October 5, 2023
[starbox]Last week’s blog on the Century of AGMA Timeline brought to mind a humorous story of our now adult daughter’s first “play store” set. If you’ve had children you are probably familiar with these cardboard miniature checkout counters. I thought three was a bit young for indoctrination into the retail trade, and pointed out that she was completely ignoring the cardboard cash register and play money. My spouse just laughed and suggested I watch more closely. Sure enough, Samantha was employing up-to-date check out technology; each item crossing in front of her generated a “beep” and she only accepted debit cards from her playmates. The AGMA timeline will no doubt be filled with product introductions and memorable standard adaptations. I think this misses some very transformative moments in the gear trade. By “transformative” I mean changes that permanently changed the way we do business. A good example is the pocket calculator. We went from slide rules and logarithms to pocket calculators in less than two years. My first calculator cost more than my first car! $495 was almost a month’s pay for an apprentice in 1972 but you just couldn’t keep up without one. Calculator features changed monthly and we were all envious of the person with the latest and greatest model. The advent of the personal computer and general purpose spreadsheets made even high-end calculators passé. If you ever had to figure out change gears for a hobbing machine manually, with a reference book of four and six “gear ratios,” you quickly became a fan of calculators and later personal computers. Another “game changer” on the production side of our trade was the coating of cutting tools. Many of us were skeptical that a “gold” layer on a hob or shaper cutter could permit doubling the machines productivity. In less than 18 months it was impossible to deny the improvement; hob order quantities plummeted at high-production shops and lower-volume firms struggled with how to factor the “cost savings” into their prices.