A Little Fun with Testing

My apologies for being late with my blog post this week. We are having our once a year big sales meeting, so I’ve been traveling to the Midwest to participate. Speaking of traveling, several times each year, we invite our newest employees to our home office in Pleasanton, California for a week-long Sales and Product Orientation class. Although originally envisioned as detailed product knowledge training for our sales people, the class has evolved over the years to include people from all areas of our business such as finance, accounting, IT, purchasing, quality, marketing, and (of course) engineering.

I do one presentaton for the class explaining the importance of a continuous load path in a building, and another covering the history of innovation that led to some of our products. It is a great opportunity for me to meet my new coworkers by spending some time with them before they embark on their careers in different parts of the country (or world!).

Holdown Test Setup

My favorite training session I do for the class is about product development and testing, which includes a tour of our test lab in Pleasanton. We go over a lot of testing basics – how we select lumber, get parts made, build setups and run the tests. For a demonstration, I used to run a simple joist hanger test and also a holdown test. Usually I’ll pick a heavy holdown to test, since those make an impressive bang when the steel breaks, and then everyone jumps and gets a good laugh out of it.

 

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Is Your New Hire Ready For The Working World?

Cal Poly students attend a Simpson Strong-Tie workshop (May 2012)

It’s that time of year again: newly graduated college students are entering the workforce.  For the student, it’s an anxious time. They are often wondering how and if four plus years of college has effectively prepared them for the real working world. For the potential employer, it can be a gamble. They have decided to take a chance on someone who likely does not have any professional work experience, but expect production from day one. On a recent visit to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, my colleague Scott Fischer got a firsthand view of what students are doing to prepare for a career.

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Is It Friday Yet? Maintaining A Positive, Motivational and Fun Work Environment

It’s not Friday yet, but I am looking forward to the obnoxious Hawaiian shirts some of my coworkers wear as part of our Engineering Department’s unofficial Hawaiian Shirt Day each week. It’s a little thing, but it definitely helps lighten the mood and gives us all an opportunity to interact with each other.

Members of our Engineering Dept. on Friday’s Hawaiian Shirt Day.

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How We Test – Part I: Wood Connectors

If you have followed some of my earlier blog posts, you know I am passionate about testing. In my post, Testing – Then and Now, I said, “There simply is no substitute for a physical test.” Something I haven’t discussed in much detail, however, are some of the complexities involved in a good test.

LUS2 10-2 Uplift Test Setup

For wood connector testing, we follow ASTM D7147-11 Testing and Establishing Allowable Loads of Joist Hangers. The actual testing is relatively straight forward – build at least three setups, test them, measure the deflection and ultimate loads.

LUS2 10-2 Uplift Test Failure

 

 

 

 

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Vacation – Can Engineers Take It?

My blog post is late this week – I’m going to blame it on vacation. According to this article analyzing a study by Expedia, Americans did not use $34 billion worth of vacation time they were entitled to in 2011. This started me thinking about how difficult it can be for structural engineers to take a real vacation.

In the past, I avoided vacation because it’s just too much work. Getting multiple design projects to a point where I could take time off was stressful. In addition to that, there are projects under construction that need shop drawing approvals and responses to contractor requests for information. So the weeks leading up to vacation involved a lot of overtime, and my return meant a lot of catching up to do. Honestly, it just didn’t seem worth it.

Emerald Bay. Lake Tahoe, CA

My solution to the vacation problem was to avoid vacation. And when I did take time off, I would always do short trips. Usually just adding one vacation day to a three-day weekend to go to Lake Tahoe or drive to Disneyland.

Last year I did a real vacation. We went to Cabo San Lucas for eight days with some close friends for Spring Break. We sat by the pool and talked while our kids swam for hours and hours everyday. It was the longest vacation we’d been on since our honeymoon 14 years ago. It was awesome, fun, and relaxing. Other than sending a photo of the Cabo sunrise to a few co-workers, I didn’t think about work all week.

Cabo sunrise

So. . .how well do you use your vacation time every year? Let me know in the comments.

– Paul

Congratulations to Our Structural Engineering Blog Sweepstakes Winners!

To launch our Structural Engineering Blog, in April we hosted a sweepstakes inviting you to sign up for blog email updates by June 1, 2012. Everyone who also posted a comment to the blog during that time period received a bonus entry into the sweepstakes. The five winning entries received a Simpson Strong-Tie prize pack. Congratulations to our winners:

Daniel Weinstein, VP of The Kachele Group, Inc. wears his Simpson Strong-Tie t-shirt from the prize pack.
 

R. Johnson – Chicago, Illinois

D. Bentti – Anchorage, Alaska

R. Porter – Westfield, MA

D. Weinstein, PE – Philadelphia, PA

Z. Andriuk – White Plains, MD

If you’d like automatic email updates when a new blog entry is posted (usually once a week), sign up here.

So. . .What Do You Love About Structural Engineering?

A few years ago, we hosted a Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work® Day at our home office in Pleasanton, CA. During introductions, several parents told the children what they did and how they chose their particular profession (you can see what my son thinks I do in my bio). At our home office, we have accounting, finance, product management, IT, administration, marketing, and a few others I’m probably missing, so it is a diverse group the kids heard from that day.

And the careers were often not what people had originally planned for. Many shared wonderful stories about the twists and turns their careers took until they finally discovered their passion and job satisfaction. Often, this was a career that they didn’t even know existed when they chose a major in college or first entered the workforce.

So, what was my story?

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Simpson Strong-Tie Research: The Tye Gilb Lab

I often get asked about Simpson Strong-Tie R&D projects. Since I can’t always talk about what new products we are working on, I thought I’d give you a sneak peek into where the magic happens. The Tye Gilb Research Laboratory is our R&D hub. Built in 2003 in Stockton, CA, the lab is named in memory of Tyrell (Tye) Gilb, a former professor of architecture and a wonderful man, who led our company’s research and development efforts for 35 years.

Tye Gilb Lab

The 25,000 sq. ft. facility is built around 10,000 sq. ft. of reinforced “Strong-Floor,” to which all test equipment is secured. The Strong-Floor is three feet thick and designed to withstand concentrated loads of up to 300,000 pounds at any location. The Strong-Floor, basement walls and mat slab below are comprised of 10 million lbs. of concrete.

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Testing – Then & Now

“One test result is worth one thousand expert opinions.”

Wernher von Braun

While reviewing some of our first catalogs, I was curious about the testing we did on those iconic products that launched our company. I found a test report from December 20, 1957 on crinkled yellow paper with a short description: U-29 Download Test. The signature from the independent testing agency was a little faded, and the data was typed by hand in a table. But I was thrilled to discover that our 1957 customers received exactly the same thing as our modern-day customers – the confidence in knowing that our allowable loads are supported by physical testing.

There simply is no substitute for a physical test.

Continue Reading

Testing – Then & Now

“One test result is worth one thousand expert opinions.”

Wernher von Braun

While reviewing some of our first catalogs, I was curious about the testing we did on those iconic products that launched our company. I found a test report from December 20, 1957 on crinkled yellow paper with a short description: U-29 Download Test. The signature from the independent testing agency was a little faded, and the data was typed by hand in a table. But I was thrilled to discover that our 1957 customers received exactly the same thing as our modern-day customers – the confidence in knowing that our allowable loads are supported by physical testing.
There simply is no substitute for a physical test.
Continue Reading