Change Is Such Hard Work: Part IV of the “You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know Series”


Change Is Such Hard Work: Part IV of the “You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know Series”

“Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers. It may not be difficult to store up in the mind a vast quantity of facts within a comparatively short time, but the ability to form judgments requires the severe discipline of hard work and the tempering heat of experience and maturity.” —Calvin Coolidge 

No one can predict the future. However, we can positively influence our future through creative ideas that inspire us to imagine new opportunities and leave the status quo in the rear view mirror. I believe this is a critical competency in today’s world, because standing still is simply not a viable option. As one gets older, there is a new and more focused appreciation for the fact that life does not last forever like it seemed to when we were youngsters. Back then, life was an eternity, and the key goal was becoming an adult as quickly as possible. The reality of mortality is even more poignant to me after a 58-year-old first cousin and a 77-year-old business associate died in the same week. We have witnessed many of our industry’s elder statesmen pass recently as well.

With a bit of reflection, one arrives at the following conclusions very quickly: If I wait for someone else to accomplish something within the timeframe I expect, I am two things—dependent and insane. Further, this fosters a sense of urgency to make a difference today. This urgency is not compatible with sugar-coating issues in the hope that the problem will take care of itself; business or personal agendas where “what’s in it for me” is the default mode of operation; the societal push to be politically correct versus straightforward and honest; or, with any type of political development process (i.e., the building code, seeking a legislative solution, etc.).

I will be the first to admit that my personality type is NOT passive by nature, and I can be a real challenge to deal with, particularly when my belief system has been developed through a great deal of sifting and winnowing of facts, testing and analysis. Further, I admit my patience level is not high for any type of political process when there is positive forward progress to be made that will make everyone in the structural components industry better today. I would argue the cost of missed opportunities is just too high to have much patience for activities intended to maintain the status quo.

The Center of the Universe

Some may consider the following statement a bit provoking: I sincerely believe the center of the universe for building design and engineering, structural component creativity and installation efficiency should firmly reside within the “truss and wall panel industry.” Appropriately seized today, the potential for great value creation going forward is available to everyone affiliated with our industry. Conversely, a great opportunity can be lost if we allow “status quoers,” or a lack of a sense of urgency, to creep into our industry.

The capabilities of our industry’s software in the following areas are dramatic. We have the ability to integrate the building’s “shell coordinate geometry” and understand all the interactions of all the framing elements in the building’s structural envelope and all structural planes to create engineering and new product opportunities. We can quickly fix architectural plans and provide accurate and quick building material take-offs. We possess the capability of accurately placing all the structural resisting elements in a position to be economically and efficiently designed so that engineered resistance solutions are the preferred choice.

Our industry is moving systematically toward the ability to provide even more sophisticated engineering. This means all snow, wind, seismic and dead loads can be automatically applied in a wide variety of load combinations so that the best possible resistance design can result. This leads us to accurate knowledge of the flow of loads and where they exist in the 3D shell.

Attaining this more detailed understanding should lead our industry to more accurate and cost-effective roof truss, wall and floor truss/I-joist designs because the correct loads get placed in the proper location, and design is based on actual loading conditions, not tradition-based assumptions. For instance, snow drift loads are accurately applied to the trusses that need to carry these loads at the precise location where the snow has the potential to drift.

Huge amounts of monetary investments have been made in CAD, engineering and truss business management software by Cherokee, Eagle Metal, ITW, Keymark, MiTek and Simpson. The sole purpose of this investment is to serve and grow our structural component manufacturing industry well, so that your businesses grow well in turn.

Supporting Our Industry’s Engineering

I believe in our industry’s engineering acumen and the engineers that comprise the backbone of our industry, as I have seen their performance up close and personal. They have a challenging job day-in and day-out. Truss and wall panel framing design and construction is done effectively and cost-efficiently because of it. Further, I trust the engineering intellect of all our TPI membership and all the truss design engineers that work for component manufacturers and independently in our industry. Finally, I trust the testing performed by SBCRI, though I will admit, I have a bit of a bias on that assessment.

