Ted Bohl, Program Analyst at Ford Motor Company and US Navy Veteran talks about how his time as a Navy pilot helped him solve engineering problems, what Naval training can bring to the factory floor, and how diversity can empower workplaces.
Ted: It just kind of reinforces the need for the higher level systems view of engineering problems and how you got to actively fight to break through the barriers to where we can work as a team. Because even if you think your component doesn't impact someone else, it most always does.
Intro:[Background music] Pashi presents the means of production, a podcast about what it really takes to build, maintain, and scale the processes that produce the physical products, that power hour our world. Every episode, we ask a manufacturing expert to walk us through the nuts and bolts of how they do their job. We explore how and why they got into manufacturing. Dive deep into the hardest problems they've solved on production lines and discuss their thoughts on what's broken in manufacturing today and how those things can be fixed. This podcast is hosted by me Siddhit Sanghavi, Pashi US manufacturing, operations lead, and former assembly engineer at Ford motor company. If you are a part of the manufacturing world and you're interested in being a guest on the means of production, get in touch with me at email@example.com.
Siddhit:Hello, and welcome to season one, episode 11 of the Means of Production. Today we have with us Ted Bohl, programming management analyst from Ford motor company. Welcome Ted.
Ted: Good to be here. Hope you're doing well.
Siddhit: I am Ted, thank you so much. Before we get started, Ted is going to read out a disclaimer for us.
Ted: Alright. Yeah, so I work at Ford, but this is my own opinion and not the opinion of Ford. I'm not a spokesman for Ford motor company official or otherwise.
Siddhit: Thank you Ted. Ted firstly, it's been a while since we caught up. How is everything? How is work? How is the family? How is life treating you in the era of COVID?
Ted: Everything's good. I'm one of the few people that are fortunate enough to be able to go into work during like a builder. We can still work from home, but been going in a lot, which I enjoy.
Siddhit: That's absolutely great. Glad to hear that everyone is safe. Ted, why don't we begin the podcast. Ted in your experience and you had lots of roles over the years and you've done and been to a lot of places. How did you get to this role that you have at Ford? Firstly, you can explain a little bit about your role and then say how you wound up here and why did you select manufacturing?
Ted: I was retiring from the Navy in 2015, I think in like 2014 I went to a job fair, the service academy career conference and met Mario, who I believe, you know, as well and kinda hit it off. He's the one that helped me or guided me to be in the manufacturing engineer where we've worked together.
Siddhit: I know Mario, he's a great guy. He hired me and he hired Zach Westoffen.
Ted: We can hold that against him.
Siddhit: Yeah. He's an awesome guy and hopefully I'll have him on the podcast at some point. Why Ford, what interested you with Ford? Did you have any experiences growing up where you were familiar with machinery?
Ted: My first car that I had was a 68 California Special Mustang. I used to joke around that it was no longer a Ford, it was a bowl because I legitimately don't think there was a nut screw or anything in it that I didn't have off and back on at one point either restoring it or repairing it. When I was at the career conference I jokingly approached Mario and told him I was mad because I had Fords my whole life. I had three in the driveway and I got a car from GM and not Ford.
He kind of laughed and we talked for 20, 30 minutes and he asked me what I wanted to do. I was like, well, you worked there. I've never worked there. I don't know what I want to do. You've talked to me long enough to know the type of person I am. Where do you think I would fit in? He made some suggestions and I applied and ended up getting hired by Ken.
Siddhit: That's so funny. That's fantastic. This is the first time I've heard like a approach to a recruiter in that method and I've hired alongside Mario at Virginia tech and candidates are super serious and like very earnest and stuff like that. I guess they can take a leaf out of your book and just like try and use humor a little bit.Of course there's a fine line there, but humor always works ease the tension between recruiter and candidate. So great going over there Ted.
After that, I know that you are working in the same group, I was, we were making the 10 speed rear wheel transmission that goes into some of Ford's key products, like the F150, Mustang and transit and other wheelers. But I don't know anything about your previous roles, your time in the Navy and especially with other other roles in Ford that you had. Can you talk about a technical problem that really challenged you? It doesn't matter if it was like one problem or just a set of bad days, but something that is etched in your memory that you always remember that technically really challenged you.
