Volodymr Melnyk/Dreamstime
Football player holding out hands over background photo of robotic arms

The Fundamentals of Blocking and Tackling

Sept. 8, 2021
COVID-19 forced us to embrace technology more than ever in our professional lives, but technology will only take us so far.

At the start of another football season, it’s appropriate to begin with a quote from one of the game’s greatest coaches, Vince Lombardi. He was known as a tough taskmaster, a master teacher and an inspirational leader, but Lombardi also was one of football’s most quotable figures.

More than 50 years after his death, the game Lombardi succeeded at has changed in many ways. It is a faster game played by bigger men who are specialists at their positions. They are afforded all of the technology available to analyze and parse every move on the field to find ways to improve performance and prepare for their opponent.

Yet one of Lombardi’s greatest quotes remains true. “Football is two things. It’s blocking and tackling,” he said. “I don’t care about formations or new offenses or tricks on defense. You block and tackle better than the team you’re playing, you win.”

I reflected on those fundamentals in two ways last month while attending the MD&M West convention in Anaheim for Hydraulics & Pneumatics’ sister publication, Machine Design. Just as the latest wave of COVID-19 was flaring across the country, exhibitors and attendees gathered to take what was for many their first foray into trade shows in more than a year. It was a smaller, cautious group that gathered to look at the latest technology in medical devices, robots, sensors and other innovations.

The enthusiasm in the room was larger than the attendance, however. There was a joy at being able to see people in three dimensions. There were fists bumps or, for those maintaining their distance, just a cheerful conversation. The fundamental need to learn about new product offerings and operational strategies was strong, and those in attendance benefitted from the experience.

It also reminded me of those fundamentals Lombardi spoke about. We have embraced technology more than ever over the last 18 months. We have relied on it for human contact and information and entertainment, and it has, in the main, been a useful tool.

Technology will only take us so far, however. When technology is misapplied, it is like using a hammer when what you really need is a screwdriver. Like any other tool, technology is only as valuable as the training and application behind it. In our rush to embrace technology’s undeniable value, we have to remain focused first on the job to be done.

Technology was on display at MD&M West, and it was encouraging to see the level of research and development that has occurred in spite of—and occasionally because of—the pandemic. We have continued to advance and continued to innovate. In our understandable rush to get back to more of business as usual, though, let’s not forget the fundamentals of blocking and tackling. Let’s make sure we’re clear on the goals, clearer than ever with our people on the expectations and making sure we are providing all the fundamental tools they need to succeed.

About the Author

Bob Vavra | Senior Content Director, Power & Motion and Machine Design

Bob Vavra is the Senior Content Director of Power & Motion and its sister publication Machine Design. Vavra has had a long career in publishing, media and events. He has covered all aspects of manufacturing for the past 20 years and is a regular attendee at events such as IMTS and Hannover Messe. Vavra is also a sought-after webcast moderator and event emcee, and has presided over events in the U.S., Germany and China. 

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