In the Shop
As a farm machinery mechanic and writer, Dan brings a hands-on approach that only a pro can muster. Along with his In the Shop blog, Dan writes a column by the same name as well as the Shop Series for Farm Journal magazine. Always providing practical information, he is a master at tackling technical topics and making them easy for all of our readers to understand. He and his wife, Becky, live near Bouton, Iowa.
In The Shop: If I Could Talk To Engineers
Jan 30, 2011
Most of the time I'm amazed, impressed and in awe of engineers who design farm machinery. The changes I've seen during my lifetime in capacity, horsepower and comfort are nothing short of miraculous. As I tear apart gearboxes or delve into computerized electronics I often think, "Wow. How did somebody ever think of THAT." The cleverness and ingenuity of machinery designers never ceases to amaze me.
But I'm always surprised how engineers can design incredibly complex components on 98 percent of a machine but miserably drop the ball on some basic, common sense designs. I may grumble and complain about the inaccessibility of a bearing buried deep in a machine, but understand that not every component can be chest-high and easily accessible. What I don't understand is how a machine can be sent into production with...
-the engine oil fill tube buried so you have to use an extension hose on a flexible funnel to add oil to the engine.
-the engine oil drain plug placed over a frame rail or blocked by hydraulic lines so scalding oil splatters everywhere during an oil change.
-owner's manuals that seem to be written in English but make no sense to anyone except the cubicle rats who wrote them.
This may be related: Several years ago our mother company sent an agricultural engineer from their design group out to "shadow" field personnel to get experience in the real world. The young man spent a day riding with me in my service truck. The first call of the day was to work on a combine. As I was getting out my tools the engineer looked the combine over from front to back, top to bottom and casually asked, "So, what does this machine do?"