By Dan Anderson
It's common for mechanics to bad-mouth engineers. We complain about nuts and bolts buried behind other components. We bust our knuckles on unnecessarily sharp edges in tight places. We disparage the mothers of engineers whenever our job is harder than it needs to be. But I have to admit that, overall, I'm pretty amazed and impressed by what engineers do.
For example, last week I worked on some Precision Planting seed meters, replacing fragment extractors and singulator assemblies. I took a moment to closely look at an extractor. Dang. Who figured out how to cut and bend one piece of tin into that complicated design? Beyond figuring out how to MAKE it, who figured out the need for the flat scraper edge and the little cone-shaped "tit" in relation to the singulator assembly and the entire seed meter? Pretty impressive.
We've all tried to "invent" something in our shop. We figured out a better way to build something, or decided to customize an existing component, and started cutting and welding and grinding. Sometimes we impressed ourselves and came up with something pretty clever. But frequently we found out that thinking of, designing and then actually making even a simple little gadget is way harder than it first appears.
There is a wide array of engineers in the world. There are guys like Greg Sauder, founder and former owner of Precision Planting, and Jon Kinsenbaw, founder of Kinze Manufacturing, who started out building gadgets in their farm shop and grew their ideas into world-class businesses. Then there are the degreed engineers who sit in cubicles and use computers to design intricate widgets and whachamadingees buried deep inside hydrostatic transmissions that rarely see the light of day. Either way, those inventors, designers and engineers have earned my respect for the way they create things.
I still get annoyed at them when their designs make my job more difficult or nearly impossible. But every so often I have to stop an admit, "Dang, the guy who invented that was pretty darned clever."