Fenestration Fundamentals October 2020

July 27th, 2021 by Nathan Hobbs

Paying Attention: It’s the Minor Details That Often Help to Prevent Defeat

By Mike Burk

In 1951, when baseball was celebrating the 50th anniversary of the American League, Bill Veeck, then an actor and promoter, purchased the St. Louis Browns. Veeck called it “a moment of madness.” In an act of desperation to bring fans to the ballpark, Veeck decided to throw a birthday party for the American League and the Browns radio sponsor, Falstaff Brewery.

As some might remember, Veeck is best known for signing and bringing to bat that day a pinch hitter: Eddie Gaedel. Eddie was 3-foot-7-inches tall and weighed just 65 pounds. As he went into his batting crouch, his strike zone was measured at 1-½ inches.

As Veeck expected, Bobby Cain, the pitcher for the Detroit Tigers, walked Gaedel on four straight pitches. Gaedel took first base where he was quickly replaced by pinch runner, Jim Delsing.

No one could imagine how Veeck managed to plan this without it leaking to the press or public. He did give some clues—the Browns passed out small, salt and pepper shakers shaped like beer bottles as souvenirs of the day. Veeck wrote that the bottles were a “subtlety which managed to elude everybody completely.” Veeck was also surprised that no one payed the slightest attention to the scorecard listing number “1/8 Gaedel.”

Staying Plugged In

We are all guilty of not noticing subtle changes in our daily lives. When it comes to doors, windows and insulating glass, it’s difficult to notice small changes when we are manufacturing hundreds if not thousands of units each day. But we need to remain aware and watch for any subtle changes.

The constant vibration of machinery can cause changes in positioning apparatus. If we ignore those small changes, they will become big problems that suddenly stop production. The size of components may slowly change until they are too big or too small to be used. Even when everything appears to be running well, we need to make required quality inspections.

Other subtle changes include process heating temperatures, which may slowly increase or decrease until sealants and adhesives become too thick or too thin for correct application or performance. Another area includes personal protective equipment (PPE). Wear-and-tear from the daily use can make gear ineffective. Inspect handling equipment on a regular basis. Look closely for small changes in hoists, suction cups and straps to prevent an accident. Report push-buttons, stops and other operator interfaces that may take more than one push to actuate. This may be an indication of an impending equipment issue that could lead to damage or injury.

The words of Peter Senge in his book first published thirty years ago, “The Fifth Discipline,” still ring true today. In 1990, Senge wrote “Learning to see slow, gradual processes requires slowing down our frantic pace and paying attention to the subtle as well as the dramatic.” In many ways, it’s about seeing the subtle to prevent the dramatic.

Bill Veeck gave fans a few subtle clues about what was about to happen that day in 1951, but none of the fans slowed down or payed attention. As Veeck wrote, look for the clues to elude everybody completely.

Mike Burk is the North American technical representative for Sparklike.

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