Preserving Gear History

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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)

One of the initiatives now in progress since the close of the American Gear Manufacturers Association (AGMA) 2014 Fall FTM was building a detailed timeline of the organization’s history since its founding in 1916. The goal is complete it in time for the 2015 FTM — and Gear Expo — in Detroit next October. Sadly, many people who could have contributed to this effort are no longer available for interviews.

I have previously commented on how rapidly I have gone from new guy at AGMA meetings in 1979 to old geezer today. So many questions I should have asked the great engineers I met at those meetings are now moot. We, as an industry, never valued our history; and so countless important papers, products and artifacts have been lost to careless archiving and the trash man.

Just one example: as an apprentice in 1971, I physically moved the huge tooth used to develop AGMA’s gear bending strength formula from storage to the foundry scrap pile. I only know it was an historic artifact because Walter Schmitter’s son Bob was my foreman that day and he gave the orders for it to be melted down. There simply was no “value” in old test pieces back then, and no repository to park them in until interest renewed.

Many of you work, or worked, with industry icons and didn’t know it. Your company may have been the first to make a particular product, or to have used a particular manufacturing technique. Perhaps you have an old cut-a-way model gathering dust in a store room or a scrapbook of company activities floating around.

Now is the ideal time to ask questions of those old-timers. Put aside false modesty and tout your firm’s contribution to our industry. It was great to see the founding of Gear Technology magazine prominently featured on the initial draft of the Timeline. We’ll be doing our part to search the archives and add milestones when we uncover them. If you uncover an interesting “gear story,” let us know and we’ll feature it here in the blog.

Fall Technical Meeting Report

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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)

Since 1980 the American Gear Manufacturers Association (AGMA) has hosted a Fall Technical Meeting (FTM), where the industry gathers to listen to papers presented by leading engineers and researchers. Since its start in 1984, Gear Technology magazine has been publishing some of those papers — and giving them an even wider audience.

This year’s FTM was held in Arlington, Virginia, close to the association’s headquarters and our country’s beautiful capitol city. Once again the AGMA technical staff organized a great slate of papers, and the meeting room was full of familiar faces — plus many new ones. The FTM has become a “must attend” event for many people in the industry.

It was my privilege to present a paper on high contact ratio gearing, recounting my conversion from skeptic to advocate over the course of 30 years. Hopefully the paper will find its way into GT in 2015; if not, you’ll be able to find it on my website in a few weeks.

The 2015 FTM call for papers has already gone out. Starting this year, the entire process will be electronic; details are at the AGMA website. Papers need not be groundbreaking research; my paper hinges upon a tooth form first published in 1935! For those of you who are interested in writing a paper, but wonder if your idea is “good enough,” I will be happy to correspond with you and offer editing and technical support.

Of particular interest to me are papers on selecting the best material for a part; on fixing parts with grind steps or grind temper; and on techniques to improve tooth flank surface finish. If you have a water jet cutting machine or a modern CNC gear grinder, you are well positioned to help “solve” these problems.

We can no longer count on large corporate members to carry the bulk of the research load. But even small companies like mine can make an important contribution to the gear arts.

Why not get your outfit known on the international radar as a place for cutting-edge gears?

Publish or Perish

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 very first posting in this space was a call for papers for the 2013 AGMA Fall Technical Meeting. I had just gotten home from Arlington, Virginia, where my paper was one of over 20 added to the canon. Over the next year, many of those papers were published in Gear Technology and made available to online users via the magazine’s fully searchable archives. Unfortunately, not all AGMA papers from previous FTMs are available on-line, and some that are scanned in are not searchable. We, as an industry, owe a debt of gratitude to this magazine’s publisher and staff for going that extra mile to make the archives more user- and reader-friendly.

But my topic today is “Publish or Perish.” This phrase may be familiar to you in an academic setting, but if you are an engineer working today, it applies to you as well. Occasionally people will write to me seeking advice on becoming a consulting engineer. They aren’t very happy when I recommend a 20- or 30-year-long preparation period that involves public speaking and writing papers. Their eagerness to get started does not change the facts on the ground: you won’t be successful as a consultant without a demonstrated history of accomplishment and name recognition.

In other words, you have to build your “personal brand.” I got started on this in 1987, when my boss decided I should write a book on gears to hand out to customers. He pulled the funding about the time he laid me off, but I was able to get 20 job interviews from the 24 copies of the self-published book that my wife and I mailed out. Said book has been revised and expanded over the years, and it still helps me get work; you can get a free copy at the Beyta Gear Service web site (www.beytagear.com). Would I have preferred spending that “writing time” doing other things? Definitely; but I now consider it one of the best investments I ever made.

