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January 2021

The Crow Engineering Chess Tournament

by Chad Corkern

Two players. One chess board. One move yields a countermove – attack and defend, strike and counterstrike. Warring adversaries fight it out by the rules of an ancient game. There’s a quiet but palpable tension in the room. Then a single word breaks the silence: “checkmate.”

The defeated player lays down his king. He’s not happy to lose but it’s just a friendly competition. Yes, he’s beaten Bob from Accounting in past. He’s sure can beat Bob again. But today he has to accept the fact that he’s simply out of the running.

This is the Crow Engineering Chess Tournament.

How It All Got Started

It began almost as a goof. An employee wanted to teach his son how to play chess. When he brought a board home, the whole family got hooked. Soon he was competing against his wife regularly.

At first, he won handily. But when his wife started winning, he thought it best to get some practice at work. Initially, a couple of employees joined in during lunch or break. But then interest grew. Who knew you could draw crowds with a game of chess? Soon, the Crow lunchroom became the site multiple games a day.

A tournament was probably inevitable. Engineers can be competitive.

Soon, lines were drawn, ranking sorted, and the Crow Engineering Chess Tournament was born. Currently, we’re about halfway through a double elimination bracket. We’d like to go faster, but we do have work to do.

Why It Is Important

It has been a tough year. A pandemic, social distancing, economic troubles – and let’s not forget the murder hornets! We are all adjusting to the times, with a dynamic paradigm shift in how we work and live. Even the definition of normal is currently in question.

But Crow Continues.

Due to the pandemic some of us are working from home. This, of course, makes it hard to play chess – though surely there’s an app of some kind that could do the trick. But even those that still work in the office are forced to keep their distance from one another. The classic pictures of designers hunched together over a set of drawings or engineers clustered around a whiteboard – these seem like images from a bygone era.

But Crow Continues.

Yet. All of today’s troubles aside, customers still come to Crow – and they still expect the best. There can be no excuses. We cannot allow ourselves to let the times get in our way. We must bulldoze our way through any challenge to deliver for our clients.

Which is why, Crow Continues.

The Crow Engineering Chess Tournament is helping us to keep our focus on our clients and get through these hard times. It’s a simple game to learn – but takes a lifetime to master. The competition is fun and it’s helping us to bring together people who might not typically interact. Just beware of the normally demure types – Se sometimes found to be quite aggressive and unreserved competitors.

Bringing people together helps to improve communication. Even if only through osmosis, ideas are exchanged, and conversations had. We at Crow are at our best when we’re communicating effectively –exchanging ideas, having disagreements, and driving toward resolution. But communication takes practice – and the Crow Engineering Chess Tournament has helped get a lot of practice indeed. It’s also been great for morale – which is helping us to keep pushing forward. Because as always . . .

Crow Continues.

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At Crow Engineering, relationships with customers last for years. One company – a long-term customer – recently engaged us to review ways to increase the productivity of its lumber manufacturing process. To assess and identify improvement opportunities, we conducted an efficiency study of the company’s log infeed and breakdown systems.

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Modernizing a Mill with 3D

Recently, Crow Engineering completed an engineering design to replace a raw material infeed conveyor at a building products mill. The mill was connected to a mining operation with a single conveyor to deliver feedstock. The conveyor was built in 1962 and worn out. Any interruption or problems with this conveyor caused both mining and mill production to stop. The owner hired Crow to evaluate the situation and investigate possible solutions to replace, upgrade, or rebuild the raw material feed line.

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