I also believe our truss designers and truss design engineers are all consummate professionals who desire to undertake great and innovative work every day. That is why I am deeply bothered by what appears to be a growing number of engineers outside our industry, and engineers in general, that believe they are better engineering professionals than those that reside within our industry. There appears to be a growing belief that proprietary intellectual property developed by our industry needs to be vetted by a select few “superior” professional engineering committees or “superior” individual professional engineers. This strongly suggests that the day-in-and-day-out  professional engineer in our industry is somehow inferior or should be subservient to this self-ordained superior knowledge.

In my view, the goal of these “superior” engineers is to maintain the status quo. In reality embracing this type of belief system severely reduces that value of the individual engineer and the value of engineering in general. Anyone can easily be a follower, which is certainly a path of least resistance as it is easy to say “I just followed what all the ‘superior knowledge guys’ said to do.”

It also begs a few thoughts:

1. Does an individual engineer have a right to own his ideas and intellectual property, or do the “superior” professional engineering committees or “superior knowledge engineers” hold greater value?

2. Is truss, I-joist and wall panel design considered challenging or unsophisticated engineering? 

3. Are all professional engineers created equal, or are some legally superior to others based upon the university they attended, the degree they hold, or the state they live in?

4. Does the building code or building law of the land provide minimum fire, engineering and building design requirements, or does it exclusively define what can be engineering innovation, creativity and ingenuity?

5. Do we desire an engineering culture based upon the liberty of an individual professional engineer to innovate and take personal responsibility, or do we prefer a more restrictive and bureaucratic culture of a select few calling all the shots? 

Differing beliefs will lead to differing answers to these questions, which, in turn, can cause conflict not easily resolved through compromise. I happen to believe that all the engineers in the truss plate and structural building component industry think deeply about our industry every day, create great industry standards of care and are highly innovative by nature. I reflect upon some of this industry’s early pioneers and current leaders who prove my point: Cal Juriett, Bill McAlpine, Carroll Sanford, George Eberle, John Meeks, Stan Suddarth, Mike Reeder, Don Percival, Sherm Nelson, Don Sharp, Ed Callahan, Dorothy Lynch, Tom Albani, Carlos Rionda, Tony Arce, Scott Carroll, Charlie Hoover, Karl Bickel, Dave Brakeman, Mike Triche, Brad Cameron, Steve Cabler, Norm Scheel, Tom Zgraggen, Dave Wert, Scott Miller, Gaby Redwanly, Dan Wheat, Steve Cramer, Dave Motter, Paul Johnson, Steve Kennedy, Ray Yu, Mike Pellock, Joe Kannapell, Bob Shupe, Stan Koehlinger, Gary Sweatt, Pat McGuire, Tim Riegel, Jim Meade, Mike Kozlowski, Johnny Drozdek, Chris Dudek, John Gruber and Ken Pagano, to quickly name a few.
I suspect that I have missed several, and for that I apologize.

Looking to the Future

Through testing at SBCRI, we have proven that what everyone thinks they can count on, and are getting from a variety of standardized test methods or building code requirements, may be wrong. I think the truss industry engineers do great engineering and make great engineering judgments with the data they have available. They use standards as they are intended to be used: as a pointer to one of many approaches that can make innovative engineering evolve. I believe that most in our industry are about engineering innovation in the tradition of our industry’s founders, not blind followers, needing to be told what to do and when to do it. They generally do not embrace a status quo mentality.

So what does this all mean? The value of innovative engineering and the creation of innovative products, product improvements and software form the link between new science-based discoveries and their application. This is what drives true value creation. It means the mission of any professional engineering endeavor is to deploy an innovative material, design or method of construction in a manner that meets all regulations, protects the consumer and preserves “free and unfettered competition as the rule of trade.”