This was my fourth AGMA FTM paper, and they don’t get easier as you go along. It has been many years since member companies presented papers on their in-house research, so individual engineers must pick up the educational torch and advance our trade. If you make the effort you won’t regret it. Encouragement, advice, and even topic ideas are available if you ask around. Self-select as a technology leader.

The dividends will come to you over the years.

Not a Boys Club

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)


This is a belated post in support of the International Day of the Girl. Around the world girls have to risk abuse, sexual assault, and even death just to get an education. Here in the “civilized world,” they face additional roadblocks if they seek entry to scientific or engineering fields. This is illogical and wasteful of an incredible amount of human potential.

It has been my pleasure to work with some great engineers over the years who just happened to be women. One of the most prominent consulting engineers in the wind turbine gearbox field is a woman. The AGMA delegate to ISO is a woman. For many, many years, the primary, day-to-day technical contact for a large bevel gear company was a woman. We have some extremely talented women working in the “trenches” of the gear trade these days, and if we make a little bit more effort there will be more in the future.

I have written previously in this space about making an outreach to young people via internships for college students and classroom presentations to school children. Today I encourage you to think carefully before speaking to the young ladies in your life. Don’t chase them out of your garage or workshop. Let them get dirty alongside of you while you repair, tinker, remodel, or build. Let them know first-hand that engineering and mechanics have nothing to do with gender. Let’s stop discouraging half the brains on the planet from considering a career in technology.

In closing, I’d like to thank all the wonderful female engineers who put up with the hazing, pranks, and discouragement to join our ranks. We are lucky to have your often unique insights into this work. Hopefully the day is coming when ability and interest will be the primary factors in the selection of one’s life work.

Bad Career Moves

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 e-mail correspondent was worried about making a bad career move. Since it is unlikely that people starting out in the gear trade today will work for one company their entire career, worrying about making a “bad move” is valid. If you change jobs or employers to advance yourself, you will occasionally have regrets.

In 43 years I have worked for eight different companies, including my own. There were days when each and every one of them seemed like a career mistake, and there were days when each seemed like a dream job. Each assignment taught me something that I have applied elsewhere, so none of those jobs was a complete waste of time.

My biggest regret in moving around was the toll it took on my family. Fortunately my wife came from a family that relocated frequently and my now adult children considered the moves good preparation for “modern life.” All of us learned to adapt to new surroundings and make new friends quickly.

Coming back to my correspondent’s question of, “How can I tell if it’s going to be a bad career move?” the worst moves I made were made under the pressure of “needing” a new job. When you have bills to pay you can sometimes overlook warning signs. Leaving a “leaking ship” for a “sinking ship” is understandable when the situation is not clear.

My young friend pretty much answered his own question though. The way to avoid bad career moves is networking. Whether you need a new opportunity, are stagnant where you are, or aren’t sure if an opportunity is worth pursuing, the “answer” starts with networking.

Alumni groups, LinkedIn contacts, and friends in the industry are all good sources of opinions on your situation. Be careful to protect yourself from “word” getting back to your current company. I once learned my boss was trying to trade me to a customer for a “favor to be named later” and wasn’t sure what to do. It was awkward to discuss my career goals with him under those circumstances but eventually my work responsibilities were rearranged to better use my skill set.

The worst career move is leaving a job you enjoyed because you were afraid to ask your employer for a job you could love. Be the best gear guy or gear gal you can be and you might be amazed at what doors open up for you.

Spamsters be Damned — We’re Bloggin’ Here

 

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 anticipated, two-way dialog for this blog has been hampered by persistent spammers trying to scam their way onto the contact list. We wish there were a way to prevent this, but given the inability of even large corporations to prevent such shenanigans, it may become necessary to  simply consider these gadfly goofs the equivalent of moronic hecklers at a stand-up comedy show and ignore them.

Just keep in mind that if you have a comment to express, or a topic you would like addressed, the very best way to contact us is by e-mail. We’ll print questions and comments here if they are of general interest. Private details or requests will be omitted.

For instance, a young engineer e-mailed this past week looking for information on making his next career move. The details are not important, but the man’s question was exactly the sort of thing I’d like to discuss in this blog. Reader X was considering making a job change, but worried that the new position wouldn’t help him towards his goal of becoming a gear consultant.

Very few of us currently in the consulting trade got here because of a long-term plan. More often than not, “consultancy” started as interim employment or a way to keep active following retirement from a long career. It is not as highly compensated or steady an activity as most of us hoped it would be, but there is pleasure in being your own boss and in helping people solve problems.

