New school mechanics and old school handwriting


I have two daughters; 8 and 2 years-old respectively.

My 8 year old has one very distinct advantage growing up that I never had, and it will only be amplified as my 2 year-old comes along: technology.

Sure, technology was around when I was young but it pales in comparison to when I was her age.

Heck, even my 2 year old can use an iPad well enough to find Sesame Street songs on YouTube. That’s both outstanding and horrifying.

I may be one of the best examples of what technology can do both to you and for you. I grew up in a time where home computers were just beginning to become common. Not everyone had one. They were huge. I remember getting one in middle school that took up most of an average size desk.  And they were expensive. They’re not cheap now, but a low-end unit in the 80s cost what a high-end unit costs now.

Around the seventh grade I started relying on our home computer for most basic word processing. No longer did I have to write essays or book reports. I could just type them. Goodbye writer’s cramp!

Remember grabbing your wrist and shaking your hand like that was going to help?

The popularity of computers exploded about the time I hit high school and they were commonplace in college.

I quickly embraced technology. I loved it. I still do. However, it’s not all great. Technological advancements have cost me something very special. Something I worked years to cultivate. And no matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to get it back.

My handwriting.

Something as basic and fundamental as penmanship has been obliterated by my preference to type. Several factors are working against my penmanship here, including my profession. When you have to take notes long-hand at the speed which most people talk, you develop your own system of hieroglyphics.
That, too, will destroy your handwriting – but that’s beside the point.

I became so reliant on technology to help me with my job that I stopped concentrating on fundamentals.

Is that happening in your service department? Are your service techs so tuned in with their computers and diagnostic tests that their fundamentals are not as polished as they once were?

I’ve talked to several fleet owners and managers who say this time is already upon us. Today’s techs have been trained to turn on a computer before they turn a wrench.

Emphasis on technology training is important, especially with advancements in onboard computers. What on a truck these days isn’t controlled by the unit’s master computer? Understanding how to diagnose the problem through the computer is a big deal.

However, under that computer rests an internal combustion engine. It’s undergone a lot of peripheral changes in the past 100-plus years but the principle is still the same.

Spark + fuel = combustion.

The computer and technology are the ‘solve for X’ formulas we all love so much.

How many thousands of sensors did your shop replace in 2012?

The shop computer may tell you a sensor has gone bad. That’s easy. Replace the sensor. You’re done. The customer is back on the road and they’re loving you. What the computer didn’t tell you is whether or not something caused the sensor to go bad, and what that something was.

Was it just a bad sensor? Hey, that happens, right? Or was there a larger issue that “fried” the sensor? Did you fix the problem or did you fix the cause?

You won’t find a lot of those answers in your shop computer.

Embrace the old timers in your shop – and their knowledge and philosophies – while you have them. Pair them up with the young guns coming on board who know more about technology than you or I ever will.

If you’ve got a technological marvel who’s technically inclined, you’ve got a special kind of employee – an employee that can make your shop a lot of money and his/her associates better mechanics.

And you may even find it in your heart to forgive their bad handwriting.

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