Cutting Tool Engineering
May 2010 / Volume 62 / Issue 5

Leave it better than you found it

By Michael Deren

When I leave a company, I want to be able to say to myself, “I made a difference!” How to achieve this? Leave the place better than when you started.

One example was when I worked at a company that had a suggestion committee. When I became committee chairman, I increased employee participation more than 90 percent by listening to my co-workers. I found they had three major complaints: the awards were minimal, true recognition was lacking and suggestions were never implemented.

The first action I took was to increase the minimum award payout from $10 to $25. I made sure awards from the previous month were posted on all company bulletin boards. Then I made sure the awards were presented in front of the other employees. Finally, suggestion implementation began immediately by making work orders to the appropriate departments, with work completed within 2 weeks. The employees saw immediate results, and the company received many more good ideas, from safety to productivity improvements.

Working for another company as a project engineer, I delved deeper into my job than required. As a result, I created the position of technical systems project manager for myself. This position, in turn, allowed me to assist in developing an additional direction and revenue stream for the company: turnkey solutions for customers. That allowed the sales staff to concentrate on the bread-and-butter component sales, while I handled turnkey system sales.

Many other ways exist, and they don’t have to be as significant as the previous examples. Working on contract for one company, I created a spreadsheet program in my spare time that allowed the estimator to quickly estimate part and scrap material pricing for our screw machines. This reduced part estimating time from about 15 minutes to 2 or 3 minutes—producing savings for both the company and estimator.

At the same company, I noticed an operator struggling with her machine. The parts were not feeding correctly because the rotary shaft that descended on the part was slipping and not spinning the part. Nearby was an old metal stool with rubber crutch-type tips on the bottom of the legs. I grabbed a tip and slapped it on the bottom of the shaft. A few minutes and a couple of adjustments later, the shaft was running flawlessly. A part no one wanted to run because of the aggravation it caused became a gravy job. You better believe I was favorably remembered there for a while after I was gone.

At another company, one guy—no matter what—always had a cheerful disposition. And it was contagious. No matter how bad someone’s day was, your attitude would improve if you were near him because he could always find the good in a situation. That’s how he made it a better place.

These examples are just a sampling of how someone can make a difference to a company and co-workers. As I prepare to move to a permanent position, I’m training my replacement for this contract position. I have also created a handbook for anyone else there who would like to learn what I have done. Included are machine start-up and maintenance procedures and information on the software I used.

Sometimes, it doesn’t take much to make a workplace better than when you found it. It should be the mantra for your working career. We spend about a third of our lives working at something we hopefully enjoy. Why not share the experience in a positive light and make our current workplace better than when we found it. CTE

About the Author: Mike Deren is a manufacturing engineer/project manager and a regular CTE contributor. He can be e-mailed at

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