February 16, 2024
[starbox]Social media allows us to keep in touch with a much wider range of people than ever before. Recently one of my wife’s cousins posted a copy of her eight-year-old son’s spelling homework. It included the word “hob” — which I thought was somewhat unusual for a third grader. I commented that little Nate might have a future in the gear business like Cousin Charlie. Nate’s father and uncles, both engineers, liked that idea. Somewhere out there — in our elementary schools, middle schools, high schools and universities — are the future leaders of our industry. A very lucky few of them are growing up in “gear families.” This was not always the case. During my apprentice years at Falk, I was often asked who else from my family worked “in the valley.” It was apparently the same at other large gear companies around the country. The late Peter Borish, CEO of Milwaukee Gear at the time and a third-generation “gear guy,” once delegated me to work with a group of public school teachers on a curriculum that introduced children to gears at an early age. We had a few meetings, gave tours, kicked around a few ideas, and concluded there just wasn’t enough time in an already packed school day for gears. Kids once learned about mechanical things through the family’s automobile or household equipment problems. We’ve improved those things so much that a child could graduate from college without a single transmission failure or furnace repair. With shrinking manufacturing jobs, they might never meet a machinist or gear engineer either. We are in danger of becoming a semi-secret club unless changes are made. Even those newspaper photos of dozens of people standing inside a big gear won’t happen again. In the not-so-distant future young Nate may never read an actual newspaper, and that big gear may no longer be in service. So how are we going to inform boys and girls about what a cool club we have? Post pictures of llamas pulling carts full of gears on the Internet?