Ted: Yeah. I mean there's a bunch, so it's difficult picking one, but one that sticks in mind is when I was in the Navy, we had a gas turbine engine that was overheating. I was the main propulsion assistant, which is basically like the assistant to the chief engineer on a ship. We had a Allison K501 gas turbine generator that was hot starting. We had to troubleshoot it kind of while at sea, using phones calling back. I had a chief and I kind of worked as a team calling back to NavSea to find out why it was doing it.
After a long analysis of the problem, we determined that basically the mechanical people didn't talk to the electronic people. They upgraded the cans or the combustion chamber with a ceramic linecan, which made it more efficient.But since they didn't talk to the electric people, the EGTs that were coming off of that can misinterpreted the fuel input. It was scheduling more fuel than needed because it naturally burned cooler. That was kind of something we worked through.
Then funny enough fast forward eight years while I was a helicopter pilot, we had gas turbine engines that had just gotten upgraded cans and it was overheating. I immediately said, well, obviously you guys didn't talk to your fuel schedulers because you got too much fuel. I was on duty and I was at the desk and the phone rang and it was NavAir. They asked for me and I said, well, that's actually me on the phone. We're trying to find out who you are and how you know so much. I was like, well, it's not that I'm smart. It's not that I'm good. It's just, I've seen it before. The same thing happened with the Alison K501 engine when I was on the ship. Kind of a funny story, but it just kind of reinforces the need for the higher level systems view of engineering problems and how you got to actively fight to work around communications issues and break through the barriers to where we can work as a team. Because even if you think your component on the aircraft, on the car, whatever it is, doesn't impact someone else it most always does as a systems point of view. That makes sense.
Siddhit: That was I guess the most novel technical challenge for me, because my understanding of Naval engineering is zero. I'm going to break down your answer and I want you to assist me in helping me understand and just familiarizing the audience with some of the terms that you just mentioned.Is that okay? What I see is that hot-start is any variant of a jet engine where the manufacturer defined limiting temperature for start has been exceeded, right? Is that what happened?
Ted: Yes. When a gas turbine engine starts up, it's been probably 10 years since I had to know this. Please forgive me if it's not completely technically accurate, but the gap, the fuel scheduling is a function of, the pressure, the temperature, and you know, the NG or engine speed, so that you know, at what RPM your engine is turning. The pressure will tell you a density altitude, and then the engine speed, it lets the engine know how much it needs to start up. If you have too much or too little, it can either give you a compressor stall or where it's literally like an explosion that can damage the engine or a hung start where it doesn't have enough fuel to continue it's ramping up.
Siddhit: I see. The engine speed, which is RPM, the density, which is that the air density surrounding.
Ted: Yeah, how much massive area you have in that charge.
Siddhit: I see. Obviously the altitude in case it is starting. This happens when you're restarting, when you say altitude, does that mean when it's restarting.
Ted: The altitude or how dense that air charges, determine the mass, which is kind of how much fuel you need. That's probably an overly simplistic way to explain it, but at the end of the day, it's just how much fuel you need to keep the start going.
Siddhit: Well, I'm finding it very fascinating. I'm sure a lot of people not familiar with like jet engines and turbines are also. Now you said EGTs. This is exhausted gas temperature?
Ted: Yes. Just the temperature in the can to let you know. You don't want to get it too hot, obviously your own melt, you know? If your temperatures are going up too rapidly or during the start, it'll automatically abort the start as a machine protection.
Siddhit: What is a ceramic line can? When you say can, is it the C-A-N like can?
Ted: There's several different gas turbine engine designs. The two in particular had, you know, I think it had like six cans, to go around kind of the 360 degrees and then your fuel nozzles shoot in there. Then the air, as it comes in, hits it and catches on fire and expands. You have to keep all your pressures going in the right direction so that it doesn't come back at you.Does that make sense?
Siddhit: Yeah. Can you, can you spell the cans? Is that the same as the C-A-N?
Ted: Yeah, just like a soda can, it's probably an unofficial term.
Siddhit: Oh okay. It's basically that whole container with the turbine, the fuel.
Ted: Imagine like six soda cans in a circle. Kind of fluid, dynamically designed to prevent any of the gas from actually touching the edges.
Siddhit: Now I fully understand.
Ted: Really simplistic view I think.
Siddhit: No that's what we need just you know, at a very high level in a podcast like this. I'm sure you can go on for like several hours.
Ted: I'm no expert. It's just kind of the way I remember it. But when you're a pilot, you kind of have to know how everything works so that when you're flying you know, if you have to land right away or if you've got time.
