Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Problem of Expansion...

     In his life, my Dad wore a lot of "hats"... Civil Engineer; Carpenter; Auto Restorer; Boat Captain; Fine Wood Boat Repairs... and probably more than I can remember or knew of.  He was one of those creative souls that could see what others could not.  Who could take an idea and run with it.  Someone who when faced with a problem, always found a way to solve it.  If there wasn't a piece of equipment, or a tool that could do what he needed to do... he'd make it.
Uncle Ron (L) and Dad (R) and two of their favorite hats.

     After he retired from the military, he tinkered here and there doing things he enjoyed, and as word of his carpentry skills spread, he set up a web page to showcase his work.  That page has long been shut down, but I have the printouts of the pages that I will start to share over the next several weeks.  I was talking about my dad yesterday at work ... really not even sure how it came up now ... but I shared two articles with one of my supervisors.  One of them, which I will paraphrase below, was the first article he wrote back in 1966 (?) about a problem he faced with a building that needed structural repairs.

     The thing I really love about reading my Dad's article from that time is just tapping into his creative thinking... his "outside-the-box" thinking... and I know where I got mine from. {emphasis below is mine}

The Problem of Expansion
by Capt Rodger C. Clarke

     Occasionally, in our rush to "scientific management," we tend to forget that in our shops we have a wealth of experience and vast resource of capability.  Recently, Turner AFB, Georgia, was confronted with a problem that, at first glance, seemed impossible to remedy without expending a large amount of money.  It was solved however, at relatively low cost by the ingenuity of the shop personnel and by the willingness of management to deviate a little from the orthodox.

Building Walls Were Falling
     The Missile Maintenance Shop was constructed in 1962 at a cost of $358,760.  Construction consisted of a steel frame industrial type building with sheet metal siding above a four foot wall of eight inch concrete block.  The building was constructed on a wide expanse of abandoned airfield apron which provided ready made parking and accessibility to the new shop.  In August 1965, after three years of service, it became apparent that the walls of the building were failing.  The block walls leaned out at the top, and only the sheet metal siding, bolted to the lintel on the concrete wall, prevented the walls from collapsing.  The damaged portion of the walls was 80 feet long on one side and 120 feet on the other. ... It did not seem possible that a concrete block wall would bend, but this one did.
     The Corps of Engineers assessed the damage and quoted a price of $10,000 to make the necessary repairs and they required an additional $2,000 for design, making a total of $12,000 for the project.
Unorthodox Solution Presented
     At this point, an unorthodox solution was presented.  If the wall would bend out without breaking up, then why not just push it back in where it belonged?  Naturally there were those who said it couldn't be done, but it was decided to try this method. ... The job estimate of $1,900 was based on intuition more than anything else.
     ... The set up took approximately one and a half days with an average work force of five men.  Pushing the wall into place took 15 minutes with two men.
     The job cost the Air Force $1,928.69.  The result was a firm wall with a foundation stronger than the original.  Savings to the government based on the Corps' estimate were $10,071.31.  The benefits derived, however, are not confined to the monetary savings, nor the renewed appearance of the facility.  A more important benefit was the feeling of accomplishment on the part of individuals participating in the project.  This job contributed immeasurably to the morale of the organization.
     A number of lessons can be learned from this project. First is the technical aspect.  ... Another lesson, and probably the most important one, is a lesson in management.  This lesson is something that every manager has recognized either in formal training or in the field.  In our rush to scientific management we tend to forget and need periodic reminding that the ability of any organization is only limited by the combined ability of all the members.  A book that defines and makes use of all these capabilities has not yet been written.
     ... Management must be forever open and receptive to ideas and suggestions.  Further, it must seek suggestions and ideas on particular problems.  Managers must know their people and their individual capabilities.  When necessary, management should seek out skills and experience not reflected on unit manning documents.  Growth and sophistication can result in loss of individualism.  The organization becomes a machine listing of numbers designating crafts and skill levels, grades and authorization, and is expected to function and produce in the same manner as the machine that produced the list.  The larger the organization, the harder management should work to take advantage of the individual capabilities regardless of how impersonal the management system may appear.  Management may be impersonal but managers should not.

Scientific Management Stressed
     ... There is always room for ingenuity, not only at the craftsman level, but at the management level also.  Running the civil engineering function by the book is necessary and justified, but letting the book run Air Force Civil Engineering is as wrong as bombing the next Operational Readiness Inspection.

     That was my dad.  Rabble rouser and out-of-the-box thinker.  I'm just like him, too.

1 comment:

  1. Jealous, jealous, jealous. My father also thought outside of the box but sadly I don't seem to have inherited that trait. I appreciate it and enjoy it in others though.


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