An electrical power plant used a set of coal-fired boilers to generate high pressure steam. The boiler house was under the control of a superintendent with many, many years of experience. But, eventually, as happens to all of us, time caught up with him, and he decided to retire.
A few weeks after his departure the piping to one of the boilers started vibrating uncontrollably. No one could figure out what was going on. Management called in boiler consultants, the process safety coordinator organized a hazards analysis, the inspection group conducted extensive surveys — all to no avail. The vibration continued.
This problem needed to be solved quickly because management had been told that the boiler house would shortly be subject to a detailed audit.
So management called the retired superintendent and asked him to come back to his old haunts and see if could figure out what the problem was. He agreed and showed up the next day. After catching up with some of his old friends, he walked over to an obscure section of the boiler piping and hit that piping hard a couple of times with a large hammer.
The vibration stopped.
Management was, of course, delighted and asked the retired superintendent to send them his invoice. His invoice was for $10,000. This led to outrage. How, management asked, could he justify such a large amount of money for just a few minutes of work.
So, he sent them a revised invoice; it read:
- For hitting the pipe: $ 100
- For knowing where to hit the pipe: $ 9,900