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2008 Engineer of the Year

2008 Engineer of the Year

The Central Pennsylvania Engineers Week Council named Robert Lee Horst, P.E., of Lancaster, as its 2008 “Engineer of the Year.” He is Life Fellow in the Council's constituent organization, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).

Horst is owner and principal of the technical consultancy, Peak Productivity USA (www.peaksigma.com), which he founded after a four-decade career with Armstrong World Industries. He is a registered professional engineer in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and has been awarded 26 U.S. and foreign patents.

Horst began his career as an electronics technician petty officer in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War. After his honorable discharge, he and his bride, Ethel M. (Young) Horst, moved to State College where he matriculated at Penn State in the College of Engineering and graduated with honors in electrical engineering. Bob was a full-time student and Ethel was a university employee and part-time student. Since 1958, their permanent residence has been Lancaster County where they are active in church and charitable causes, and where they raised their family of three children.

After receiving his baccalaureate degree, Horst joined the research and development laboratories of Armstrong and continued graduate studies at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster and the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. He received his Master of Science degree from Penn in 1962 with a thesis titled “Dielectric Microwave Lens With Continuous Variable Parameters.” At Armstrong, his engineering work during the 1960s was research-related, primarily the development and manufacture of artificial dielectric materials for the construction of lens antennas for national defense applications.

As his work phased from defense to consumer products, Horst joined the central engineering department at Armstrong Technical Center and continued his development of proprietary computer-controlled systems for manufacturing process improvement. He served as staff project engineer for glass manufacturing plants, providing both analog and digital instrumentation systems. During the 1970s, as senior staff engineer, he developed and installed the first direct-digital control systems in Armstrong floor division plants. He was appointed senior consulting engineer in 1976.

In 1981, Horst was a first recipient of the Technical Center Innovation Award with the citation: “For significant contributions in the area of computer-controlled process improvements leading to increased productivity at Armstrong plants in the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom, and on the European continent.” Some of his work has been published in more than 25 technical articles and conference papers.

He was assigned to Armstrong corporate offices in the mid-1980s as Manager, New Manufacturing Technology, and continued in that position until he elected early retirement and founded his engineering consultancy. Since then, he has developed and patented a manufacturing quality analysis and improvement method that has been licensed to industry and is available in a CD software package. The product is called SSIAMTM - Six Sigma Isogrammetric Analysis Method.

Bob is a member of the Susquehanna Section of IEEE and in 1998 was elected Fellow by the IEEE national organization. He is a member of honor societies Phi Eta Sigma, Sigma Tau, Eta Kappa Nu, Tau Beta Pi, and Phi Kappa Phi. Also, he is a Life Member of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) and the Penn State Alumni Association.

He is a former member of the Board of Trustees at Penn State University (1992-1995) and the Board of Advisers at Penn State Harrisburg (1994-2000) where he is active as a member of the Industrial and Technical Advisory Board.

Throughout his career, Bob has been a mentor to young engineers. Mainly, his counsel is: “Always strive for performance excellence, be focused, do not shun creativity in yourself or others, always be prepared to invent your way out of technical trouble and, above all, be a person of good character.”

On the personal side, Bob is a member of veterans organizations and is an active runner. He has participated in more than 150 5-mile and 5K races over the past decade. In 2007, he was a medalist in the Pennsylvania Keystone Games and the Senior Games.

Bob and Ethel Horst are parents of R. Kyle Horst; Gayle E. Plecha; and Eric J. Horst. They have eight grandchildren who reside in Virginia, California, and Lancaster, PA.

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