It is Nagging Time Again

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 first posts of this blog encouraged participation in AGMA’s Fall Technical Meeting (FTM) “paper” program. Our magazine reprints many AGMA papers and, increasingly, from other international technical conferences. Without people stepping up to write and present papers, we will run short of content.

For 2015, the FTM abstracts will only be accepted electronically. Applications for this year close on January 15. I am taking a year or two off after presenting my fourth paper last year. Through this blog I offer coaching services to anyone who wants to submit an abstract this year or for 2016. We as an industry need new people up at that podium. It isn’t as difficult as you think and the long-term benefits to your career will be worth the effort.

Your topic doesn’t have to be groundbreaking; for example, new approaches to common problems are welcome. Proprietary information and “sales pitches” are not. If you’ve worked hard on understanding a particular area of gear technology or manufacturing, this is a great way to share the wealth. Has your company invested in new machinery, such as water jet cutting or wire EDM, and applied it to gearing in a unique way? Why not use FTM to alert potential customers? Have some advice on material selection or lab results you can share? This is the way to get the discussion started.

The AGMA website (www.agma.org) has instructions on submitting an abstract. For those not in a position to present a paper there is an ongoing need for people to help with peer reviews.

If you’d like some coaching on your paper, please contact me via e-mail (gearmanx52@gmail.com). There is no charge for this service, although I do expect you to “pay it forward” in the coming years. We all benefit from an engaged and well-informed gear community. Gear Technology has been dedicated to that goal for over 30 years.

It’s All About Context

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 was one of those kids that loved reading the dictionary to learn new words, and that interest has continued into my golden years. The gear trade has its own unique lexicon of terms, as does engineering in general. One of the cool things is the different meanings words take on due to their context.

This came to mind in church Sunday morning when we sang a hymn about being “free from sin’s alloy.” Like most of you, I am a big fan of alloys since we learned over the centuries that “pure” metals are weaker than those with the proper recipe of additives. While theologians and jewelers might think purity is a desirable goal, we mechanical engineers prefer the higher strength of a well-tested alloy.

Another word that needs context is “stress.” It can be just a point of emphasis or a deadly combination of events in your personal life. We engineers realize it is everywhere there is a “load” and work hard to quantify it, measure it, and make sure it is less than the “allowable.”

No wonder our “civilian” associates think we are a strange breed; we do speak a different language and have a much different view of the world. The smarter ones appreciate that without inquisitive tinkers, scientists, and engineers they’d still be beating their clothes against rocks in a stream.

At Marquette University, where I attended, there was a longstanding but good-natured joke war between the engineering and business administration schools. Several times a semester, mimeographed (boy, am I dating myself with that) “newspapers” would appear in the school’s lobbies with humorous shots at the other group. I have kept some of them for over 40 years and still find them funny.

Any of you have a favorite engineer/accountant/salesman or even lawyer joke you want to share? Send it to us and I’ll see that it gets into a blog posting.

Another Year Passes

2015 Happy New Year Strands Line Glow Dark Background

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 a child, I was usually disappointed with New Year’s. Even if I managed to stay awake until Midnight, it was still the same old life, the same lousy winter weather, and the same re-start of school at 12:01 AM as it was two minutes earlier. I am slightly less disillusioned these days as I realize the “magic” of New Year’s depends upon how much effort you put into it — much like New Year’s resolutions, I guess.

If you just go through the motions, don’t really commit yourself to the effort, no real change can or will take place. Last year, about this time, the idea of writing a Gear Technology blog was proposed to me. It seemed like a good way to get some name recognition, so I quickly agreed. We’ve been at it two or three times a week since then.

Not every posting has been memorable, but overall I am proud of the first year’s effort. It is difficult to come up with something topical twice a week; even tougher if you want it to be witty and of interest to the gear community. The second year won’t be any easier, but I look forward to the challenge.

What does any of this have to do with you? You probably aren’t writing a blog, but you, too, will go back to work after the New Year with challenges. Whatever your assigned duties are, I’d like you to stretch a bit. Work on your “name recognition” within your firm — and outside it too. Pick some task or activity where you think you can contribute just a bit more. Pick up a new skill. Volunteer for some training. Whether it is learning to estimate, mastering a new order entry system, or becoming a Scout leader, make a change in 2015. You’ll be glad 365 days from now.

Anticipation

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)

 

A lasting memory from childhood is how long it took for future events to occur. We started looking forward to Christmas when the Sears catalog arrived in late October, and it seemed like forever until the Big Day finally arrived. The same thing happened with summer vacation, except there was no catalog to moon over.

Time seems to speed up as we age; now the months fly by like some 1940s movie technique to alert the viewer to a change in time. Our family does not have any youngsters around at the moment, so the year-end holidays have been somewhat dull of late.

That doesn’t mean we aren’t enjoying the holiday decorations and celebrations, though. Instead of an early start on gift opening we’re sleeping in and watching favorite movies late into the night.

