Some months ago I got a call from a young engineer asking how he could get into the consulting business. It was a flattering call but a rather tough question to answer. As mentioned in a previous post, the American gear industry does not require a doctorate to be a consultant. While we have a professional engineer licensing system — I am a licensed PE in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania — it is more concerned with keeping civil engineers and surveyors compliant with the appropriate statutes. We have relatively few academics active in our trade compared to other countries. Those we have, of course, are greatly appreciated.
So how do you become a gear expert? If you look at the backgrounds of Gear Technology’s volunteer technical editors, you’ll find that all of them have been active in the trade for many years, have served on AGMA committees, and continue to participate in solving gear problems. I was invited to join this group in 2004 after 33 years in the gear industry.
On a humorous note, I can remember the first time I was referred to as a “gear expert.” In January of 1979 I found myself working for Cone Drive/D.O. James in Traverse City, Michigan after eight wonderful years at Falk. The second Monday on the job I arrived at the office to discover that the remaining D.O. James engineers had left the company on Saturday. I got this news when a shop foreman showed up at my desk with a problem. He had been told by the shop supervisor to “go see the new gear expert.”
I had never been involved in figuring change gears before but could hardly admit it in front of my new co-workers, Fortunately I was able to find an operator’s manual for that particular hobbing machine and a battered copy of the MAAG change gear tables. It was the first of many “problems” I couldn’t delegate and it set the pattern for my growth as a gear engineer. You don’t become an expert dodging trouble; you have to wade into it and reason your way out of the swamp.
My co-workers and mentors were very supportive of the process. They were great about asking lots of questions and testing the answers. The first answer wasn’t always the best answer and I have a few scars to prove it. At Gear Technology our “Ask the Expert” feature is designed to minimize the number of scars you collect, too. We want you to succeed in your effort to be a gear expert, too.
Here are some links to recent “Ask the Expert” columns that have appeared in the magazine: