Did you miss Chapter 1? You can read it here.

The next morning, Eric received a phone call from an Elasto Proxy “solutions provider” named Jenny-Lynn. He wasn’t quite sure what a “solution provider” was, but JL – as her colleagues at the branch near Toronto called her – sure didn’t seem like a salesperson.

When Eric described his problem with the tractor doors, Jenny-Lynn asked about the size of the gap, the shape of the current rubber profile, the material type and durometer, and the current fastening method. Eric liked how Elasto Proxy could “speak engineer-ese” and had a design formula, too. He also liked learning about how media, temperature, application, and pressure (MTAP) all affect gasket performance.

Much to his relief, Eric heard how many engineers – even experienced ones – may struggle to design rubber gaskets. They’re used to working with metal, Jenny-Lynn explained, and don’t usually think about things like tolerances, durometer, and compression set – the cause of Eric’s gasket problem.

All black rubber isn’t the same, Jenny-Lynn continued. The material that Eric had chosen was a suitable compound, EPDM, but the profile was too soft for a heavy tractor door. Because rubber won’t bounce back once it’s over-compressed, JL explained, compression set had created a gap between the door frame and the gasket. The result was wet seats and rusty floors.

Eric wondered why his current supplier had never explained any of this to him. Price didn’t matter much if his company couldn’t get the technical support that it needed. He was relieved to hear that he didn’t need to be an expert in gasket design and liked learning how adhesive tape provided an alternative to metal fasteners for gasket installation.

“That’s why the mobile equipment industry comes to us,” Jenny-Lynn. “As a company, we have over 30 years of experience with door gaskets like yours – and that means you don’t have to.” Elasto Proxy seemed like a good partner to work with, but the young engineer wanted to put a plan in place before his boss asked for an update.

Jenny-Lynn suggested sending some product samples and something called a durometer key chain – a set of small rubber slabs, each with a different hardness. She also offered to review Eric’s gasket design and to provide some additional feedback. The engineer accepted this offer and continued to work with Jenny-Lynn through a series of video calls.

When Eric’s boss asked for an update, Eric shared the plan and described his progress. His boss seemed pleased, especially when Eric reported that Elasto Proxy was now sending a sample of a finished gasket that the factory could install on a tractor.     

Then Eric asked his boss if Purchasing would approve this new vendor, especially if the new seals cost more. Eric’s boss reminded him about the important of price, but the young engineer kept talking about how how’d found the right technical solution.

Eric’s boss saw that the young engineer wanted to do things his own way. “If you think you’re ready to get this vendor approved,” the seasoned manager said, “then setup a meeting with Patrick. And bring you’re A-game when you face-off. This guy is a skilled player.”    

Look for Chapter 3 in two weeks (03/15/2021).

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