Most people would call me cheap; I’m always looking for a deal. My first and only marathon was a typical example. I started training with a pair of shoes that were already 3 years old (I’m sure some veteran runner has fallen off their chair with that confession). I‘m not a particularly fast runner but after signing up for the D.C. Marathon I had only one goal: to beat Oprah Winfrey’s time (4:29:20). Two months into training, I started to feel an intense pain in my knee. By that point I had put a lot of time and energy into training and was not willing to walk away from the race, so I had to make drastic changes to my training program. I carefully stretched before and after every run, ran on level ground as much as I could, and even stayed off the pavement for long runs. I still could not get rid of the pain. After exhausting all options in my control it finally dawned on me: could it be my shoes? That weekend I went out and bought a brand new pair of running shoes. Guess what? It solved it.
I hear similar stories very often with industrial products. Today’s focus for companies is to cut costs but cutting costs does not mean you can cut corners. Deferred maintenance can often times cause long term break downs that cost a lot more than the cost of parts, when you consider the cost of labor and loss of productivity. The same is true for quality of products as well; cheaper is not alwaysbetter. We recently heard of an incident involving an application for rubber expansion joints in a pulp and paper mill utilizing “white liquor”, a strong alkaline solution used in the first stage of the Kraft process. Although we recommended the use of Fluorinated Ethylene Propylene (FEP) as a liner material to protect the inner surface of the expansion joint, the plant opted to go with a cheaper joint without the FEP liner. Several months later we received a report that the joint had catastrophically failed and greatly threatened the safety of a worker walking by. Since the elastomeric tube of the expansion joint was unprotected from the “white liquor”, it was attacked and eventually the body of the expansion joint burst. The white liquor spewed out on someone passing by . Since that incident the plant only orders expansion joints with FEP liners. The time and money spent on taking care of the situation after the failure far outweighed the price the better expansion joint before the failure.
So, I know some of you are wondering, did I beat Oprah? I’ll tell if you promise not to laugh. She beat me fair and square, and I can’t even blame it on old shoes.