Jerry Zeigenfuse passed away peacefully this week.
Even if you never knew Jerry personally, if you’ve interacted with Avanceon, you’ve encountered his genius and his spirit.
Jerry was a key founder of Avanceon’s predecessor company Advanced Automation Associates. He was the man who established both our PLC programming standards and state engine sequencer that are still used today. But more important, Jerry was the man who established our way of doing business and delivering quality. Customers knew they could rely on him: Jerry had an incredible project record of 100% delivery on scope and schedule, frequently on the most difficult projects.
But even while he pushed himself and his associates to develop creative, on-time solutions, he rarely missed an opportunity to monitor a project, train an associate, or tell a story. You may have read about how the Philadelphia Inquirer recently named Avanceon one of the region’s “Best Places to Work”; that award has its roots in the way Jerry ran his projects and customer relationships.
In his off-hours, Jerry was a crackerjack model airplane designer and competitor. It isn’t an exaggeration to call him living legend for his 60 years of success in that arena. He approached his hobby with the same spirit in which he ran his projects – with good humor and an unrelenting commitment to excellence. Jerry never missed a model airplane competition because of a project; he managed his team and his projects so well that he didn’t need to.
Jerry was, above all, a devoted family man. He loved telling anyone who would listen stories about his seven children and wife Lois. His delight in his family was obvious, and pervaded his entire life. His son Bob, President of Avanceon, assures us that his stories will live on.
We can best honor Jerry’s life and accomplishments by continuing to do business in his spirit, and we pledge our ongoing dedication to excellence in everything we do.
Let me know if this sounds familiar to you: somewhere in the plant there’s an enclosure that houses your controls hardware. It’s seen some changes over time – some components may have been replaced or may no longer be needed, but no one seems to know if there’s been any documentation of the changes: the old napkin on which someone drew a schematic disappeared long ago. And there may not be any documentation at all for the wiring connections to your field or internal devices.
‘Twas the night before Shutdown: I tell you, my dears,
All of Avanceon was stirring – (they are engineers)
Their stockings were snug in their shoes on their feet,
As there was a new project deadline to meet.
Not one thought of sugarplums — No, quite instead
Strange visions of programs danced in their heads.
The team was all nestled quite snug in their code
All wanted to finish and get on the road….
While Tracey was focused on the perfect MES
And Scott was pushing for one more pre-test,
With Matt stuck in meetings, and Brian with SCADA
We all saw our Holidays getting consumed by the data.
In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell explores the habits and routines common among people in different fields who have achieved significant success. As part of his discussion, Gladwell cites the “10,000 hour rule,” which notices that many of the elite musicians in major symphony orchestras spend at least 10,000 practicing before becoming professionals. In subsequent interviews, Gladwell explains he mentioned the “rule” to show not only the effort required by the musicians themselves, but also the large amount of sacrifice and assistance needed by those around them. However, many people took the “rule” to mean that practicing something for 10,000 hours guaranteed proficiency and success.
These days, everyone is in a hurry to finish their projects and move on to the next one. In most cases, documentation is the last thing they think about – if they think of it at all. More often than not, it’s ignored completely or becomes “something you’ll get around to later.” Well, “later” all too frequently means there’s a good chance you’ll forget to do it – or that you’ll forget something important once you get around to doing it. But if you don’t document the changes you made then the next person working on the project has to reverse engineer everything to see why the last change was made.