Gus Wilson perched himself up on his
repair bench, thumbed some shreds of tobacco into the bowl of his pipe, and
looked at a completely empty shop floor. It was the first time since
June that there hadn't been at least three cars stacked up in the Model
Garage for some kind of repair. It had been a particularly busy
summer, but at the moment Gus was enjoying the pleasant feeling of having
nothing pressing to do.
His dream of
leisure, however, was short-lived. Through the puffs of smoke that
billowed up as he fired his pipe he noticed that Ed Nealy's car had rolled
to a stop in front of the shop doors. Ed, one of Gus's really old
friends, owns the milk company down in the city. He started out in a
small way about 20 years ago, but now he services our town as well as a
dozen other communities. He hasn't been getting to town much during
recent years, but whenever he does, his trip includes a stop at the Model
"Ed Nealy, how
come you're out touring the country on a work day?" Gus greeted him as
the two shook hands.
"Playing hookey from
those milk routes of yours?"
"No such luck,
Gus," Nearly replied. "Believe it or not, this is strictly a business
with the car?" Gus asked as the two strolled back into the shop.
"No, car's okay.
It's something more important than that. Can we go into the office and
"Sure thing." Said
Gus, leading the way.
"Gus, I've got a
favor to ask," Nealy began when they had settled themselves at Joe Clark's
battered oak desk. "How would you like to take on a consulting job
down at my plant? I'm sure it wouldn't take you more than a couple of
days, and you can charge me whatever you think your time is worth.
I've got a problem and I think you can lick it for me."
on, Ed," Gus put in, "I'm just a small-town garageman. I may be able
to tell when a gasoline engine has gone sour, but when it comes to milk it's
been a good many years since I was a farm boy."
"That's just why I
want you to help me," Nealy explained. "I do know the milk business
but I don't know the first thing about engines. And there's lots of
gasoline mixed up in the milk business. To pick up my milk and
distribute it every day I have a fleet of 42 trucks. About half of
them roll during the day, the other half at night so to keep them in shape I
run the service department on two shifts.'
Night Trucks versus Day
I've got a good foreman
heading up each service crew," Nealy went on. John MacDonald on the day side
and Ned Pocheck at night. You know them both. Good, reliable
He remembered them as local boys who'd taken jobs in the city, and wondered
if Jack MacDonald was still as cocky as he used to be.
"Well, for about
two years now," Nealy continued, "the night trucks serviced by MacDonald's
crew have cost me more to operate, mile for mile, than Pocheck's day trucks.
Last year, thinking that a little friendly competition might help. I
even offered a semi-annual cash bonus to the crew that kept their
maintenance costs the lower for each six-month period. It didn't help.
So far, Pocheck's crew has won both bonuses."
"You sure of your
cost figures?" asked Gus.
The whole operation is cost-accounted every month, and invariably the day
trucks get much better gasoline and tire mileage than the night trucks."
scratched his chin with his thumb. "And you want me to play private
eye and snoop out the leak?"
"That's it," said
Nealy, "but don't get me wrong. I'm not asking you to do a sneak
snooping job. No one's going to get fired. All I'd like you to
do is spend some time with the service boys down at the plant, check over
our maintenance procedures, and tell me what, if anything, we're doing
How about it?"
Gus Takes On the Job
Gus didn't answer
immediately. Then he said, "Well, Ed, I'm not so sure I can help you,
but I'm willing to take a try. I guess Stan Hicks and Joe Clark can
keep the garage from falling apart for a few days."
"It's a deal,"
said Nealy, beaming.
"I hoped you wouldn't let
me down. I'll have everything ready - and you don't know how much I
appreciate this, Gus."
Two days later Gus
found himself in a new role. Instead of tinkering with ailing
carburetors, ignition systems, and fuel pumps, he was sitting uncomfortably
at an office desk, going over volumes of records. Gus never has liked
offices, records, or desks, but he knew that his first job was to check the
facts and figures. What he found was just as Ed had outlined it.
For some unknown reason, the day trucks were getting better gasoline mileage
than the night trucks and the tires on the night trucks were wearing out
about 20 percent faster than those on the day trucks.
With the pencil
work out of the way by the end of his first day, Gus put on a pair of
coveralls the next morning. Unfortunately he hadn't remembered to bring a
pair of his own, so he had to wear a pair Ed Nealy gave him - a white pair
with the words, "Avon Milk Co.," embroidered in red across the back.
He felt more like a milkman than a mechanic as he strolled toward the
"Well, if it isn't
Gus Wilson!" came a loud greeting. "The boss said you'd be over to
solve all my problems."
Gus turned his
head and recognized, Jack MacDonald, the day service foreman. "Jack
hasn't changed much - cocky as ever," he thought as he acknowledged the
greeting with a handshake.
