On a recent trip to Detroit, I got a chance to discuss new probes, software and food in China. During the open house, I met a fellow Chicagoan and heard his meandering career history. It involved mechanical engineering classes, work as a diesel mechanic-and fingernails that never got clean-then work with carnival rides and eventually the sales force of an international company. This last position lead to frequent trips to Japan, a month-long stint in China and another six-month project in France.

The military is considered a job that allows you to see the world, but nondestructive testing also can take you places. While the weapon of choice may be an XRF analyzer instead of a gun, nondestructive testing can lead to projects around the country and the globe.

The products at the open house were just as well traveled as the attendees-a new probe had been introduced the week before at the Control show in Germany-and it was nice meeting them face to face (or face to screen) in such a casual environment. Picture an indoor barbecue with high tech equipment and you get the idea.

During my shuttle ride back to the airport, I got another chance to talk about manufacturing. When the driver heard that I worked at a magazine focused on quality assurance in manufacturing, he asked me how things were going. (Of course, this was after he asked for my autograph.)

I told him that things seemed to be on the way up. And the numbers seem to agree. Just consider some recent headlines atwww.qualitymag.com:

  • Economic Growth to Continue Throughout 2010

  • GE Expands Hiring Plans for Michigan

  • Industrial Manufacturers Show Confidence in a Sustained Recovery in 2010

  • U.S. Manufacturing Technology Consumption Report Reflects Economic Recovery

  • GM, Chrysler Moving in Right Direction

  • In March, A Rise in Manufactured Goods Imports

    Clearly, things are looking up for our economy.

    The driver and I eventually went back to discussing something almost as unpredictable as the economy-the weather. Though the morning had been foggy in Chicago, the flight took off without incident. It kept threatening to rain in both my destination and current location, but both flights took off and landed safely. (On my way home my flight was about 30 minutes late, but that seemed to be an air traffic control issue. Apparently planes are not immune to rush hour traffic.)

    Perhaps this can be an analogy for our economy. The situation may not always be clear, but people continue to get the job done regardless.

    While bright, sunny skies and booming economic growth are obviously the preferred forecast, even in foggy weather, when we’re not sure what lies ahead, it is still possible to make things happen.

    No matter how the economy looks at the time, we all just do the best we can. No one knows the future, but we can contribute to a better one by doing our jobs well and providing something of value. Those jobs may take us to Beijing or Detroit, but wherever we are, it is important to do the job well.

    When manufacturing those cars, employees can ensure that they are the safest ones possible. Companies may not be sure how many are needed, or what models the market will demand, but the cars that are made, are made well.

    Have fun this summer, wherever your travels may take you. And remember, stormy weather is just an opportunity to enjoy your couch.