Siddhit: Of course. Yeah, that is a very fascinating technical problem. I'm glad I and the audience got to hear about an incident during your time in the service. Thank you for the answer and also thank you for your service to the country. Moving on Ted, you worked with a lot of people in the Navy and for other places, what was a non-technical problem that you had to deal with that you can talk about?
Ted: Well, you know, non-technical is just kind of, you know, probably the lowest hanging fruit of them all is just dealing with different personalities, people of like diverse backgrounds, people that have different opinions, experiences and all of that. You kind of have to embrace, the diversity and the different opinions to everybody to kind of leverage the team to meet the end state, mission or goal.
In the Navy I had anywhere from 36 guys down to like five with different education levels that you had to motivate to kind of join and do work, or when I'm at Ford as a program management analyst my boss will give me different projects to work on, and you have to gauge every member of the team's expertise, so you know, where to help, you know where to leverage him.
Then you also need to kind of maintain a broad-based area of expertise within the company, so you knew who to reach out to for help. I don't know if that answered the question.
Siddhit: No. Yeah, yeah. I believe that, those two experiences would have a lot of things in common, but a lot of things different. Did you feel like, there was a shift in how you had to think and how you had to operate between the Navy and working for like a commercial company, like Ford?
Ted: There's a lot of differences, but a lot of similarities too. You just kind of have to gauge where you're at and what you need and roll with it. I grew up in California, so you'd not have much experience working with a union at all. One of the things I really kind of enjoyed most about when we worked together would go down to the floor and work with all the UAW members.I mean, you remember Roxanne and you know, Steve.Everybody down there and you just build these deep, personal bonds and friendships with them. It's kind of interesting because, if you tell them what to do, they're not going to do it. If you kind of convince them that it needs to get done and work with them and ask them, and you're respectful and appreciative what they do, they literally will move heaven and earth to get it done. I just can't overstate how much I enjoyed working in Lavonia and at new models.Granted, those are my only two data points.I'm sure that some plants have higher challenges than others, but you know, I just currently enjoy working with everybody.
Siddhit: You know Ted I couldn't have said it better myself that if you just show your face every day in the plant, 95% of the problems with working with anybody in the plant are gone. If they know you're sincere and they know you're working for the progress of the company, like you said, they will move things that otherwise might take like managers and general engineering protocols to take weeks, they might just say, we'll get it done over the night.They'll just do it for you. A lot of people don't know that. I'm glad you brought it up.
Ted: Yeah and more importantly, you're not going to get that the first day you walk down, you gotta earn your keep so to speak.They can trust you. A lot of times when you're walking by, if you only go to them with a problem every time, then they're going to know you're just the guy that wants something. But if you take the extra two or three minutes, when you're walking by to say hi, and just being friendly, that's just life in genera.
Siddhit: Absolutely well said Ted. Yeah. I guess that was a great answer on how to avoid non-technical problems, especially on the floor. Thank you for that. I'm very interested. Do you have other like things that you observed while you were working in the Navy? Because that example was very fascinating. If you have more, I'd be very happy to hear.
Ted: I wanted to try to adapt the aviation type of training to the manufacturing environment. What I mean by that is when you go through flight school and I guarantee anyone listening can learn how to fly. It's not hard. It's well-defined and there's a very defined syllabus. You do A, you perfect A, you move to B, you moved to C. Some people typically your jet pilots will have one time through and they'll be fine. Other people might take two, three times to go through.
The Navy, like everybody else has a defined budget, so they can't afford to have you go through 10 events each time, but not everyone makes it. But I think everyone could make it given enough time and energy. What I would think would be cool and a plant is to take that same mentality of training that the Navy uses. You could look at downtime against FIS, which is I forgot what it stands for, but the data on how fast.
Siddhit: The factory information system that provides JPH.
Ted: You could look at a downtime event to where sensor XYZ faulted out on station 10, and it took the team 15 minutes or an hour to recover. You could use that FIS data to measure that. Then you could send a controls engineer in to the same station at a downtime event, for instance, where you were starving for stock, or there was downtime, and you could send your trades in to do the exact same fault and you could have on the job training to help the team review what had happened that day before and go through their emergency procedures or their recovery, and that you could wait until the event happened again and measure it.
