Lobenhofer's Law

(Published in January 1979 Issue of Modern Casting)

Parkinson started it with, "A job expands to fill the time allotted to it."  His first book, Parkinson's Law was so popular it was soon followed by Parkinson's Second Law.  Since then it seems that almost everyone has been coming out with "laws" that on first reading are very humorous but with more thought have a much deeper meaning.

Was Murphy a Foundryman?

I thought the foundry industry had its own lawmaker in Murphy.  His law, "if anything can go wrong - it will," sounds so much like some of the foundry situations I've seen, it never occurred to me that Murphy could be anything but a foundryman.  But my brother-in-law, an electronics engineer, swears that Murphy must have worked in the electronics industry.

Since we don't know which Murphy wrote it, we can't prove the law belongs to us.  The Foundry Industry is big enough that it deserves its very own law.  I started thinking about an American Foundryman's Society Law but realized it was too long a name for a humorous law.  An AFS law would have been a short enough name but in order to use that title it would most likely require action by the board of directors is not a ballad of the entire membership.  That would be a bit much for something like this.  Then it came to me - Lobenhofer's law.  With the number of Lobenhofers around, no other industry could claim it, and besides, I think it has a nice ring.

The Law

I don't know if the other laws were developed this way or not, but I now had the name, but I needed the law to go with it.  I dreamt up a number of laws but none of them were quite appropriate.  Then one day, when I was trying to think up a way to convince a class of CMI students of the need for developing procedures for every possible situation, it came to me.  Lobenhofer’s Law became, "ANY EMERGENCIES SUFFICIENTLY WELL PLANNED FOR - WILL NOT HAPPEN."

Of course, I had to test a new law to see if it really was any good.  I went around headquarters proclaiming the new law in the feedback was quite gratifying.  I got chuckles and smiles from everyone.  In many cases I received antidotes that proves my theory.

For example, Art Wagner told me of the case when he was an industrial engineer at a foundry, and realized how vulnerable the entire operation was to a breakdown of the big cupola blower motor.  He convinced management of the need for having a spare.  Once purchased, every time the president toured the plant with Art, they would come to the spare motor and the president would ask if they had to use it yet.  Art would say no and then the president would ask how much the spare cost.  Art would tell him and the president would walk away shaking his head.  This went on for over six years.

My favorite personal story proving the law involves a labor problem at a foundry I worked for.  Management heard a rumor that there was going to be a wildcat strike.  Supposedly the walkout was going to take place when there was plenty of molten iron around.  If this were going to be the case, management had to be ready to act quickly.  Supervisor meetings were called and each member of management was given explicit details of what they were to do in order to get the iron poured off.  For some of us the assignments required us to run equipment we hadn't run in years - if ever.  That meant we had to come in on third shift to practice using the equipment.  Naturally, the strike never happened.

The Other Side

A quick look at the situation makes the planning that was done look foolish.  That's the humorous side.  On the other side, planning really prevents emergencies and it does so in three ways.

Luck does seem to play a factor.  I cannot credit Art's blower motor lasting beyond its expected life to any attribute of planning other than luck.  On the other hand, emergencies caused by lack of planning should not be attributed to bad luck.  If the blower had broken down causing an extended work stoppage, it would not have been luck; it would have been poor planning.

The planning itself can prevent emergencies.  For example, in my story of the potential wildcat, if the management was aware of the union's plans, then it stands to reason that the union knew the managements' precautions.  Knowing the wildcat would not throw the management into a panic must have taken away much of the expected benefits for the union.  The planning, indeed, prevented the emergency.

The most important factor is the planning changes emergencies into incidents.  If a cupola can't be tapped by poking, it's not an emergency unless prior planning did not include having oxygen and lances readily available.  If Art's blower broke down it wouldn't have been an emergency as long as the spare was ready to go.  If the union had walked out it would have been a pain-in-the-neck but not an emergency since we were prepared.  In each case a potential emergency would have been a minor incident because of sufficient planning.

A word of warning about Lobenhofer's Law: Don't think about it when you are in the middle of an emergency.  Knowing you could have prevented the emergency through proper planning is bad for the ego.

Instead think about it when you get out of trouble.  Plan how you're going to handle things so you won't have to face that emergency again.  Even better, when things are running smoothly pick an emergency you fear in your operation and plan how it can be handled.  You know if you plan well enough you'll never have to face the emergency.

LOBENHOFER’S LAW - ANY EMERGENCIES SUFFICIENTLY WELL PLANNED FOR - WILL NOT HAPPEN.  It's your law, foundrymen, use it for your benefit.

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