Tribal Memory

What a treat it has been to spend a few days with a group of young process engineers; sharing lessons learned alongside other gear industry veterans is more fun than you can imagine. The students were from all over the country and a variety of market segments. Their experience ranged from two months to thirty years. Several did not have engineering or machine shop backgrounds but found themselves responsible for planning operation sequences or estimating costs.

Another common factor in their attendance was the loss of “tribal memory” at their companies. Retirements and reductions in the workforce have taken a terrible toll on our trade, and I was happy to assist in filling in for their departed co-workers.

As much as we try to keep readers up to date by publishing at least two — usually three — technical articles in every issue of Gear Technology, the live exchange of information in an interactive environment is still the best way to learn many things. Students were able to interrupt and ask questions as they came to mind. Our team of experts was not shy about respectfully disagreeing when their own experience dictated a different “rule of thumb.”

I have been a bit of a crank in this blog about encouraging readers to write down their thoughts and experiences in our trade. Many of the wonderful people I have met in my career are no longer available to answer questions. There is still time for the rest of you to put your story on paper, tape, or into an electronic format.

There was a report recently about how our knowledge of Viking history and Norse mythology is the result of thousands of years of Icelandic storytelling. Apparently you had not really “arrived” as a Viking hero until you added an Icelander to your posse who would “sing your praises” for posterity. Don’t let your “tribe” be forgotten in the future because no one took the time to record it.

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