So you know that your first time it took 30 minutes to recover and your second time took 15. Hopefully it wouldn't take 45, but that would be a worthy data point as well. I always thought that that would be a cool thing to do to employ the trades and make lemonade from lemons. When you did get starved, instead of just sending the line on break, you could do training with the targeted team, and then you would have a measurable way to gauge the effectiveness of your training.
Siddhit: That sounds very interesting. What essentially you're talking about is very similar, from my experience, would also be in a pitstop, in a formula one team where you are perfecting this response to an event. Every time you go you want to get better. This is essentially the kind of discipline and orchestration that would be required in the armed forces because of obvious reasons. Bringing that into a commercial organization, like an auto company would bring in the same discipline so that you have a set number of steps that you perform every time a machine goes down and you can obviously adapt it to different kinds of machines and different downtime events.
But yeah, if there was a tumbler that, so and so forth, would you usually take like 20 minutes to reset, and you know why over time, it should not take like 70 minutes to restart. We all know that the meantime to repair is a very crucial metric for any production company that wants to not bleed money the downtime. That makes a lot of sense Ted. Thank you for that idea. I hope you know, someone listening to this might also come from that kind of a background would do something like this with all the training that they've got in the armed forces and teach us about that kind of response time and that kind of response methodology.
Ted: I enjoy that kind of problem solving and stuff. Like we had on the build we just got through, our safety frames, some holes got cut in the frame, in the prototype frames where they shouldn't have. I kind of led an effort with humor with Zach, and then reached out to Zach and some other people that we knew and kind of built a team of experts to define a measurable repair process to repair the frames. Then we had the material labs do some testing to quantify our results and reached out to some data people to help us interpret the data.
Then I set up some kind of guidelines to train the welder, gave them samples and practice. Then when he was proficient, we went ahead and authorize the repair and then the vehicles went through their required safety training. We were able to analyze the data to measure our success. We found out that the work paid because the data showed that it was homogeneous to the original metal, if that makes sense.
Siddhit: Yeah. Yeah, no, that's a good example.
Ted: That team building at firms you kind of do that brainstorm, we'd call it like a mission analysis in the military or whatever it was called, but it just kind of like a brainstorming. You remember in like fifth or sixth grade, your teacher sat and had the class just kind of brainstorm and it's like, all right, team, who else do we need? Okay, let me reach out.
You know, if you get too many cooks in the kitchen, you spoil the soup, right? It's got a fine line, but you have five or six people, you build your team, you gain everybody's confidence. If anyone has any concerns or brings up points, you honor them. You try to do your due diligence to resolve those concerns and appreciate their background for bringing up those concerns. You identify your risk and then you control it. There was a lot more work than it probably sounds like, but just convincing everybody that this is the right way to do it, that we don't need to absorb a two month delay in the program to get new frames. We can repair these to the same quality before because when it comes to something like that, you can't jeopardize any quality or safety.
Siddhit: I guess the next question is, if you had a magic wand to change one thing about your work or about like the industry or just manufacturing in general, what would that be and why? Within reason.
Ted: The wand is magic, so it doesn't have to be two reasonable. I mean, this might be too out of the box, but I mean, I can always answer it again if you want, but honestly, like we all talk about diversity and if I had a magic wand, I'd want to wave it and get people to thoroughly like embrace that. Not just like diversity in origin or religion, but like diversity in thoughts. We're all human beings and we all are a basis of our backgrounds, unique. Rural, you have some people that grew up in a city, you have some people that grew up overseas.
You have some people that grew up around here. It's that diversity and like unique thought where you really need to leverage to come up with the best solution overall and in any big corporation or any big entity, whether it's the Navy or Ford motor company, people are very hesitant to entertain something that is outside of their comfort zone. I think diversity means you're supposed to embrace, the man or woman that came from a different part of the world with a different, unique backgrounds opinion.
I think if we all could do that to challenge ourself, to entertain the diversity, not only of, the stereotypical diversity of religion and upbringing and race, but just the diversity of ideas. I think that we would all be better off so that when somebody says something that you might not necessarily agree with, or that might somewhat make you uncomfortable, try to put yourself in their shoes and see why they feel that way. Then talk it out. If it's something you don't agree with, why do you think we should do XYZ?
