The Importance of Follow-Up

Charles D. Schultz

President at Beyta Gear Service
Charles D. Schultz is President of Beyta Gear Service and one of Gear Technology's technical editors.

Latest posts by Charles D. Schultz (see all)

Job creation has been a popular platform for politicians for as long as I can remember. What seems to be lacking is any sort of “after action report” on the effectiveness of public and private “investment” strategies. As I write this a few of our remaining newspapers are trying to determine what happened to the stimulus money of 2009. (http://www.thestarpress.com/story/money/2015/04/11/brevini-wind-failure-millions-vat-streetlights/25571319).

If only we followed these projects as closely as we do the salary cap of our favorite NFL franchise! Without transparency during the process, and proper accounting afterwards, we are unlikely to get the needed employment opportunities and so are doomed to repeat the failures of the past. From what I can tell, the only people assured of paying work are the public relations staff, builders, realtors, and financiers who push them.

My beloved home town is presently debating a plan for a new sports arena. This debate started when I was an infant when Milwaukee County Stadium was built with public money to lure the Braves from Boston. It resumed in 1964 when the Braves decided Atlanta’s new government-financed stadium offered better returns. As a high school student I entered a model in the sports arena contest that resulted in MECCA being built; as difficult as it is to believe, they managed to build something even uglier than I built!

Milwaukee’s Bradley Center was a “gift” to the public; part of a tax negotiation on the Rockwell International purchase of Allen Bradley. After less time than it took to debate its construction it needs to come down and be replaced with an even larger, more palatial temple to sports. Even small-government advocates seem resigned to spending HALF A BILLION DOLLARS on it with the promise that another $500 million in private investment will follow.

I love sports too, but wonder if that is the best use of precious resources. Shouldn’t we check on how our previous investments in sports infrastructure work out before going “all in” once again? Miller Park is a great place to watch a ball game, but was it a good investment? The original plan called for spending $142 million; the final bill to FIX THE ROOF was more than that. Not to mention the tragic loss of workers’ lives trying to get back on schedule.

financed stadium offered better returns. As a high school student I entered a model in the sports arena contest that resulted in MECCA being built; as difficult as it is to believe, they managed to build something even uglier than I built!

 

How Much is Too Much?

Charles D. Schultz

President at Beyta Gear Service
Charles D. Schultz is President of Beyta Gear Service and one of Gear Technology's technical editors.

Latest posts by Charles D. Schultz (see all)

My inner curmudgeon got loose in the last blog and I want to assure you that I, too, love big horsepower. My concern is that it be applied safely. Since the first crazy kid took to hopping up a 20 horsepower Model T Ford, right through today’s “tuners” deciding to put both turbos and nitrous oxide on their Civic, Americans have craved more power and performance. Hot-rodding is popular around the world but often under restrictive laws that require getting a registered engineer to inspect and approve the changes made.

We prefer a less-regulated approach and this is reflected in our tax laws. Other countries tax based upon engine size or estimated power rating. You get the results you encourage and those countries tend to make cars that just squeak in under the legal limits. Modifying those cars is discouraged so that hot-rodders must be discreet — or pay the fines if caught. Thanks to the Internet we get to see hot rods from around the world, and it is interesting to see what they drive.

American hot-rodding started before World War II and blossomed during the new car shortage that followed that global conflict. Many trace the start to the introduction of the Ford flathead V-8 in 1932, but there were “go jobs” 10 or 15 years earlier. The flathead V-8 barely made it to 100 horsepower before the conflict started; to get 200 horsepower you needed to buy a Marmon V-16. One is currently available on E-Bay; it weighs over 900 pounds despite its aluminum block.

Ingenious mechanics figured out ways to get 200 horsepower out of lesser power plants and they raced them on fairgrounds ovals, street courses, and dry lake beds all over the country. It isn’t unreasonable to credit that hot-rodding mentality with the rapid improvement of American armaments during the war. Racers were everywhere in the war effort, questioning how things were being done, and pushing the limits.

We need to maintain that attitude in our schools, garages, and shops. No sane person needs 800 horsepower to go to the grocery story. They need that questioning attitude — that desire for more — at work. People once questioned why anyone would want to cut bevel gears on a milling machine when there were highly developed special machines for that purpose.

There can never be enough desire to test limits, and once in a while things will break during those tests. Our job is to make sure we learn from our failures. And keep people safe in the process.

Horsepower Race

Charles D. Schultz

President at Beyta Gear Service
Charles D. Schultz is President of Beyta Gear Service and one of Gear Technology's technical editors.

