You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

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 ever a situation cried out for a short, texting-friendly acronym it is the unavoidable problem of “You don’t know what you don’t know — until it is too late to matter.”

I was reminded of this recently while making a presentation on surface temper inspection for a client.

For those who do not make carburized, hardened, and ground gears, surface temper inspection is a process to detect tooth surfaces that have been damaged during tooth flank grinding. Gear makers have been grinding gears for over 100 years, but surface temper inspection is a fairly recent development that gained traction following massive warranty claims in the wind energy market.

This is hardly the forum to discuss a highly technical topic, so I refer those of you with a need to know more on this subject to the reference books and standards. My intent in this posting is simply to get you thinking of areas in your operations where ignorance will result in the opposite of bliss.

When first asked about surface temper inspection, many manufacturers insist that it isn’t a concern as, “We never burn our gears.” If only that were true; the only people who “never” burn a gear are those who never check for grinding burn! The same can be said for claims that “We never have a heat treat problem.”

Unless you are diligently checking your process you cannot be certain you aren’t putting defects into service — defects that can ultimately cost you much more than a reliable inspection process.

It is typically very difficult to justify capital expenditures for non-revenue producing operations; but it is even more difficult to explain to customers, supervisors, and stakeholders how something you didn’t think was a potential problem could create such a big mess.

No one can anticipate every problem coming down the road. Nevertheless, we owe it to our team members to understand the potential risks of every operation and to make sure the proper safeguards are in place. This requires staying current on industry news via technical magazines such as Gear Technology, educational seminars, technical meetings, and trade shows.

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