The type of consulting you want to do will dictate the preparation needed. One common project is wading into partially done designs and sorting them out without hurting too many peoples’ feelings. You are part emergency responder, part educator, and part diplomat. The need for tact and the art of diplomacy arise from the need to resolve differences between different groups at the client firm.

There are many ways to prepare for such projects. Often the “gear engineering” is the least complicated part of the deal. You can memorize the AGMA standards applicable to the product in far less time than it takes to learn about the competitive landscape for the equipment.

Learning to “handle” difficult people is by far the most challenging part of consulting — almost as challenging as keeping a steady flow of projects.

Adding it All 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)


So now you’ve seen my “20 Questions” method for employee performance reviews. I’ll make the spreadsheet available through this blog; please use responsibly and give proper credit. By “responsible” use I mean adopting a level of transparency with your employees as to what you value and how you are going to measure it. I have been told that one multinational corporation rates all of its people as A-, B-, C-, or D-level performers, but never discloses to those employees what grade they got. Don’t be that corporation.

I am not advocating self-esteem camp where everyone gets a gold star and a pat on the head either. My system assigns points to each answer for the 20 questions and totals those points up. I don’t hide behind letter grades or grade on a curve either. In the PEAC system, if you get 51 points or less I advocate discharge before more damage is done to the organization or the employee’s mental health. Such a low score indicates a person ill- suited to their assignment who will likely be much happier doing something else.

If you get below 60 points, I rate you as a “fix-or-fire” employee. Frequently these low scores are another sign of a poor job “fit” or, if a recent phenomenon, personal issues that have to be dealt with. Fix-or-fire people need a short leash and some tough love. A definite “action plan” has to be dictated and lack cooperation with that plan needs to result in discharge.

Moving up on the scale, 60 to 69 points makes for a “trainable” employee. There are signs of interest here that can be nurtured into better performance in the future. Another type of action plan is required for “trainable” employees. Instead of being dictated, it has to be negotiated and agreed upon between the supervisor, employee, and the company. Provided the company follows through on its role in the plan, the employee can acquire the skills needed to become a long term team member.

The 70 to 79 point cohort are “keepers” in my book. Not everyone has to love their job. Those who are reliable performers in the office or shop shouldn’t live in fear that their livelihood is in danger if they don’t change. Good supervision may make them want to improve; there is nothing wrong with asking if they would like additional training or a different assignment. Tying salary increases to improvement is very fair too.

I rate the 80 to 89 point group as star performers. Think of them as the stars on a sports team. Their actions on a daily basis have much to do with how well the organization handles its business. Not enough stars — projects fall behind. These are the people you know you can count on and their compensation should reflect their importance to the team.

Those 90 to 100 point employees are the superstars of your squad. As high achievers they may be subject to bullying by co-workers; they might be a bit thin-skinned. Either way, every company needs a few superstars and they have to be carefully handled. But no matter how talented, some superstars are not a good “fit” for some teams. These guys and gals may be the most difficult people on the team, but the place wouldn’t be the same without them. Occasionally you have to ask that classic question:

“Are we better off with — or without them?”

Download My Handy Excel Worksheet to Calculate Review Scores

Creativity Makes Us Human

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 final quarter of my performance review system measures the creativity a person brings to their job. Some might argue that many jobs don’t require creativity; they just involve repetitious activity which is to be done as efficiently as possible. I firmly believe that creativity is what makes us human; to freely engage in work or play we need ways to make it “our own.” We’ve all run into that waiter or other service provider who brings such energy to their task that you remember the encounter in great detail. Contrast that to sullen people who just go through the motions.

The difference, in my mind, is a desire to learn new skills and apply those skills in different ways. Other people don’t like to learn anything. I prefer to be surrounded by those who are hungry to learn; they get five points in my system. Learning as an adult hinges on problem analysis skills; you have to recognize a need to learn something and figure out where and how to acquire that knowledge. I want my co-workers to say “We’re having trouble with “x;” where do I learn more about “x” rather than have them just shrug their shoulders and expect a solution to be given them.

Knowledgeable and motivated employees enjoy developing solutions to problems. They take pride in solving problems on their own rather than just bringing everything to the boss. Often this requires that they remember similar problems from the past and how those situations were resolved.

The last piece of the “creativity” quadrant measures co-worker’s inventiveness. My high scorers demonstrate unique abilities to apply lessons learned and historical results to new problems. Low scorers are just waiting around for someone to tell them what to do; or for time to run out on the day.

The next blog posting sums all of this up.

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?