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The Burgeoning Benefits


                                    of Going Metric


                                                   by Victor Mendez

         Quick. What other countries in the world aside from the United States still use the Imperial
         System of measurement? Give up? Those would be Liberia and Myanmar – formerly Burma.
         But these last two countries are also in the process of converting over to the metric system,
         unlike us. For all those involved in producing manufactured goods and buying them from
         all around the world, the metric system is already in effect and used for nearly all trade.


              he metric system was born in   in the metric system –  you just move the   practical when it comes to what the firm
              France during its revolution and   decimal point right and left. In the late   must do with millimeters versus inches.
         Tthen  carried  forward  in  Napole-  1990s conversion confusion caused a 125   “On our end, we use the expression ‘the
         onic times – something Napoleon had   million dollar Mars probe to crash to the   diameter is what it is, how would you
         didn’t mind  as  French  inches  had ac-  surface of the Red Planet for just that   like  me  to  specify  it?’,”  explains  Davis.
         tually been a bit shorter than those in   reason. Scientists were using the met-  “What this means is that whether the
         England. And perhaps few people in   ric system used by scientists worldwide,   measurement is in millimeters or inches,
         this country know that our Enlighten-  while American contractors had used the   it is whatever size it is. We do the trans-
         ment president, Thomas Jefferson also   Imperial system.  The  conversions  had   lation back and forth all day long, and so
         gave us our decimal money (10 dimes   not been done, causing a loss for science   do our die makers and engineers.”
         and 100 pennies to a dollar). The metric   and investors in the probe.  But a number  of  large  corporations
         system is based on a decimal arrange-  In defense of simplifying by chang-  and manufacturers  over  the past de-
         ment using ten as well. It’s the system   ing over once and for all, teaching two   cades  have  already seen  the  need  to
         95 percent of the world uses.      measurement  systems  to  children  is   convert in order to stay competitive
           Though  we  tend to see  cups,  pints,   confusing. Also, the metric system is the   with the rest of the world. The Inger-
         yards, feet, miles, inches  and degrees   language of both science and medicine.   soll-Rand (I-R) Company  plan was to
         Fahrenheit as our old reliable friends,   Human conversion errors, as mentioned   convert to metric in 10 to 15 years, this
         there  are  also  many other  rather  ob-  above remain inevitable. Pharmacy mis-  in concert with the availability of met-
         scure measures, leagues, fathoms, fur-  takes linger as well. As perhaps most   ric industrial standards in the U.S.
         longs, chains, to name just a few that   rigging shops already know, the metric   Their corporate plan outlined specific
         go with the old system we use as well.   system is the language of international   conversion steps. By January 1978, I-R
         This  arrangement  dates back  to  Ro-  commerce. Many hobbies and sports use   was designing all new products in met-
         man and Medieval times when  kings   the metric system and unless you are   ric.  Products  consisting  of partly new
         literally used body parts – such as an   traveling to Liberia or Myanmar, solely,   and partly existing  components  were
         actual human foot or hand – to estab-  this measurement scheme is necessary   to be metric, too. New parts were hard
         lish standard measurements.        for travel outside of the United States.   metric and the rest were soft convert-
            But in the space age and now the inter-  Robert  Davis,  Loos  &  Company  Vice   ed. Existing non-metric products were
         net age, it’s easier to make conversions   President of sales and marketing is   not immediately  changed, since  that
                                                                               would have been too costly.
         All photos courtesy of Loos & Company                                 time they need to know it. For example,
                                                                                 A training concept that has been told
                                                                               in other conversion stories was to teach
                                                                               only what employees need to know at the
                                                                               don’t teach units of force and pressure
                                                                               to employees who won’t be using them.
                                                                               Training also stressed conceptualiz-
                                                                               ing rather than converting, i.e., using
                                                                               metric units rather than converting be-
                                                                               tween units. Since unit conversion can
                                                                               slow learning, everything in I-R train-
                                                                               ing manuals was given in metric units
                                                                               only. With one set of units, the trainees
                                                                               learned the “feel” of the new units.
                                                                                 Ingersoll-Rand  realized  they  would
                                                                               have to spend money to metricate, such
                                                                               as for new tools, machines, and training
                                                                               time. However, those expenses were bal-
                                                                               anced  against  the  benefits  of  metrica-
                                                                               tion, such as reducing the number of siz-
         In process inspection of aircraft flight control cables in the Loos & Company aircraft assembly   es required. For example, in a particular
         production cell.                                                                       continued on page 28
         26     Wire Rope News & Sling Technology   April 2017
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