Guys with gears loose.

Position:Enterprise Metrology Slueth

'I ... can ... do ... that.'

These four unimposing words, when strung together to make a simple declarative sentence (before actually thinking about the question at hand), can cause more trouble than you might ever imagine. Flowing so effortlessly between the lips, the words are gone in a micro second, typically to places from which they cannot be retrieved.

This is exactly what Joe Edwards, president of Smart Part Inspection, said to his best customer when he was asked if he could measure a box of gears for him. And why shouldn't he measure a box of gears and make his customer happy? After all, Edwards was a measurement wizard--so good that customers flocked to him when he left Parts R Us Manufacturing to start his own contract inspection business.

This customer, Shifty Equipment Corporation, was gearing up production for the third sales year of its wildly popular Trail Bounder Snowmobile. Orders were up, and fine-tuned manufacturing processes would insure more profitability. One thing they did was to reduce costs by contracting alternate sources for the gearing used in these peppy babies.

Unfortunately, some of the transmission assemblies made from these new gears were producing a barely audible but distinctly disconcerting grinding sound not heard in previous years. Both of the new offshore gear suppliers insisted, through a translator, that their gears were not the source of the problem.

Eager to please, however, each would be more than happy to correct any out-of-spec (or even in-spec) variation that might be causing the problem. They just needed to be told--not in a foreign language, but gear language--exactly what the problem was.

So Edwards returned to his shop with a box of gears--new ones and ones used in the previous years' production, as well as an armload of prints. He promptly deposited these on the CMM table of his best measurement technician.

"You have a loose gear or something?" groused the technician. "I don't know how to measure these, let alone generate the evaluation reports."

The boss countered: "Surely you, who routinely measures aerospace components, intricate medical devices, and unforgiving fuel injection units are not going to be flustered by a few simple gears. You have a fine high-accuracy CMM; exceptional, multi-faceted CAD-based measurement software; and you're smart like a fox. You can measure anything you set your mind to."

Not wanting to disagree with his boss, the technician said, "I can do that."

So he...

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