Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Don't worry friend

We were starting up a new recycler last week for my day job.

It was at a family run business where I really liked the owners and I really wanted our recycler to hit a home run for them.

They had rented a demo recycler for a few weeks prior but I hadn't seen it run except for an intro visit of an hour or so right after installation.

The people at the heart of this company are very widely known and respected in metalworking circles regionally. They're earning work back from China, for goodness sake. Smart, friendly and ultimately, great people. I really wanted our system to work right out of the box.

We ran short on fluids to start up the recycler so a bunch of us - OK, I went along - thought it would be a great idea to get those old barrels of spent metalworking coolant, saved up since who knows when. What came out was coolant the color of Hershey's chocolate. The only visible color was the color of oil. Mind you, the original coolant is day glow pink.

I watched this happen through the lens of my camera. I was trying to take some PR pix and was standing on a ladder shooting down. Instantly the perfect photo op turned into tragedy. The whole recycler seemed to go into spasm, and oil erupted everywhere.

I needed this to work for these people and it was going to hell. I walked out the truck doors to gather up, when I saw the owner walking toward me. He looked pretty concerned and I was feeling worse.

When he got close, he stopped and smiled. He put his arm on my shoulder and said, "Don't worry, friend. We do this to your equipment all the time." A group of workers nearby all agreed, smiling, hoping to console me. One of these guys chimed in "You should see what we do to your equipment when you're not here!"

A day later all the oil had been captured and they were moving bright pink coolant back into production. From a waste problem, back into production.

The real lesson is to deliver solutions that kill the problem, not just mitigate it.

Then, whenever the crunch hits, just remember, "don't worry friend".

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