Attitude is Important, Too

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)


I don’t know many people who enjoy working with crabby co-workers. Attitude is a key element in team chemistry, so my evaluation system allocates a full 25% of the points available to it. I break attitude down to four key elements — the first of which is cooperation with supervision.

An uncooperative employee undercuts your authority with the rest of the team. This doesn’t mean everyone has to agree with every decision you make — only that they disagree in private and in a mature, well reasoned way. While this is not something HR tracks, everyone in your department will know if a co-worker gets away with ignoring instructions or flaunting company policies. You can’t reward that type of behavior.

Another reflection of attitude is an employee’s willingness to work with others, be it in tag teaming a problem, sharing job knowledge, or coaching a new skill. Good teammates deserve credit in the evaluation process.

I have found that buying into a team goal — as opposed to only looking out for your own interests — pays long-term dividends. When experienced people model selfless behavior on the job, the younger folks notice it and try to do likewise. Having a shared goal helps in decision making and reduces conflicts.

Enthusiasm and pride in the workplace are also reflections of attitude. Stories about the great things the team has accomplished in the past, or important innovations the company brought to market, are much preferred to a constant rehashing of past disappointments. Not every employee will be a cheerleader for XYZ Company, but as a supervisor you certainly appreciate having one on your staff.

A final element of attitude is how employees feel about the most important person at any company. No, it isn’t the boss or owner. The one person no company can do without is the customer. If your staff doesn’t understand that, rude customer interactions that reflect poorly on everyone may follow. One employer was fond of the mantra “The sales department isn’t the whole company, but the whole company is the sales department.”

Every employee is capable of making a “customer for life” or an “ex-customer” through the way they conduct themselves. Maximum points are awarded to those who understand how important their contributions can be to customer satisfaction.

E is for Effort

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 second step in my performance evaluation procedure looks at the effort a team member puts into his or her job. From our first day of sports training we are taught that effort is as important as talent in achieving good results. No one wants a teammate who just goes through the motions.

We are all experts at detecting a sports star who is “dogging it.” But in the workplace, it is not quite so easy, so I try to rely on things that can be measured. One of my favorite Dilbert cartoons concerns employee evaluation. Dilbert is lobbying hard for “attendance” to receive fair consideration — which I happen to believe is a key measure of how much the employee wants to be on your team. If they have five or more unexcused absences in a year, they may be telling you they’d rather be doing something else; zero points in our scoring system. An employee who never misses a day of work gets a full five points.

A more subtle metric is whether the employee makes work enough of a priority in their life to be on time each day and to stay for a full shift. The chronically late or always-leaving-early get zero points in my system. People who are always there get five points. These metrics are already in place at most organizations and those statistics can — and should be — a part of the evaluation.

High-maintenance employees who require constant coaching and supervision are also indicating that their heart may not be with your team. They get zero points from me — as opposed to the person who hears instructions the first time and gets on with the project. These interactions are not recorded by the human resources department, but will be remembered by the people involved — especially if they are made aware that it matters.

I marvel at those companies kind (?) enough to allow their smokers to gather and light-up at the perimiters of plant property at any time of the day. How are they getting their work done so far from their machine or computer? Sticking to assigned tasks is an important portion of “The Effort” section of my performance review system, so frequent absences from your duty station won’t get you any points.

Sports writers and fans love players that “hustle;” so do supervisors. Every company needs employees who are willing to stay that extra hour to meet a deadline or to drop that important part at a subcontractor on the way home — as opposed to the teammate who is primed and waiting at the time clock like an Olympic sprinter.

Guess who gets maximum points in my system?

Productivity

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)

If the work isn’t getting done, every job on the team is at risk. This is why my evaluation system starts by looking at productivity vs. goals. Each of the 20 questions is scored on a scale of one to five, starting with volume of work produced. An employee who never meets the goal obviously gets zero points, while someone who far exceeds the goal gets five points.

Sloppy work doesn’t really meet goals, so our next question concerns “Quality of Work Produced.” If quality is always a problem for the employee, they get zero points. If quality is never an issue — five points.

Deadlines are important, too, so the people who can never seem to meet them get a goose egg, while those go-getters who always deliver get a five.

A more difficult question concerns task selection. Every team has some people who love challenges. If you never worry about what task you assign to a person, they get five points. Zero is reserved for the employee who can only be given the easy, routine assignments.

