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A conversation with ESE’s John Luther

on May 7, 2019

John Luther joined ESE in August of 2017 as a project manager. We recently caught up with him as part of our continuing blog series on getting to know the people of ESE.

First off, congratulations on nearly two years with the company. Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’ve lived in Hartland, Wisconsin for the past 24 years. My wife, Sue, is retired and is always planning a family trip to one of the National Parks. Ours sons are now grown and have their own children. My eldest, Dan, lives in Greendale, Wisconsin and has two wonderful granddaughters, whom we get to spoil on a regular basis. My younger son, Scott, lives in Portland, Oregon and is embarking on a career in the stop motion movie industry.

You’ve been involved in process engineering for almost 25 years now. What is a typical day like for you on the job?
As a Ph.D. Chemical Engineer, I’ve spent my career in the food industry, first working for a food manufacturer in R&D and process engineering, and then moving to the supplier side about 10 years ago as a process engineer/project manager.

My days vary widely depending on current projects. It can range from project management duties, to process design, to site visits with sales in support of project opportunities and working on improvement initiatives for ESE.  There are usually many solutions to any problem or project. It takes a solid understanding of the client and thoughtful context of the project to find the appropriate solution.

There’s a lot of conversation these days about the need for companies to migrate from their outdated legacy automation hardware to more modern systems. But some believe even if the system’s old and not broken, why fix it? How do you bring about a change in that mindset?
With the rate at which today’s electronic systems evolve, obsolescence is a fact of life. Once hardware is no longer supported, it becomes challenging to maintain and find employees who can work on these legacy systems. This creates risk for plant operations when hardware fails.

Companies need to understand their systems and their limitations, and prepare a game plan for when and how to update them. Upgrading for the sake of having the latest technology is not important. The adage “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is a valid position, if what’s working does what’s required, and can be supported and maintained.

Explain the benefits for manufacturers to consider a facility modernization plan – to identify obsolete platforms or legacy systems – or consider a retrofit for their operations?
The risk of lost revenue because of hardware failure and meeting regulatory or corporate requirements are the primary drivers for modernization. A comprehensive modernization plan would provide a roadmap for hardware design to support incremental efforts, and plant operation improvements and updates.

You joined the ESE team two years ago now and thus have spent some time in the Marshfield area. What’s it been like to navigate this new area? Any favorite new haunts?
I haven’t seen it yet, but Jurustic Park is a popular metal sculpture garden filled with nearly 1,000 rustic-looking creatures welded together from scrap metal and rusted machinery. I hear it’s an incredible display of Wisconsin’s “Iron Age” and is on my to-do list this summer.

What do you like to do when you’re not on the job?
I enjoy traveling with my family, being outdoors, bicycling, swimming, and skiing. I am into woodworking and taking on a variety of handy-man projects.

Who is your greatest influence?
I would have to say my dad. While we didn’t always see eye-to-eye, he instilled in me the importance of always doing your best. It may be difficult to achieve this goal at all times, but it’s important to always keep trying.

What is one thing you cannot live without?
There are three things I can’t live without: food, water and air. Seriously though, I can’t live without my wife, Sue. She provides love, comfort and family that are invaluable to my being and purpose.

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eseincA conversation with ESE’s John Luther