00:35:08 - 00:40:00 Memorable Projects
Memorable projects, Wearmaster, weight distribution, flooring strength, fire retardants; Challenging projects, possible failures, handling difficult projects
Was there one project in particular that stands out to you? And then, along the same lines, is there one that was particularly challenging or frustrating for you as an employee?
Well I think the most memorable one was developing the Wearmaster floor for Bruce Hardwood Floors. They came to us with what they thought their problem was, dimensional instability in their flooring, and when we analyzed their problem it wasn't dimensional stability, it was hardness. That when you consider a lady in a stiletto heel, one-quarter inch is hitting the floor, the pressure, we're back to the elephant again on the square inch basis, they can damage a floor a lot with those stiletto heels. And so the challenge was, can we make a floor that can standup to that kind of a heel hitting it? The first floor that we developed would standup to that stiletto heel. The problem is that the harder the floor gets, the slicker it gets. So if you've ever walked on a steel floor, stainless steel floor, it is very slick because you have to wax it in order to even be able to stand on it or walk on it. So it was too hard and they also wanted it to be fire retardant and so we were able to add a fire retardant that made it a little softer and much cheaper and they started production in center Texas with equipment that they already had. So based on about a year and a half, maybe two years of research at the Forest Products Laboratory, they were in the commercial market for this new floor that was the hardest on the market and it's still as far as I know is the hardest floor on the market, but they sold the business to Triangle Pacific and Triangle Pacific was bought out by Armstrong so Wearmaster is now available through Armstrong.
Now, as far as the most frustrating---in general, frustration comes when you know what you want to do, but you can't do it and sometimes you can't do it because you don't know how to do it and sometimes it just can't be done. Nothing comes to mind that was a frustrating failure, but I can say that I think that I have learned more from my failures than I have from my successes and unfortunately we don't publish failure, we only publish successes. So 41 years of experience in failure will go unnoticed. I'm sorry, I don't recall a specific incident where failure---we had a motto when I was a project leader that failure is not an option. If you're going to work with industry you have to work at the speed of business and failure is not an option. So we tried to get to the point where if we did research what we called 'switching' or 'gates' and a lot of industries use this nomenclature. A gate is you set a goal and you have certain checkpoints along the goal and when you get to a certain checkpoint you either say yes it's going forward or no we stop. That's a gate. And if you get to the first gate and you're successful, you go to the second gate, you're still far from your goal. At the second gate if you're no longer successful you stop the project so you never feel the full frustration of the failure at the end because the gates along the way stop your progress. So if you realize that either you're not smart enough, you don't have the equipment, you don't have the people, you don't have the technology you stop at a gate short of the goal. So I think the frustration is not quite so prevalent if you stop early. I just can't solve this problem, maybe in the future---and I have seen so many projects where they have become asymptotic to the answer and it doesn't matter how much more money or time or whatever you put into it, you're never going to get to the answer and if you can realize that early in a project, then stop it. So I always tried to do research on the steep slope of the learning curve, that the more you put in, the bigger the gain and pretty soon it starts to level off and that's the time you need to make a hard decision. Shall we continue this or should we drop it and move on, and we've always has so many ideas that moving on was very easy.