrights", the autocrats of the 18th century. A plant is a product of the twentieth century. By the time the twenty-first century rolls around, we will have evolved into facility managers, engineering directors, chief engineers, operations managers, and more. New England is considered to be the cradle of the American Industry. It is no surprise therefore that the first public recognition of the Plant Engineering profession came from this part of the nation.
The story of the AFE begins in Boston, Massachusetts, 1915.
Harry S Dennison, of Dennison Manufacturing Company, was the President of the Factory Managers Association. E.B. Freeman of the B.F. Sturdevant Company was the Association's Secretary. Harry Dennison was a thoughtful man. He and his close friend Mr. Freeman agreed that the factory managers know how to manage men, money, and materials. The association helps them to exchange ideas, and it provides for them a forum to discuss common problems. An association of factory managers, therefore, serves a very useful purpose. But the factory managers didn't know how to operate or maintain the production machines in working order. Plant engineers are the key technical people who keep those wheels in motion, in the manufacturing plants. If there are no machines in good order: no production output, no gross national product, no economy, and no jobs.
Harry Dennison and E.B. Freeman realized that a factory's success was not just limited to the abilities of the factory manager or the mechanical engineer. In order to succeed, both fields had to work together. Invitations went out to about 25 mechanical engineers, master mechanics and chief engineers in various plants within the metropolitan Boston and surrounding towns.
"You are invited to a dinner at City Club in Boston on the evening of Friday, May 14, 1915, to discuss the possible formation of a Society oriented towards the technical aspects of operating a plant."
Your Host, Harry Dennison
The dinner meeting was very well attended. All those present were quite impressed with the potential for such a society, and were eager to help in its formation. As a result of this favorable response, a formal meeting was held on Wednesday June 9, 1915 to approve a draft of the constitution and to elect officers of the society. The meeting included the Society's first tour, a visit to the Charlestown Navy Yard, and the USS Constitution.