The final piece of the productivity puzzle is time management. No one wants a teammate who can’t stay “on task” without constant nagging. Zero points for those who have to be reminded constantly that there is work to be done, and five to the workers who stick to a project — regardless of distractions or interruptions.

These questions were selected because they have “metrics” that are recorded during the regular course of business or, in the case of the latter two, direct manager/employee interactions that will be remembered by both parties. We are all adults; and this isn’t self-esteem camp. When we disagree about something, we don’t have to be disagreeable.

When an employee disagrees with a particular score, it is a “teachable moment.” The first time this system is used, some employees are not aware metrics are being collected or that their work assignments were limited by perceptions of their skill level. Sometimes they do not realize that others notice the many breaks they take or the amount of time they spend on personal projects.

Honest evaluations are capable of changing peoples’ lives. Good employees are hard to find and costly to train. This first category of questions is the place where the results of their everyday performance are measured against what is needed for the company to compete in the worldwide marketplace. It isn’t just a matter of personalities or who gets along well. There are plenty of places for people to socialize. Most of us have only one job and we want to work for a thriving company.

That’s why good employees make for strong competitors.

Uncomfortable, but Necessary

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)

I seldom dreaded report card day while in school, but found the annual review process in the workplace to be uncomfortable but necessary. In school the report cards started early, were unavoidable, and pretty predictable. In the workplace they were never on schedule, were sometimes filed with Human Resources without any chance for discussion or appeal, and had highly variable measuring scales. It really is no wonder why both employers and supervisors hate the whole process.

Over the years I experienced as many review systems as management training programs. People recognized that both topics needed work but couldn’t seem to get their arms around how to do it.

Perhaps because of my union steward father, I always tried to be “fair” to the people I reviewed. Sometimes that worked out great; other times I got played. Being “fair” put me at risk of being “soft” in management’s eyes, but when properly executed it could be a big win for me, the employee, and the company.

An example that comes to mind: The company president, a fitness buff, rejected my review of a direct report because said employee was a “fat slob who never leaves his desk.” Unlike his co-worker who was always running around the shop. I agreed to investigate further and provide some productivity numbers. It turned out the “fat slob” was out-producing everyone in the department, and the reason he was always at his desk was that his routings worked great the first time. Once made aware of the “facts,” the boss approved the guy’s salary increase — but still thought he needed more exercise.

Eventually I got tired of the six-page psychobabble forms corporate mandated for our use and developed my own, 20-question format that gave me a numerical score. The numerical score was tied to a chart with recommended actions to be taken. In the interest of fairness I even told employees ahead of time what they would be evaluated on. Over the next few blogs I’ll explain how the PEAC (Productivity, Effort, Attitude, & Creativity) system works. As always I look forward to your feedback.

A Day We Can Never Forget

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)

Yesterday marked a day 13 years ago on which the world changed for all of us. Time forever more to be marked as “before” those terrible events and “after” them. Where my parents’ generation used “before” and “after” in referring to The War, and their parents remembered “The (stock market) Crash,” we and our children have had to adapt to the selfish and senseless brutality of a small group of fanatics determined to take the world back to a more primitive time when people were slaughtered because of their religious beliefs.

We remember vividly where we were and what we were doing as those events unfolded. I was sitting at my desk on Neville Island near downtown Pittsburgh. Local fears were concentrated on Flight 91, originally headed for the West Coast and then turned back east. Was it aimed at another symbol of American economic power, i.e., the U.S. Steel building? Its eventual crash near Shanksville, PA allowed us to breathe easier, but left us numb at the loss of even more of our fellow citizens.

Our crew elected to keep working, so I drove home and returned with a small television to be used in the cafeteria. Between that and the radio coverage we tried to keep informed, but information and misinformation were hard to separate. I recall being very angry, but frustrated as to where to direct that anger. Other than hugging your family and saying prayers for the dead and their loved ones, there wasn’t much to do but watch the depressing stories on television.

We had a prearranged visit to a customer facility in Dearborn, Michigan on Thursday, September 13th. As flying was not an option, we drove instead — through Ohio and into Michigan — past hundreds of flags flying at half-staff. Dearborn, as you may know, has the highest percentage of Islamic residents of any U.S. city. Detroit’s major airport is named after a former mayor — of Lebanese birth. Dearborn’s flags were flying low, too, and its citizens were as outraged as any other Americans. We were moved to participate in a moment of silence that morning with the multicultural staff of the steel mill.

