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In scanning the press release wires recently, I was drawn to the following headline: “Institution Obtains World’s First Voluntary Gorilla Blood Pressure Reading”. I couldn’t help but laugh, and I couldn’t stop. (To this day, the thought of it still gets me going.) Before delving into the article, all I could picture were the poor fellows who went through trial after trial with uncooperative gorillas before getting the breakthrough result. Failure can be pretty extreme when you’re working with gorillas. (You think you have tough days at work?) But you know what? Somebody has to have the guts to fight off the gorillas – to keep trying, keep believing – until there’s success.
As the article states, “Gorillas aren’t typically keen on the idea of inserting their arms into inflatable blood pressure cuffs.” Really? I’ve also heard that lions don’t like to have their tails put in bench vises. In the case of gorillas, it turns out that all it takes, though, is “months of patience and diligent voluntary positive reinforcement training” – that plus a cuff bolted to a casing made of acrylonitrile butadiene styrene plastic which is zip-tied to a rectangular mesh trap temporarily attached to the gorilla cage. Oh. That makes sense.
Georgia Tech engineers set the blood pressure trap. All that’s needed is a gorilla. By the way, you better grease those doors. (Georgia Institute of Technology photo)
What’s the point of all this? Failure. You have to experience it before you achieve success. Whether you’re trying to get a gorilla to stuff his arm in a box or pushing for maintenance improvement through machinery lubrication, victory isn’t going to come on the initial attempt (unless you get real lucky). You have to be patient. You have to build buy-in (how about a banana?). You may have to scratch a few hairy backs.
If you’re in the gorilla blood pressure device business, you probably experienced pullback ... somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,500 pounds per square inch. You probably had a mesh trap or two snap down or lock onto a patient’s arm. In this business, that’s downtime no one wants to experience.
If you’re in the business of trying to bring machinery lubrication excellence to your company in the manufacturing or process industry, you too probably have experienced pullback. “Why do we have to do a fancy overhaul of the lube storage area?” “This is going to cost how much money?” “Why do we need to train the people who lube the machines?” “You don’t think I know how to use a grease gun?” “Why do we in operations need to get involved?” Some won’t be keen on the whole idea. Really!
Given the choice of trying to make change happen in a plant full of overstressed executives, tightwad beancounters, silo-separatist operators and 25-year maintenance mechanic lifers vs. trying to see if Mighty Joe Young has hypertension issues, a percentage of you may opt for the latter.
The maintenance manager or appointed hourly leader pushing lubrication excellence will have to deal with roadblocks and cutbacks and back-burners. There will be failures, hiccups and re-dos.
It takes months of patience. It takes diligent voluntary positive reinforcement training (Noria’s Machinery Lubrication and Oil Analysis classes will give you direction). It takes volunteers to raise their hands. It takes efficient use of science and technology and commonsense principles (no gorilla traps, though).
Somebody has to have the guts to fight for this program – to keep trying, keep believing – until there’s a successful result. And, yes, in time (whether it’s six months, one year or three years from now), there will be success – one that will bring increased mechanical reliability, increased line and labor productivity, improved end-product quality, and cost savings that will impact the bottom line.
When that happens, your plant or company newsletter will run an article, hopefully not with an odd headline that makes readers laugh.
Until next time, keep wrangling those gorillas.