"Sure hope you can
straighten things out, Gus, and get my boys in on that bonus money."
"I'll try, Jack.
"Try?" broke in
Jack, "I've tried just about everything. Even sort of spied around a
little to see if Pocheck's crew had thought up any new service angles."
"And had they?"
"Nope, I just
don't get it. Both our shifts use exactly the same maintenance
Come on over to the
office and I'll show you what I mean."
As they walked
across the shop floor, Gus noticed that the equipment was all of the best.
The place was a garageman's dream. As modern as 1950."
Service Schedule Meets
Once inside the
office, MacDonald pulled out a desk drawer, picked up a mimeographed
booklet, and handed it to Gus.
service schedule, Pocheck's crew and mine follow it right to the letter."
through the pages. He had to admit it was a complete schedule and he
grinned. "We modeled it after the preventive maintenance plan used for
government cars and trucks. It doesn't leave a thing to the
imagination. Tells you not only when to make the various checks, but
just how to make them. Any grease monkey can follow it if he can
"How often do you
check wheel alignment?" asked Gus.
Jack licked his
thumb and flopped the book open to page 10.
"There it is, item
24 under the 4,000-mile check. Now, on page six of Appendix B you'll
find a list of the exact steps to be followed in making the check and how
adjustments should be made. There's no guesswork and no need for
thinking; it's all right there."
the trouble, Gus thought as Jack rambled on. Gus had learned that
working strictly by the book wasn't always the best way. He knew by
long experience that sometimes a little independent thinking, plus a little
imagination, were mighty important when it came to smoking out what ailed a
"Mind if I mosey
around by myself?" he asked.
"Go right ahead.
Help yourself. Do any checking you want. And if you want
anything, just holler."
For the next hour
or so, Gus watched the three mechanics work on the parked trucks and did a
little spot checking on his own.
He tested the wheel
alignment on one truck, checked the timing and carburetor adjustment on
another, and looked for possible brake drag on a third. He even
pitched in and helped one of the men change a tire. By two o'clock in
the afternoon, Gus decided he was a long way from uncovering a solution to
Ed Nealy's problem. The men in the shop seemed to know their jobs and
the trucks he'd personally checked seemed to be in good shape. But he
He knew he had missed
something some place that made a vital difference.
A Study Period Brings a
MacDonald returned to the service office just before four o'clock - quitting
time for the day crew - he found Gus seated at the desk busily poring over
the maintenance manual.
"I've been going
over your service book," he said, looking up. "Seems to cover the
ground, except one point."
Jack asked indignantly.
mention of daily servicing. You know, gas, oil, water, and air.
Do you have any set time for those?"
routine. All the trucks get their daily servicing every morning.
We've overlapped the day and night shifts to take care of that. As
each night truck comes in, it's gassed, and oil, water, and tire pressures
checked. The same goes for each day truck as it goes out.
Simpler that way. Less chance for a slip-up."
"Could be," Gus
replied as he pulled himself up out of the chair and headed for the office
door. "Can you hang around for a few minutes? I won't be long."
When Gus returned
10 minutes later, he had a tire gauge in his hand and a broad smile on his
face. "It may be simpler your way, " he grinned, "but it sure ain't
"What do you
mean?" Jack asked.
"Just this," Gus
waggled the tire gauge as he spoke. "Not a single one of your trucks
on that whole floor out there has a tire that's up to the recommended
impossible," blustered Jack. "We, checked the tires on every one of
those trucks this morning when they came in."
"That's just it,"
said Gus. "You did check them this morning, just as you do every
morning. And I've a hunch that's the cause of your troubles."
"I don't get it." Jack was
puzzled "What's the catch?" he asked.
Explanation Is Hot Air
"It all boils down
to the fact that air expands when it's heated," Gus explained.
checking the tires of your trucks every morning when they're hot after a
night's run. Even if they are up to pressure when you check them, or
after you've put air in them, they probably are four or five pounds under
pressure by the time they cool off.
on the other hand, have been checking their tires when they are cool after a
night in the garage. On the average, Pocheck's tires have probably
been slightly over inflated while yours have been under-inflated."
"Say, that does
add up," admitted Jack.
"Sure, son, it
adds up to more tire wear and less gasoline mileage on your trucks.
A lot of motorists don't
take into account that recommended tire pressures are for cool tires, not
for tires that have been pounding the roads and heated up."
A couple of weeks
later, back in the Model Garage, Gus had just about forgotten about his trip
to the city and his two-day job at the milk company when a short letter
arrived in the mail. It read;
Gas mileage up already. The Whole day crew is looking forward to
sharing the January 1 bonus with you. And that's not hot air.
Thanks a million."
It was signed "Jack