Our country was united in mourning the dead and injured 13 years ago. Amazing stories of heroism and sacrifice raised our spirits in the days and weeks that followed. Unfortunately, we couldn’t sustain that sense of unity once the finger pointing and revenge-seeking started. Things were said and actions taken that are hard to put aside — even today. Time for us will always be cleaved into “before” September 11, 2001 — and “after.”

It will never be just another day on the calendar again. A lot of prayers are needed for our world to heal.

Have You Been to the Circus Yet?

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 mentioned before in this space, the bi-annual International Machine Tool Show (IMTS) is back in Chicago (September 8 – 3th). I’ll be in the Gear Technology booth (N-7214; North Hall) occasionally, to rest and visit with readers and the staff. My enthusiasm for this great event has remained high since my first visit back in 1977, but my stamina for walking the vast “Disneyland for Engineers” isn’t what it used to be. Ample periods of rest and conversation will be needed to allow a full appreciation for the new machines and technology on display.

As a youngster, IMTS attendance was an opportunity to get a glimpse of how parts might be made in the future. We had very few computer-controlled machines in the shop back then; we barely had access to computers in development engineering. Skeptics thought we “might” invest in a few “template” lathes, but computer-controlled lathes and milling machines were the stuff of science fiction — not prudent capital spending. And gear grinding? We still had faith in our through-hardened products and almost resented having to switch to carburized, hardened, and ground gearing.

Within five years, reliance on our huge inventory of manual turret lathes came to a screeching halt; NC lathes could out produce them by factors of eight or ten to one. Ground gears were the rule — not the exception — in customer specifications. It was a new day in the gear industry, and those who attended the IMTS shows in preceding years were hardly surprised.

I don’t know what “emerging” technology will be the star of IMTS 2014, but I plan to learn what I can about 3-D printing; grind burn and crack detection; water jet cutting; and new gear cutting techniques — in between rest periods in Booth N-7214, of course. We are looking forward to getting feedback from readers on how to make sure Gear Technology stays relevant for your company in the years ahead — no matter where the technology takes us.

A New Season; A Fresh Start

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)


September has traditionally been a time of new beginnings. We were programmed for this from our first days in school and, like salmon imprinted for a particular spawning spot, can’t seem to shake it. The calendar page turns and we put away our summer activities and start our fall routine. This, despite the weather staying warm for several more weeks and professional baseball heading into the playoffs. There is no particular reason businesses should change directions in September — other than you and your co-workers have a predisposition to refocus your energy.

As long as it is going to happen anyway you might as well try to make the most of it. If you are an ISO certified company, now is a good time to review training records and to schedule classes for employees who are due for refreshers or cross-training. Or take another look at those year-end goals; you have a third of the calendar year left; plenty of time to get big things done before the distractions of deer hunting season and the year-end holidays.

I have never been a fan of artificial deadlines, although I think real deadlines are great for motivating people. Nothing like the clock ticking down to inspire that game-saving pass or shot. Baseball, as a summer game, has no clock, no deadline. A baseball game can continue on as long as the teams can put players on the field. Some critics think soccer has trouble gaining a foothold (no pun intended) in the U.S. because the game clock counts “up” and you never know for sure when the game is over.

Real deadlines have consequences. If a part or machine isn’t shipped by month’s end, it shows up on the financial reports and influences cash flow, performance reviews, and the placement of future projects. In olden times you didn’t want to “miss the boat” because you could not be sure when the next one would leave. So why not forget the seasonal programming and concentrate on building a team that delivers high-quality, competitive products all year long?

Shared Responsibilities

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)

Coming off the Labor Day weekend, I had time to reflect on what the holiday means beyond marking the end of summer, retiring (for the nattier among us) the white bucs for the winter, or an excuse for back-to-school sales.

I have mentioned before that my father was a union steward during my formative years. Although I have never been the member of a union, I have much respect for the labor movement and what it has contributed to our society. I also recognize the excesses it has generated over the years.
It is important to note that the timing of Labor Day is not an accident; no one sat down and said, “Gee, we really need a three-day weekend at the start of football season so people can relax before starting their fall activities.”