Latest posts by Charles D. Schultz (see all)

As the Tool Time host used to say, “The answer is more power.” My little lathe/mill combo has a whopping .75 horsepower and I’ve managed to stall it a few times. The newest machine tools have much more power and speed than their predecessors, so as to have more flexibility with the feeds and speeds of the incredible cutting tools currently available. We’ve come a long way from hand-ground, high-speed-steel tooling, and our machines reflect that progress.

A more noticeable horsepower race is going on in new car showrooms. When I was a boy, during the infamous muscle car era, the factories and insurance companies were wary of letting so much as 400 horsepower get into the hands of the average consumer. Dodge, touting their 100th anniversary with rather odd commercials starring the long-deceased founding brothers, has stopped taking orders for their 808 horsepower Hellcat because they can’t get enough parts. Other companies will be happy to sell you 400, 500, 600, or even 700 horsepower street-legal cars.

How much trouble will the average driver get into with 808 horsepower? The speed limit is now 70 in many states, but even an 80 horsepower econobox can exceed that. Cable TV shows feature street races with home-built 1,000-plus horsepower cars and include footage of the inevitable crashes. Porsche and other legendary makers require special training before they will hand a driver the keys to some of their products. This may be an over-reaction to our litigious society or a wise way to keep a well-heeled client alive so they can buy more toys.

Much like a machine tool builder or cutting tool supplier, including training and support into the price of a new machine, they want you to be successful and buy more of their products. With much power comes much responsibility; more about that next time.

Evolving Equipment

Charles D. Schultz

President at Beyta Gear Service
Charles D. Schultz is President of Beyta Gear Service and one of Gear Technology's technical editors.

Latest posts by Charles D. Schultz (see all)

How long should gear manufacturing equipment last? I posted before about some very “veteran” gear cutting machines that are still earning their keep on a regular basis. It occurs to me that we might be holding our shops back by sticking with machines that are no longer capable of producing quality parts in a competitive cycle time.

Some industries replace equipment much more frequently, their decisions made by the pure economics of their product. You no longer see glass containers in most departments at the grocery store. The shift to plastics is almost complete outside the adult beverage department, spurred by reduced breakage and lower transport costs. Of late I have noticed that even the shape of the containers is changing to reduce the amount of “dead air” in bulk shipments. Lighter products have load sizes determined by volume, not weight.

My interest was piqued by a client’s questions on gear shaping machines. They have lost confidence in their 1950s vintage shaper and asked for advice on what manufacturers and models they should look at. Fortunately, I know people who know people in the machine tool business and ought to be able to point them in the right direction quickly.

Over the years my employers bought lots of new and used equipment. Most of the new stuff was related to gear grinding where only the “latest” was deemed worthy of consideration. The improvement in productivity was so dramatic you hardly needed MBA level analysis skills to make a decision. Also, all of the newer machines were so much better than the old ones you couldn’t make a bad decision.

We made lots of bad decisions on used equipment though. Early NC machines often had electrical bits that were no longer supported. Many had insufficient power to “pull” modern chip loads. Some were just not reliable enough for use in “cellular” arrangements. We learned the hard way that making great ground tooth gears required excellence at each step in the process. You cannot “fix” a bad blank at gear grinding and hope to be competitive.

Care to share your experience with replacing gear machines?

Fighting the Future

Charles D. Schultz

President at Beyta Gear Service
Charles D. Schultz is President of Beyta Gear Service and one of Gear Technology's technical editors.

Latest posts by Charles D. Schultz (see all)

My computer repair people advised tossing one of my computers in the trash recently. This loyal travel companion had become so “buggy” from public WiFi networks that repairing it would exceed its replacement cost. Of course, buying a replacement means buying new software and relearning to use it.
I don’t begrudge the software companies the income but I wonder how many of these changes are really product improvements and how many are just to make us buy new licenses. It reminds me of the old days when car companies did major external redesigns every year while flogging the same old mechanical parts for decades. A 1958 Chevy had the same chassis as a 1964 model; they used the same basic 6six cylinder motor fro 1929 to 1962.
My IT vendor based the “trash it” decision in part on the lack of support for the laptop’s operating system. You’d think that by the sixth or seventh year of a system they would have identified or fixed all of the bugs. Even the car companies back in the “bad old days” eventually got their products to run well without constant intervention.
There was a story once of some Silicon Valley visionary saying that if they built cars we would be getting 200 miles per gallon and paying half as much for our transportation. This was countered with a hilarious rant of your Silicon Valley car needed to be replaced every time the lines on the road got painted or needing an elaborate “re-boot” sequence at random intervals when it would just stop running for no reason.
The curmudgeon in me looks forward to the rumored “self driving” cars from the high tech start ups. In a big city like Chicago it is easy to see how traffic flow could improve if cars just got in their lane and drove home without the constant jockeying for position we suffer through today. Then I consider the possible mayhem that will result from GPS glitches and software “upgrades.” If they can’t make a trustworthy spelling and grammar checker what makes them think they are ready for the Illinois Toll Road? Anyone interested in “auto complete” sending you to the wrong address?