Siddhit: Yeah. That's a very interesting notion that you just mentioned, and I'llis repeat it. Because it's worth repeating, which is diversity in terms of difference in ideas and diversity in ideas rather than just the regular diversity. That makes a lot of sense because coming back to the commercial aspect of a business, you want all ideas to be different so that you have a lot of like a wide pool of rich ideas to select from, and the best ideas will eventually help the company move forward.Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Like you said, we need a magic wand because it's easier said than done. But that's not a way that I have thought about it before, because it may not be possible to dissociate the two, but certainly we can attempt to think more like that diversity of ideas rather than anything else.While the regular diversity is also very important, I think the focus that you were mentioning is very important. I get that and that's a good magic wand answer Ted.
To wrap up like our conversation. I want to ask you that if this was 2051 or if you transported in time to 2051, what would the factory of that time look like? Or how would manufacturing look like in 2051?
Ted: Well I will say that anyone that thinks robots are gonna take over the world probably hasn't sat at a robot and looked at it for two hours during the night shift, wondering why it's not moving, only to have day shift, come in and enable some switch or something and everything goes moving. I do think that obviously we're going to have a higher level of automation.
We're going to have more robots, but at the end of the day, it's not a one for one removal. You're going to still need people to manage those robots. You're still going to need people to provide, preventative maintenance to the bearings, provide preventative maintenance to the software and resetting it, do optimization of the flows, analyze the path of the robot to see if you can maybe cut a corner. They'll still be people 2051. It will just need to be a more educated and more technically savvy workforce.
Siddhit: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. We've had this conversation with like other guests in which more automation is like the obvious answer, but also that the same people who are training robots now would in the future become consultants or people who maintain like a hundred robots, because you still need that few people who are super knowledgeable about how to maintain it, to still come into the plant and at least revive them once in a long while, if durability and dependability is very high in the future to still come in and at least manage them, like you said, so absolutely.
Ted: There's some like, I mean, we still have horses, so there are still tasks that are best accompanied by a horse. Getting lumber out of the woods, if you want to harvest a very unique wood species from a forest or something, getting a tractor in there, it's just extremely destructive. Whereas if you take in on your horse, you can pull that same thing out. Kind of the analogy for manufacturing is, if you're seeding a bearing or if you're, on the CDF, remember we had all the issues seeding the clutch.
You've got a technician that is a skilled union technician that is line side, and they know how to feel those clutches and engagement sequence better than any machine can ever do. You can't just rule people out or a process that requires people to think or move or feel there's always going to be those spots for humans I think.
Siddhit: No. Absolutely. I was going to say another example is the wide harnesses that many people have tried to automate, but they have not been possible to be automated at the right cost. CDF clutch is another example. For our audience, the CDF clutch is the [inaudible32:16] of the clutches that Ford gives like the C, D and F clutches in which they're all assembled together in a way that a lot of splines have to be finessed and then, aligned such that they become one whole. That is kind of like a very standard process that all auto companies might be having for automatic transmissions.What Ted is referring to is that that finessing would require so many super advanced sensors and robotic movement that it would just not be feasible by anybody other than a human. Even only a few humans who are really adept at it by doing it for many months.
Ted: Yeah, and then the just natural variations of incoming stock. It's just naturally something that tends itself to where you couldn't program it to come in because the tolerances coming in on your individual clutches or your individual finishes are going to vary so much that it's just easier, better, and faster to have an individual do it. But say an individual is married together with lasers and vision systems that ensure quality, you can have a forced feedback to say that an operator didn't exceed whatever value that might do long-term damage to the components.
Siddhit: Absolutely. The variability is so high with that many parts in just our transmission, forget the week that you had training like artificial beings to that would be like a tall task, but who knows about the future. But thank you for that answer, Ted. Those were great answers. I think there was some great ideas, very fascinating examples from your time in the Navy and a very different scenario or environment in Ford motor company, but you adapted yourself and also led a lot of good projects like the frame example that you gave for the prototype.
I really hear you on the magic wand answer and also the factory of the future answer with the human versus automation percentage or, involvement in the plants being a very realistic and likely answer of how a factory would look like in 2051.I had a great conversation with you Ted, and I'm glad we got to catch up through this podcast and take care. Say hi to the family and have a good day.
Ted: Awesome. Thanks. It was good catching up. I miss working with you and Shiv and Bill, and Paul and everybody else. We need to get everyone together and meet up for lunch or something. Once we get out of the craziness of the current time.
Siddhit: Yeah. In the same Thai place that you like.
Ted: Best Thai food in Dearborn or whatever. Yeah. All right. Cool. Thanks again.
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