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SAE vs. Metric

Mike took a job as the Field Services Manager for a small industrial services firm. The firm provided a variety of services, but anything done in the field was Mike’s responsibility.

He made a point of visiting every active job and watching people work. Something he noticed repeatedly is that even the mechanics were constantly rummaging through their tool trays for the right socket.

Several of the workers knew socket sizes without having to read the markings, but most did not. So they spend considerable time with flashlights and reading glasses trying to identify the correct size. Worse, several plants on which they regularly called had a mix of metric and SAE fasteners.

Mike noticed the socket set trays were all red. He had the metric ones painted blue. Then he had a helper use a Sharpie marker to write the size on the metric sockets. This was straightforward, as metric sockets are all in mm. So 4, 5, 6, and so on.

On SAE sockets the helper wrote just the first number. So 5/16 was 5, 3/8 was 3, 7/16 was 7, and so on. It wasn’t necessary to write the denominator (e.g., 16th) because you can’t possibly confuse a 5/16 socket with a 5/8 or a 1/4 with a 1 inch. The markings eliminated confusing a 5/16 with a 1/4 or a 3/8 with a 7/16.

The helper did the same thing with wrenches, and wrapped a strip of blue tape around the middle of each one.

Mike also arranged with the repeat clients a system of putting blue marks on all metric fasteners wherever possible. This helped reduce the chronic time-wasting problem of rounding off metric nut heads by using an SAE tool.

Source: Mark Lamendola | Mindconnection