Moving Targets

Before we move on from the topic of role model/mentors and their students, I think it is important to note just how fast our industry is changing. What was once a collection of “cottage industries” has in less than 50 years become a vibrant global market place of ideas and products.

If you let people work on the same “problem” long enough, the “answers” converge on a common solution. Motor vehicles, for example, are much more difficult to sort out than they were even ten years ago. No matter where they are manufactured, all must pass the same basic safety and performance tests.

This means that if one company decides to “cheat” on emissions tests, competitors have to follow them down that same dark path or somehow tell the authorities what is going on.

The last major product line I personally designed was mistaken for “private labeled” imported gearboxes because of that “common problem” situation. When you look at the available sizes of electric motors and the range of couplings on offer, the rating equations “drive” you into a solution much like your competitors reach. Getting “better mousetraps” accepted in the market place is much more difficult that it once was.

In the context of teachers and students this means humility has to be the default position. The “how” of performing certain tasks can be transferred form one to the other just as before. The “why” of gear design has been a moving target for a number of years and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. Manufacturing methods are changing. Analysis techniques are getting better and faster. The requirements of the regulators and customers will change.

Teachers have to continue to teach how things have been done in the past. Students cannot expect to make big breakthroughs if the do not know their history. We all have to remember that many supposed “better mousetraps” have crashed and burned. Very few of us commute on Segways. Any number of unique motor vehicles, starting with the cooper cooled Chevrolet of the early 1920s continuing through the rotary engines of the 1970s, have come and gone. So let’s add a bit of skepticism to that humble starting point.

The more you know about your “business” the better prepared you will be to react to the changes in standards, manufacturing methods, and customer expectations. We will do our part by bringing you “cutting edge” technical papers; it is up to you to read them and figure out how that information affects your work.

About Charles D. Schultz 678 Articles
Charles D. Schultz is President of Beyta Gear Service and one of Gear Technology's technical editors.