I try to make time daily to walk up and down production lines. I learned early on to use all of my senses during these walks to indicate the condition of an asset. Solely waiting on an alarm screen in a pulpit for an indication of an alarm was never good enough. If we were side-trimming flat rolled steel, colleagues taught me to safely rub my thumb across the cut edge of steel to feel the cut/break ratio. Too much cut, a side-trimmer knife would soon spall, and too much break would be an early sign that a cobble is imminent. If I walked through a hydraulic room, I learned to place the backside of my hand against each pilot valve to feel for an expected heat load. Any temperature less than what I would be traditionally used to could indicate a non-functioning circuit, and too high of a temperature could allude to a bypassing hydraulic circuit. These techniques were old-school ways to get the asset to tell me its secrets and alert me to its deteriorated state.
Walking through a vineyard recently, I was not expecting to see the abundance of roses. The beauty of the vineyard seamlessly synced with the horizon with grape vines with accents of vibrant roses within the green. There were yellow ones, white ones, and pink ones were everywhere. Accompanying every personal sneeze and a childhood memory of the book “Robert the Rose Horse,” I was blown away by the beauty of the landscape. But the roses were not there for just beautification and aesthetics, they were there to give early signs of something being wrong.
Again, he got that funny feeling. His eyes began to itch, his nose began to itch, and… KERCHOO! - Joan Heilbroner
Roses have been traditionally planted in vineyards to show signs of powdery mildew or a destructive disease that affects grapevines globally. If this fungal disease is on the roses, it will soon transition to the grape vines if ignored. Therefore, when this mildew is recognized on the roses, the vigneron would immediately begin to treat the grape vines. If the vigneron missed these warning signs on the roses, their entire seasonal harvest could be in jeopardy.
Originally, roses were planted in vineyards as an early warning sign, roses, and grape vines are both prone to the infestation of a fungus known as powdery mildew, this is the most widespread fungal diseases of grapevines in the world. If this fungus appeared on the roses, the vines would be treated to prevent the grapes from being destroyed. - PalazzoTronconi.com
Early on in the railroad business and before the modern airbrake, brakemen were required to walk the tops of cars to adjust the braking systems of each railcar manually. As you can imagine, walking or crawling on top of the cars would be pretty intense, especially if coming around a blind bend that leads into a tunnel or under a bridge. To improve the brakeman's safety, the railroad businesses installed “tell-tales” to indicate to the brakeman a danger was coming. History tells us that calling these devices tell-tales most likely originated from the saying that dead men tell no tales. If the tell-tale was not functioning, the brakeman did not know what it meant, or if the brakeman did not respond to the warning, the brakeman would soon tell no tales. They were dead.
And for the youngins here, the origin of ‘Tell Tale’ in railroading is short for ‘dead men tell no tales’. They were a quick alert device for a car ‘rider’ atop a freight car in transit to DUCK or HIT THE DECK in advance of an overhead bridge or tunnel. - The Mascoma River Greenway
But in a world of warning signs, indicators, and flags indicating the onset of failure, these tell-tales require us to recognize them and take action. Which ones do you ignore, and which require special attention? Raise your head higher next time you are driving or walking through a city, and think about which ones are warning of imminent failure. If you were lucky enough to be gifted a family vineyard with no experience and stared at beautiful roses versus constantly being alert to a powder fungus, your grape season could swiftly become a disaster. If I did not learn how to feel the edge of side-trimmed steel, I would have decreased my ability to prevent unwanted delays. If a brakeman did not know what was affixed to a horizontal pole as they were setting a railcar's brake, they would soon be dead.
When a tell-tale is installed or taught, two things must happen for them to be effective. First, individuals must be able to recognize the tell-tale. Do you know what all of the lights mean on your car display? Stroll through a city and watch others be distracted by the artistic beauty of the city versus the foreshadowing indicators. Is their attention in the right spot? Remember, a tell-tale is an indication that a deadman tells no tale.
The second requirement is to take action when the tell-tale alerts. You may have marked torqued lines on a bolt head to show that it became loose. You are being alerted to take action or this bolt will remain loose. If you do not stand behind the white line on a walkway indicating the width of the trolley coming from your left (personal experience in Austria), you might just get smashed. These tell-tales must have a response taken, or failure will soon occur.
These tell-tales are a hint of information indicating that something bad could soon happen if not responded to. Make sure you understand what they mean and that you are challenging your teams to indicate their importance. These little clues are installed and designed due to previous failures, and provide that glimpse of historical insight that will foreshadow a grimacing future if no action is taken. Go smell the roses and take in their beauty. However, if you see signs of a fungus, take action quickly. Mildew on roses makes no wine.