In much of the world, labor’s holiday is May 1st, or International Workers’ Day. Our country was wary of joining that tradition, lest it be seen as support for the violence of the deadly Haymarket Square Massacre in Chicago on May 6, 1886.

Labor got its holiday in 1887 — but on a less controversial day, i.e. — no U.S. “May Day” — by proclamation of President Grover Cleveland. Canada already had a first- Monday-in-September, Labor Day holiday, so some might have seen the move as neighborly solidarity. The truth is that many people were worried about organized labor getting too powerful and disrupting the economy.

Sounds pretty familiar, doesn’t it?

Over 125 years have passed and we still can’t figure out the proper balance of labor and management. To me it comes down to shared responsibilities and mutual respect. Whenever our government, unions, and management have struck the right balance we have successfully — and peacefully — negotiated protection from abusive use of child labor; strong wage and hour laws; the 40-hour week; paid vacations; pensions; and safer working conditions.

The child labor laws created “childhood” as we know it, required children to go to school, and gave us a broadly educated electorate. Wage and hour laws helped create a middle class with the time to enjoy life. The net result has been an ability to implement improving technology, grow new leisure-related industries, and a growing economy.

So amidst the holiday weekend activities, I hope some thought was devoted to acknowledging the wisdom that enabled our forebears to compromise for the good of society — and, indeed, for coming to the recognition that getting all of what we want isn’t as important as sharing.

Specialization is for Insects

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 sports world was abuzz recently over a girl pitching her Little League team into the World Championship Tournament. For some this was another sign of the looming apocalypse, for others it was a welcome reflection of improved conditions for America’s girls. Others thought she should already be concentrating on her basketball career. Apparently if you want to make it to the professional ranks you have to specialize very early, get qualified private coaching and give up almost everything else that makes life interesting.

There is an online debate on why it is so hard to find qualified young gear engineers. Some blame employers for lack of training programs over the years and others point the finger at university degree requirements that allow only limited time for teaching about gears. I can see truth in each position but neither is much help going forward.

Which brings me back to specialization. Not every “gear engineer” set out to become one and there is no standard skill kit among the “gear engineers” that I know. Most of us learned about gears because we had to. During the course of regular employment someone had to crack open a book and figure out how to do something; we are just the guy who got the short straw.

In some shops that meant figuring change gears, calculating feeds and speeds and interpreting lead and involute charts. Other “gear engineers” never get too concerned with the manufacturing side of the gear industry but instead devote their efforts to understand the subtleties of product design.

Our industry needs more engineers of both types. It sure doesn’t hurt for someone to know both design and manufacturing. Besides those musty old gear books, today’s aspiring gear expert can attend some wonderful educational seminars, vendor gear schools, and technical meetings. If your training budget is tight the Gear Technology online archives are full of helpful articles. It has never been easier to acquire the gear knowledge you need.

Disneyland for Engineers

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)

After living in the Chicago area for 10 years I have made peace with the congestion, high prices, long commute times and crazy sports fans. There are even some things I love about the place, like its two convenient airports and hundreds of flights per day to just about anywhere on earth. For a consulting engineer it is an ideal location; lots of local gear shops and an affordable flight to everywhere else.

But perhaps my favorite thing about Chicago only happens every other year. At great expense and inconvenience the machine tool industry builds an amusement park for engineers down at McCormick Place. The International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) brings every imaginable type of technology to the Lake Michigan shore for our entertainment and education.

Every machine tool builder you have ever heard of and many you haven’t will bring their best current thinking to town and allow you to see it close up. In many cases you even get to see it making sample parts. Most booths are staffed with knowledgeable people who can explain what is going on and suggest ways it can improve your product.

As a young engineer it was such a treat to get out of the office, pile into a car with my betters, and drive from Milwaukee for my first IMTS. Several years I actually went job hunting at IMTS and later conducted job interviews there for clients. People from all over the world attend  the IMTS, each with their own agenda. One thing that unites them is an appreciation for fine machine tools and advancing technology.

So don’t let the traffic scare you. Wear comfortable shoes and pace yourself. But don’t miss IMTS 2014, September 8-13, at McCormick Place in Chicago. Gear Technology and Power Transmission Engineering will be in Booth N-7214 all week. We’d enjoy meeting you and getting feedback on the blog and the magazines.