I prefer to think of it as recharging our batteries for a big 2015. Hopefully you have enjoyed 2014 and are already full of plans for a better new year. Holiday “down time” is a wonderful opportunity to anticipate the exciting days ahead. As Momma used to warn, “Anticipation is greater than realization.”

Or is it?

Holding Down the Fort

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)

With only a few days before the Holiday Break, gear shops big and small are diligently trying to get important projects completed. People with travel plans are studying weather reports and counting the hours until they can get going. Other employees have “drawn the short straw” and will be holding down the fort during the break.

My family moved around the country with my work, so when the children were young we alternated between cross-country trips to the grandparents and short visits by the grandparents to our home. Some road trips were more exciting than others; you never quite forget leaving home when it is -24F and not shutting the car off for 13 hours for fear it wouldn’t re-start.

But I have fond memories of the years I was “stuck” at the office with other people who had used up all their vacation days. We got some good work done, made friends we would otherwise have been too busy to make, and learned to do new things because there wasn’t anyone else around to do them. I appreciated the lack of supervision and the opportunity to get re-organized for the New Year. It was a wonderful chance to get busy on the quoting backlog too; empty IN baskets make for an interesting start to the year.

Younger employees shouldn’t consider “working the shutdown” to be a bad thing. Use the time wisely; try to make some new friends, and learn some new skills. Maybe read a good “gear” book or take an online AGMA course. You might enjoy being part of the skeleton crew more than you thought possible.

Recreating History

1912 fiat s76

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)


Thanks to the Internet we can enjoy a wide variety of “news” stories without leaving the comfort of our desks. For racing enthusiasts like me, the appearance of rare, “milestone” cars is likely to spark hours of discussion and bring out previously unknown photos and stories.

Recently, video surfaced of a giant 1914 vintage Fiat land-speed-record-car — known as “The Beast of Turin” — being fired up for the first time. The Type-S76 has a four-cylinder engine that displaces 1,729 cubic inches — or roughly ten times the size of the modern 3-liter automobile engine. The car was the result of decades of research and effort by enthusiasts working from original factory drawings and newspaper stories. The people involved were not easily discouraged and they have produced a wonderful example of automotive technology just before it abandoned the big and slow strategy of steam engines for the light and fast plan still followed today. (http://theoldmotor.com/?tag=the-beast-of-turin)

I have written before about the loss of historical artifacts from the gear industry. We haven’t been very sentimental about test pieces and equipment that were important in getting the trade to where it is today. It doesn’t help that our stuff tends to be big and bulky; the scrap drives of two world wars swept up every bit of metal not actively protected. Old computers and consumer electronics also get little collector respect; try to even give away a big cathode ray tube television set these days.

So I salute people who can muster the knowledge, energy, and discipline to pull off a project as big as The Beast of Turin. It is good to know there is a capability to start with little more than a newspaper story and scrap metal and end up with a functioning motor vehicle.

The “Friendly Skies” Rely Upon Friendly Passengers

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 haven’t flown much this year, so it was with some apprehension that I booked two trips in a single week recently. My wife warned me that I was overextending myself with an East Coast trip on Monday and Tuesday, followed up with a West Coast trip on Thursday and Friday. She was correct — of course — but not due to any fault of the air traffic system. (I could have caught this cold at the grocery store.)

It is easy to find fault with air travel; lots of little things can drive you crazy if you let them. A number of years ago I decided to lower my expectations and embrace an attitude of gratitude when I am in airports. That means putting a smile on my face — no matter how disappointing my seat assignment is; no matter how long the walk is to the gate; no matter how full the plane is.

I made this decision because nothing else would work. The system is too big, too complicated to respond to one upset passenger. Putting a smile on, thanking people for doing a decent job, and avoiding the vortex of anger that sometimes develops has not eliminated my travel problems.

But it has made the experience less stressful for me, which was the primary objective, after all. Occasionally it has gotten me a few perks, too; after volunteering my seat to a particularly boisterous travel diva on a weather-delayed LAX-to-ORD flight a few years ago, the counter agent sought me out for some free drink coupons and a first-class seat on the next plane.

That was a rare reward, though. Most of the time I have to settle for taking satisfaction in knowing that I’ve done my good turn for the day and maybe putting a smile on someone else’s face.

No — not as good as free drinks, perhaps; but worth the minimal effort required.

A Day That Changed 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)

I didn’t start working in the gear business until 1971, but the events of 30 years earlier affected me from the moment I walked into the employment office. The people interviewing me and making decisions about my career were shaped by the Day That Will Live in Infamy. They looked at each potential employee as if they were someone they might have to go into battle with.

Once you got past the employment office and into the shop, most of the journeymen who trained you were also vets. They didn’t talk about it a lot; one or two asked where my father or uncles served in “the big one.” They typically only asked where — not if — because the shared experience was that universal.

