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.

The Pitfalls of Quoting

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)


“What will this cost?” is often the most important question in whether a project can move forward. And it is a question every custom manufacturer and job shop hates to answer. I was blissfully ignorant of the costing/quoting/pricing problem for the first eight years of my career. Then a job change dropped me right in the middle of it with no opportunity to delegate it.

Fortunately a mentor was on hand to teach me that cost and price are not the same. Price can get you an order but cost determines whether you get to stay in business. He was quick to point out that occasionally you will make mistakes and “buy” a project that you will later regret. It could be a real high wire act without a safety net if you took too many shortcuts.

The tools available to estimate cost have greatly improved over the years. For example: we no longer have to dig through stacks of charts to find appropriate machining operations; computer programs and spread sheets can simulate part machining very accurately; material and bearing prices are all available over the Internet; and CAD layouts allow us to extract, scale, and review individual parts.

Yet this all still takes time, however. And it still requires that someone pull the costs together and put a price on the project. An old boss used to say, “Whoever talks money first loses.” Watch any reality TV show with negotiating and you can see his theory in action.

Unfortunately, to get projects you have to invest the time in quoting, and you run the risk of “leaving money on the table.” And people still get fired for underestimating costs or over promising on delivery. But you can get fired for not booking work too. No wonder it is so tough to get a quote from some people.

I encourage my clients to give target prices to potential suppliers. Every project has a “no go” point on cost; why not share that information with your future partner? I say “partner” because that is what suppliers become if treated fairly. There is no point in extracting a low initial price that can’t be repeated for follow on orders.

The Challenge of Maintaining Excellence

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 blogged earlier about best-selling business books trumpeting rapid growth schemes rather than sustainable performance. Building a successful business is a real challenge; growing it is another, different challenge. And then there is the challenge of maintaining excellence over the long haul.

My work as a gear engineer has required several relocations, and sometimes my wife and I wonder about what happened to places we used to frequent. Recently things worked out for us to drive through an area we moved from 29 years ago — and last visited 28 years ago. I am happy to report the communities seem to have thrived — with lots of new roads, buildings, and recreational activities.

The highlight of our tour was a favorite custard stand from all those years ago. (For those unfamiliar with custard, think the best ice cream ever and double it.) It hasn’t become a regional or national chain, just a single location at a busy, much modified intersection in the middle of town. The parking lot is a bit bigger and there is a nice outdoor seating area now. Behind the counter is another generation of well-trained, friendly young teens. And the custard is everything we remembered it to be.

I have to admire the owners for having a vision, creating it, and keeping it going over a long period of time. That intersection was probably rebuilt several times over the years, with great disruption to their business. Forty years of dealing with minimum wage help? Imagine all the schedule shuffles for dances and football games!

Then I think about my many friends in the gear business. Some of you have enjoyed leadership with the same sort of vision and determination to keep going — no matter what the challenges. Others have, unfortunately, been unable to persevere through the difficulties of a changing marketplace.

No one writes books about maintaining a business. There are no talk show appearances for people who keep family businesses going, paying good wages for interesting work — despite the business cycle.

But maybe we can learn a few things from them anyway.

The Problem of Certainty

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)

In writing about unforeseen consequences there is a risk of inspiring such conservatism in design that the resulting product is no longer competitive. Henry Ford, for example hung on to cable-actuated brakes much longer than his competitors and only “converted” when it started to cost market share. As engineers we are comfortable with what we know — or think we know — and tend to avoid innovations until we have to.

In Henry’s case, “Solid steel, from pedal to wheel” was more than just an advertising slogan. His leadership in making better steel through the scientific study of alloying elements and their effect on material properties made steel a comfortable old friend. It worked well and he saw no advantage to changing. Until, of course, the force multiplication of hydraulics was demonstrated in the real world, and brake lining material improved to use that increased force. Not to mention self-adjusting brakes and vacuum power brake boosters. Improved highways made average speeds go up and Ford’s mechanical brakes couldn’t keep up.

It isn’t like hydraulic brakes were untested, either. Jimmy Murphy showed the world how good they were by beating all comers in the French Gran Prix of 1921, with a hydraulically braked Duesenberg race car. The Duesenberg Brothers had been using “juice brakes” since 1914 and were too busy to patent the concept. Imagine the riches that patent could have brought them! The innovation was rapidly adopted on production cars, but it took almost 20 years before Ford put them on its cars.

Our industry suffered through a similar story with the adoption of carburized and hardened gears. We fought a losing battle for almost 20 years by focusing on the potential problems and cost implication, while our international competitors worked diligently at understanding this “new” process and resolving the problems associated with it (e.g., heat treat distortion, low core hardness, case/core separation, scoring).

There are many applications where through-hardened gears continue to have their place. The objections raised by American manufacturers were real engineering problems at the start of the debate, but they sounded like sour grapes after 10 years or so. It is a moot point as to whether an earlier adoption of case-hardened technology might have saved American gear industry jobs as trade policy and machine tool technology were pointing towards lower head counts.

My point is simply this: Stay open to new materials, methods, and machinery. Study every bit of information you can find and don’t fall into the trap of overstating technical problems to make a commercial point.

Unforeseen Consequences

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)


For something that causes so much trouble for so many people, you would think there would be lots of consideration given to the unforeseen consequences of decisions. This topic came to mind after reading an article on how lucky baby boomers were to have survived to adulthood, given the dangerous behaviors we and our parents engaged in. Imagine trying to get approval to sell Lawn Jarts today!

At one time half the population smoked and they smoked everywhere. I recall people lighting up in church! Drunk driving? In my home state of Wisconsin it was almost a competitive sport. Seat belts? Who needed them!? Air bags? We don’t need no airbags! Just brace yourself against the dashboard.

I came to look for unforeseen consequences as part of my training in machine design. Assigned to “detail” custom machine parts for a crotchety old German engineer, I was expected to have a reason for every feature, dimension, and tolerance on a drawing.

Occasionally I would have to “fill in the blanks” on a section of the machine that did not interest the engineer. It might “only” be a pump drive or an access cover, but when I designed something not only did the usual drawing review questions get asked, but another level of query appeared.

And that level was “What if this happens?” We have all heard the horror stories of engine mounts needing to be disconnected to change spark plugs; my “teacher” was all over those situations — way back in 1971. Insuring maintenance access, planning for fast repairs and replacements, and anticipating operator abuse were among the things he was concerned with. Just having lifting holes, access holes, or jackscrew holes in the correct places can shave hours off critical repairs — at almost no additional cost.

I have used this multilevel questioning on myself and my “students” over the years with excellent results. Those instances where we lost focus and skipped design reviews were where we often had expensive rework to do, or spent more time in assembly and test. It is better to spend three hours in design review in an air conditioned office than a long weekend fixing something on a field service trip.