March Madness

Charles D. Schultz

President at Beyta Gear Service
Charles D. Schultz is President of Beyta Gear Service and one of Gear Technology's technical editors.

Latest posts by Charles D. Schultz (see all)

At my height basketball was never going to be a major part of my life. During the Al McGuire years at Marquette it was hard not to become a fan, though, and I have followed the sport closely since then. In March almost everyone is a college basketball fan.

One of the things I miss about not being in a shop full time is the fun of filling out a bracket and trash talking with my coworkers for most of the month. A few took it very seriously, others not so much, and the pool winners were usually people who relied on team colors or mascot names.

Some might take a dim view of this “distraction” interfering with production. I believe that it is a much better “team building” activity than dragging the office staff out for a wilderness retreat. Let’s face it, we spend a lot of the work day watching machines run and waiting for phone calls or e-mails. The “office pool” gives us something to talk about and has a way of introducing people to co-workers outside their immediate department.

Personal relationships are the most important factor in reaching high manufacturing performance. People want to be part of a winning team and they want to impress their teammates when the “game” is on the line. That isn’t a sports cliché, it is real life. No one reads a book or watches a movie hoping the hero fails. We watch sports the same way, like pulling for “our team” to beat a higher-seeded team in front of the big crowd.

In the gear business it isn’t a matter of your height or your ball handling skills that gets you the win. It can be the way your team works together to make certain hand-offs are efficiently made and priorities are clearly communicated. Everyday tasks can have a way of becoming game-winning shots. Make sure your top performers know how proud you are of them.

What Gear Trade Milestones Have You Witnessed?

Charles D. Schultz

President at Beyta Gear Service
Charles D. Schultz is President of Beyta Gear Service and one of Gear Technology's technical editors.

Latest posts by Charles D. Schultz (see all)

Last week’s blog on the Century of AGMA Timeline brought to mind a humorous story of our now adult daughter’s first “play store” set. If you’ve had children you are probably familiar with these cardboard miniature checkout counters. I thought three was a bit young for indoctrination into the retail trade, and pointed out that she was completely ignoring the cardboard cash register and play money. My spouse just laughed and suggested I watch more closely. Sure enough, Samantha was employing up-to-date check out technology; each item crossing in front of her generated a “beep” and she only accepted debit cards from her playmates.

The AGMA timeline will no doubt be filled with product introductions and memorable standard adaptations. I think this misses some very transformative moments in the gear trade. By “transformative” I mean changes that permanently changed the way we do business.

A good example is the pocket calculator. We went from slide rules and logarithms to pocket calculators in less than two years. My first calculator cost more than my first car! $495 was almost a month’s pay for an apprentice in 1972 but you just couldn’t keep up without one. Calculator features changed monthly and we were all envious of the person with the latest and greatest model.

The advent of the personal computer and general purpose spreadsheets made even high-end calculators passé. If you ever had to figure out change gears for a hobbing machine manually, with a reference book of four and six “gear ratios,” you quickly became a fan of calculators and later personal computers.

Another “game changer” on the production side of our trade was the coating of cutting tools. Many of us were skeptical that a “gold” layer on a hob or shaper cutter could permit doubling the machines productivity. In less than 18 months it was impossible to deny the improvement; hob order quantities plummeted at high-production shops and lower-volume firms struggled with how to factor the “cost savings” into their prices.

Gear Milestones Needed

Charles D. Schultz

President at Beyta Gear Service
Charles D. Schultz is President of Beyta Gear Service and one of Gear Technology's technical editors.

Latest posts by Charles D. Schultz (see all)

The American Gear Manufacturers Association (www.agma.org) will be celebrating its centennial in 2016. In preparation for the big party, they are developing a timeline of major milestones of our trade, both technical and commercial. They need your help in making sure that the people and events that shaped the business are accurately remembered.

We are lucky to have a number of people around who personally witnessed a lot of that 100 years. Hopefully they will assist in finding the reports or artifacts that predated them. Many companies that were “big” contributors no longer exist and the fate of their archives is not well known.

Just this week we learned of some research reports on the development of the allowable stress numbers we still use today. Since AGMA was founded, in part, to assure the public that gears would perform as advertised, the rating formulas and supporting science are “mission-critical.” We cannot lose sight of this duty; AGMA publications are used all around the world to design, build, and analyze geared products.

“New” gear concepts with claims of greatly improved capacity are announced every year; most are revamps of ideas previously examined and found lacking. A more accessible history of the trade, as promised by this timeline, would help sort things out. As always, Gear Technology offers free access to its on-line archives. We like to think of ourselves as the “journal of record” for the gear business.

The AGMA website has directions on how to submit your timeline information. Our magazine is also interested in hearing your stories on important people and events in the history of the trade. Please contact us via our website.

Time to Update Our Clichés?

Charles D. Schultz

President at Beyta Gear Service
Charles D. Schultz is President of Beyta Gear Service and one of Gear Technology's technical editors.

Latest posts by Charles D. Schultz (see all)

Evolving language and out-of-touch “seniors” not understanding it have been popular topics with stand-up comedians for many years. Growing up in the 1950s and 1960s, I found their routines hilarious. Now that I am old I still find them amusing but worry that changes in lifestyle and technology are resulting in a generation that doesn’t understand some of our basic clichés and concepts.

This concern came to light with a story a friend told at a standards committee meeting. She was teaching a group of young women to sail and it wasn’t going well. To clarify things, she instructed one student to turn the winch handle “clockwise” — and was met with a blank stare. The girl claimed to have never seen an analog clock! Seems like a stretch to me but I suppose it is possible for a person under 20 to only see digital clocks; the same with rotary — or even push-button phones. Neither of my adult children have ever had a “land line” in their apartments. Lily Tomlin’s “Ernestine” routine is lost on them.

Aside from the obvious dangers of not understanding basic rotational direction, we run a risk of our children and grandchildren missing the meaning in common clichés. Can someone who has never gardened appreciate something being a “tough row to hoe?” How many times have you winced at it being pronounced a “tough ROAD to hoe?” Is some of the enjoyment lost from an old detective movie when you have to explain what it meant to “drop a dime” on someone who has never seen, much less used, a pay phone?

Much of the beauty in literature is the use of colorful analogies to draw the reader into familiarity with the characters and events. Every Sunday school or Shakespeare teacher knows how difficult it is to “translate” out-of-date analogies for a modern audience. In the same way, our ancestors would be baffled by the current reliance on sports references in other areas of life.

How many common sayings no longer make sense? Should there be a “sunset” rule for clichés? I plan to be a little more careful in assuming my audience will understand what I am saying.

Long Lasting Gear Designs

Charles D. Schultz

President at Beyta Gear Service
Charles D. Schultz is President of Beyta Gear Service and one of Gear Technology's technical editors.

Latest posts by Charles D. Schultz (see all)

It is time to start preparing for the racing season so I have finally been spending some time in the garage. As a follow up to my last blog posting about designs staying in service for a long time, I offer the Model A Ford ring and pinion. First produced in 1927 for the 1928 Model A cars, this 9 x 34 spiral bevel set is still in production for use in midget race car quick change axles. That is 88 years and counting! Close behind is it successor, the ring and pinion set for the Ford Flathead V-8; used in current model quick change rear ends for street rods and sprint cars. The higher horsepower [60 at time of introduction in 1932] of the V-8 required a straddle mounted pinion or they might have just continued with the old “pumpkin” design. Considering that today’s midgets can have almost 400 horsepower and a sprint car double that, those gear engineers really did a fine job.

Today’s material, heat treat, and manufacturing capabilities are responsible for that extra capacity but our friends at Gleason still “work” the same geometry system. What was a highly sophisticated design almost 90 years ago may not be anything special today but you have to admire things that keep working long after the design life has passed.

It has been awhile since I read any news reports on the “infinity clock” being built with Silicon Valley money. A clock that will be self powered, run forever, and be working no matter what happens to us crazy humans. I rather suspect any future space visitors will be more interested in touring our old car museums than our feeble attempts at clock making.

I mean no offense to the Infinity Clock team. Beings capable of interstellar travel are just more likely to find the artifacts of our journey from walking barefoot to interstate highway travel to be more informative of our progress as tool making apes than a clock.