Even our equipment had “served;” you could tell the “war vintage”-machines from the pre-war- and post-war-machines by the reduced concern for cosmetics. The castings were a bit rougher, for example, or the manufacturer’s logo had not been sharpened with a die grinder. Some of those machines are still making chips today.

This wasn’t just in Milwaukee. In Chicago, some buildings still have “Government Property” on display. Further evidence of the war can be found in the buildings themselves. Metal was in short supply both during and after the conflict, so roof trusses were made in wood — of the (pre-war) angle iron and (post-war) c-channel material — yet nevertheless beautifully and soundly made.

This morning the Internet has stories of the last official reunion of the USS Arizona Survivors Association. After 73 years, the youngest survivors are no longer able to travel without risking their health.

A grateful nation cannot forget their service and the sacrifices of countless others. No matter what our problems are today, and we have a lot of them, the men and women who fought The Big One set an example of service we would be wise to follow.

Overcoming Adversity

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 last blog concerned project management and the problems of staying on schedule. I thought it only fair to pass on some techniques I learned along the way to get projects and parts moving again.

1.Be open to alternate materials.

Sometimes the start date of a component gets delayed because you can’t get the material required. It might be the size, chemistry, or pedigree that causes purchasing to come up empty. Can’t find “aircraft quality?” Read the specification; perhaps you can improve the rating of a commercial grade with extra testing or lab analysis. Blank size an issue? Re-examine those stock allowances or re-design the gearing to reduce the finish diameter enough to make what is available work. Chemistry limits are established to get core properties; sometimes an alternate grade will get the same results if you reduce the critical section with webs or a hole through the middle.

2.Be open to alternate processes.

We once had a project with such a tight deadline we couldn’t get hobs made in time. It was more expensive, but we learned wire EDM could cut the rough teeth just as well in a matter of hours — not weeks. Blew the budget, made the customer deadline, and got more business. Can’t get a fabrication in time? What about milling the part from a big chuck of steel or iron?

3.Be flexible with your design.

It isn’t as much of a problem today, thanks to CNC hobbers, but once upon a time we had a gear that none of our machines could cut due to change gear issues. An hour of playing with the geometry was all it took to develop an alternate tooth combination that we could cut. A similar situation often occurred with rolling element bearings before we wised up and located bearings earlier in our design process. That “alphabet soup” in a bearing number can blow up on you if aren’t careful.

4.Rework is your friend.

A wise boss once opined that “Anyone can make a good part the first time; it takes real craftsmanship to salvage one.” No matter how careful you and your crew are, parts will be damaged in manufacturing or come up short of acceptable at inspection. Good engineering can often get that “defective” item reworked into something better than the original requirements by chrome plating, repair welding, thread inserts, or re-heat treating. Remember that scene in Princess Bride about whether Wesley was “dead” or “dead-dead?” Don’t give up on critical components until you consider the rework options. Very few are “dead-dead.” Give your local Miracle Max a chance.

(We’re always looking for good project stories to share; the comments traffic has been light of late. CS)

Deadlines

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 have posted before about how much I enjoyed seeing my projects finally reach the shipping dock after months of sales negotiation, designing, manufacturing, assembly, and testing. With the calendar year ending soon, many of you are probably under a lot of pressure to get multiple projects across that “finish line.”

Unlike the artificial deadlines on various home remodeling and car restoration shows, gear shop “required by” dates can have a big impact on future orders and career trajectories. Over the years, I have made and missed shipment dates, and some of the lessons that got burned into my backside were:

1. Nothing is impossible for the person who doesn’t have to do the work.

Sales and management folks will make promises without knowing all the facts. The best time to address this issue is Day One; any time after that and you will have — in their minds — “bought into” the promise. My frustrated boss once sent me to a seminar called “Managing Technical Operations” — unaware of its secret subtitle — “Malicious Obedience.” The chief lesson of the seminar was “Never say no to management, but be sure to spell out the resources needed for success.”

2. You don’t get months behind all at once.

The concept of spelling out resources is great. But have you ever tried to use MicroSoft Project on a complex machine? Linking operations, specifying start dates, and tracking resource availability becomes more than a full-time job. A little slip in material delivery, a key machine being booked solid, even deer hunting season might not seem that big of a pothole at the time, but suddenly they combine to put you in a big, deep hole. It pays to determine critical components early and make sure they stay on schedule.

3. Keep the lines of communication to the customer open.

My first trip to Europe was an exhausting 36 hour round trip to take a “beating” for my project being behind schedule. The meeting wasn’t as bad as I feared, because people do respect you for showing up to personally be disciplined. At the wine bar later, when the big boss went to the water closet, my counterpart put his arm around my shoulder and thanked me for taking the hit. His half of the machine was much further behind ours, and if we hadshipped on time he might have lost his job. Since then I have become a proponent of honest schedule updates to the customer; i.e. — the best surprise is no surprise.

 

What lessons have you learned about project management?