Last week our 72″ grinder broke down. The main bearing assembly failed. This massive machine required hoists and forklifts to dissemble and get to the bearings. We are chronicling the repair on our face book page. Our maintenance team had to create tools and procedures just to get to the bearings. We have another 72″ grinder but this has been a challenge for our production schedule. The 72″ grinders run almost constantly which is now 7 days a week. As we run around frustrated that the machine failed, I stepped back and am amazed it didn’t fail sooner. No current employee remembers the main bearing ever failing on this machine. It has been in service over forty years and ran constantly. The massive wheels turning every day. It is truly a piece of engineering genius that the machine hasn’t failed sooner. We take for granted things always work. We don’t give credit to the engineers and manufacturing quality that keeps things running as they do.
Early mornings I often sit outside Ebsco, with a cup of coffee and greet our team members coming to work. I see them drive into the parking lot with new cars and old. In cold and snow, in heat and rain they always show up. Last week I sat and wondered if any of them appreciated these cars and trucks that carry them around. At 5:oo am they climb in their vehicles, in any weather, put the key in and expect them to go. They turn on heaters or air conditioners. In some they roll down electric window and hear the automatic doors lock. They turn on radios and electrically adjust seats. They buckle automatic tension safety harnesses (seat belts). They go, they stop. The vehicle reaches any speed they desire with much more to offer. The transmission automatically shifts from gear to gear allowing them to smoothly reach their destination. No one actually thinks of what is happening to make these things happen. Our Great Expectation is that it all just works. We are amazed and upset when something fails.
Think about what is happening. As you turn the key, current form the battery is allowed to travel to the starter motor. The starter motor turns, engaging the flywheel on your engine and begins turning the entire engine. Gas travels from the tank into the fuel system, is mixed with air and enters the cylinders at the exact right time. The cylinders, all in concert begin their process. Pulling in fuel when the piston goes down, valves open to allow the fuel into the cylinder. The valve closes and the piston travels up to compress the fuel. At the precise moment the piston reaches the top, an electrical charge travels to the spark plug-in that cylinder, the current jumps across the plug ends and the fuel in the cylinder explodes, pushing the piston back down creating the power to move the vehicle. Another valve opens as the piston moves back up, allowing the burnt fuel to escape, move through the catalytic converter to be scrubbed and out the exhaust. This happen in every cylinder in the vehicle thousands of time per minute, in perfect synchronization, creating the force to turn the wheels and make the car go. It’s amazing! That doesn’t even include the cooling system, the charging system, the transmission, and all of the other things happening several thousand times per minute in perfect coordination. New cars are talking to us and even listening and responding to what we say. They know where we are and direct us to our locations. They monitor where we are on the road and keeps us in our lane and stop us if we are approaching too closely to the car ahead. They are even parallel parking themselves. With all of this happening we simply get in and expect it all to work.
Since I am in the spring business I think about all of the springs in our cars. The valve spring that make the valves work down to the tiny springs on the controls in your dash. There are thousand of them and if they break things don’t work. Yet they do work and they do it over and over and over again. Each of those springs went through several manufacturing processes to insure they work properly again and again. That is just the springs, one of thousands of little components that make up your car, anyone of them failing and things just don’t work. Yet we jump in and expect every one of them to work, every time. Great Expectations.
In the future they say that cars will all “talk” to one another and adjust speed and lanes to allow all cars to work in perfect harmony on the roads. They will basically drive themselves. The technology is already here. I am not looking forward to this as I love to drive. I still marvel over cars and what they are capable of. I imagine years ago a few men felt the same way about loosing their horse to the automobile. They loved their relationship with the horse and didn’t trust these new contraptions. I do trust the coming technology but will miss the feeling of control and the happiness I feel behind the wheel. I think, after a short time people will simply get in their new vehicles and expect them to safely drive them to their destination. No wonder at the technology and craftsmanship in their vehicles.
We are a world that expects things to work. We take for granted the ingenuity and quality that provides this reliability we take for granted. Charles Lindbergh, flying the Spirit of St. Louis on the first Atlantic plane crossing, began calculating all of the functions his engine completed every hour on his journey. He did this to help him stay awake. He was terrified after realizing everything the engine had to do, every minute, for every hour of his flight. It seemed impossible. It happened, and Charles Lindbergh became part of history.
So next time you jump in your car to hurry off to the mall, stop a minute and appreciate everything that has gone into your vehicle. The engineers that designed it and the manufacturers that built it. The robots that helped assemble it and the service reps. that keep it going. It took hundreds and over the years thousands of people to reach your Great Expectation of turn the key and go.
Now if you will excuse me I think I am going to get in my car and take a drive.