I like to think of myself as a matchmaker. My job as editor of Reliable Plant is to bring together people who have information and great ideas with other people who are looking for information and great ideas. I make the introduction, start the conversation flowing and step back.

The match might be sparked by a cover story, column or technical article in the magazine. It may stem from an article on our Web site or inside one of our e-mail newsletters. Or, it could be the result of a case study presentation at one of our conferences.

I get the most enjoyment out of the conference matchmaking because I get to facilitate a face-to-face meeting. An attendee will come up to me after a speech and say, "That plant is doing some incredible stuff. We need to emulate them. How can I learn more?" At some point during the conference, I will bring the attendee over to the speaker and start the introduction process. Handshakes are exchanged. Business cards get swapped. More times than not, I'll see the two later in the day talking shop at the same lunch table or in the hotel bar. Weeks later, I'll get an e-mail from the attendee stating that he or she is heading up a benchmarking trip to the speaker's plant.

The best matches occur when there is an equal exchange of ideas and solutions. Each party is a role model, excellent in some facet of plant performance, and each party is looking for help in another area. A few years ago, I facilitated a meeting between an attendee (a plant-floor leader at a Fortune 500 defense industry company) with a speaker (a plant-floor leader at a Fortune 500 auto manufacturer). It eventually led to the defense company sending two dozen representatives 1,500 miles to learn safety best practices from the automaker. The car plant then sent nearly as many people to learn lean concepts from the defense firm. Subsequent benchmarking trips have occurred between the companies. To this day, the two plant leaders keep in touch. For me, that's a good conference.

I had plenty of matchmaking opportunities at Noria's recent "Lean, Reliable and Lubed" conference in Nashville. I brought in leaders from companies such as Bridgestone, Boeing, Ford, BMW, Whirlpool, Rio Tinto, Regal-Beloit, Clorox, The Stanley Works, Weatherford International and Batesville Casket to share their best practices and vision on the topic of lean reliability. The response was fantastic as measured by the amount of networking that took place.

I'll have another big chance October 6-8 when I bring my Lean Tools for Maintenance & Reliability conference to Chicago.

The three previous Lean Tools events (Cleveland in 2005, Las Vegas in 2006 and Cleveland in 2007) featured plant and corporate leaders from Harley-Davidson, Toyota, Alcoa, Cargill, Raytheon, Honda, Eastman Chemical, Intel, Coors, Nordson, Energizer, Ford, Autoliv, AstenJohnson, International Paper, ABB, Karl Schmidt Unisia and the U.S. Postal Service. More great case studies are coming this year. The firms I'm inviting to present include heavy-hitters such as Toyota, GE, Harley-Davidson, Dell, Lockheed Martin, Honda, Baxter, Delphi, Solectron, Anheuser-Busch, 3M, DuPont, Abbott Labs, Plexus, Rockwell, Kohler, Caterpillar and Chrysler. I expect plenty of introductions, handshakes, business cards and idea sharing.

Full information will be found on www.reliableplant.com, in the Reliable Plant Mail and Lean Manufacturing Journal newsletters, and on the conference Web site, www.lean2008.com.

This matchmaker is looking forward to the event. I'll bring the knowledge resources. Let's strike up some conversations.