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Change Your Standard

One day E. H. Harriman, the railroad magnate, was walking along the tracks with an assistant. Looking at a track bolt, he turned to the other man and asked, “Why does so much of the bolt protrude beyond the nut?” “I don’t really know,” said the assistant. “Except that it is the size we’ve always used.” “Why should we use a bolt of such length that a part of it is utterly useless?” asked Harriman. “Well, when you come right down to it, there is no reason.”

The two continued walking along the track for a moment, then Harriman asked how many track bolts there were in a mile of track. He was told. “Well,” said Harriman, “we have thousands of miles of track, and there must be some fifty million track bolts in our system. If you can cut an ounce from every bolt, you will have fifty million ounces of iron, and that is something worthwhile. Change your bolt standard!”

Bits and Pieces, Oct, 1990