Sinatra Sings Metalworking

Maybe Sinatra's hidden messages had more to do with getting better quality with faster leadtimes.

I think my greatest ambition in life is to pass on to others what I know. — Frank Sinatra

While taking writing classes in school, one of my least favorite assignments was studying classic literature and attempting to interpret the message the author intended with the work. To this day, I stick to the argument that in most cases, if someone wants to communicate a message, he or she will write it in clear terms, and little interpretation will be necessary. I believe that most of the books that have become known as great works, while perhaps well written and interesting, were nothing more than stories in the author’s mind. I don’t put much stock in the opinions of someone else who somehow decided that the author intended a hidden meaning and therefore created something special.

Perhaps this is the difference between a technical writer and an English major, but I’m not a mind reader. I don’t know how I was ever supposed to figure out what other people were thinking when they wrote something unless they actually put it into words. Think about how useless our articles would be if we told stories about epic voyages or misguided rulers but expected our readers to know we actually were referring to shops that are making clever use of new technology to increase throughput by 90 percent.

Unfortunately, I may be in the minority with my point of view on this topic. I do, however, believe in keeping an open mind and continuing to learn, so this month I’m going to revisit this exercise and see if it has gotten any easier in time. While what I plan to review is not classic literature, the exercise will be comparable.

Frank Sinatra had plenty of hit songs in his day, but maybe he wasn’t really singing about relationships, happiness and drinking. Maybe his hidden messages had more to do with getting better quality with faster leadtimes. Here’s a look at a few of his top songs.

While Mr. Sinatra’s “Chicago” is clearly about his first trip to IMTS, many people do not realize that he is also referring to this important manufacturing technology show in “I Cover the Waterfront.” In his own romantic style he sings about wandering the aisles of the East Hall in search of the metrology system he fell in love with at his former job.

“Strangers in the Night” initially may seem to be about two people who meet in the darkness and quickly fall in love. I believe Mr. Sinatra may actually have had lights-out manufacturing in mind when he sang this song. “Something in your eyes” (of this process) is so inviting, “something in your smile,” so exciting, what shop owner’s heart wouldn’t say, “I must have you?”

We can find an interesting case study in “New York, New York” of a machinist who realized his dream of owning his own highly successful job shop. He learned his trade by moving from shop to shop, but then began spreading the news of his own up-and-coming company. Before he knew it, he was king of the hill, cranking out more parts than he could ever imagine. Unfortunately, he eventually moved his company overseas with the belief that if he could make parts here, he could make them anywhere.

Even with good coolant management systems in place, shops can face challenges with their metalworking fluids. In “I’ve Got You under My Skin,” Mr. Sinatra sings of a shop that didn’t take the proper precautions, eventually leading to the machinists developing some serious dermatitis issues. The shop owner tried so not to give in and pay more to develop a safer environment, but he eventually woke up to reality and made the proper changes.

What happens to a machine tool when its end is near and it faces the final curtain? “My Way” looks back on the life of a turning center, from the time it leaves the manufacturer, traveling each and every highway to the shop that would take full advantage of its capabilities. It was a solid machine, with a few breakdowns along the way, but then again, too few to mention. Yes, there were times when the bar feeder gave it more than it could handle, but it faced it all and still stood tall.