When you look at engineered or manufactured solutions, it requires a certain type of expertise and versatility. Knowledge is extremely important when coming up with a concept, and so is the ability to have the visual acuity to look at a blank piece of paper and figure out how to come up with a solution. Companies requiring a custom gearbox solution are in a unique situation. Certain needs have to be met, such as small space requirements, certain input and output etc., all while falling within a certain budget. The problem that those companies are facing, and many others in manufacturing, is that the number of experienced engineers in the workforce is rapidly decreasing.
Rj Link International serves a niche market in the designing and manufacturing of custom gearboxes. The engineering team’s 75+ years of experience in the Power Transmission Market has Rj Link becoming a hard to come by solution provider, especially during times when experienced engineers are reaching retirement age. When some people deal with gearboxes and/or gears, everything is either a bevel, parallel, some type of planetary or worm gear, but they don’t really know how to put them all together. There are many engineers who are not hands on, but are more of a general engineer. Many are not staying at jobs very long, and are not getting enough versatility or variety in it. There is a real need for product champions, people that understand the industry, what works and what doesn’t, and people that are more hands on.
Over the years, the educational institutions seem to have gone away from the hands on training, and manufacturing is starting to see the effects of that. Students used to enter into a program and would spend their summers working in a related field. Many worked in a shop to learn how to run lathes, mills, hobbing machines, work on grinders, etc. They would learn how to service the machines, order tooling, cut parts, inspect and measure parts, and at times work with heat treaters to see how much the material would grow or unwind. Students had more of an opportunity to learn about the many processes that go into engineering solutions. Companies have now become very lean and they want to bring in a seasoned employee with a lot of experience; however, age and/or salary can be a concern. The younger engineers don’t always have the hands on or practicality to visualize the solution. Their CAD model might be able to choose the material, speed, torque, etc., but there’s not always a good understanding as to what’s interchangeable and what’s not. How do you put a concept together and make it work? If you do it once, how will you get repeatability out of that? How do you trouble shoot a problem? Many of the engineers coming out of college do not appear to have been taught how to address those questions.
Manufacturing is seeing that the tribal knowledge has been lost over time, as fewer companies are being passed down through generations. The training programs, unfortunately due to economics etc., are going away from a manufacturing type of society or environment. People have been saying that it’s dirty to work with your hands in a machine shop, and that everyone needs a 4 year degree, etc. As the elder generations start to retire, that tribal knowledge is going away. Now that manufacturing appears to be ramping up again, we have to think of the vast amount of machinery that’s out there. There are so many people that have no idea what to do with their machinery or even how to fix it. There are many people that think a gear is a gear, a bearing is a bearing, metal is metal, and all designs are the same. The mechanics of people and how they think and function just isn’t where it used to be.
Rj Link has been filling the niche by offering the engineering solutions that other companies are lacking. The team has seen many different packages, and that comes with time and variety. Rj Link’s engineering team’s ability to understand design and capacity capabilities, and the team’s knowledge to understand what can and cannot be done is proving to be a valuable resource for many companies.