In the 1970’s the famous Vienna Sausage plant here in Chicago moved from the Southside to the Northside. The old plant was inefficient, out of date, and a new factory was desperately needed.
The new plant opened, inefficiencies were eliminated, and production began. But for some reason, the hot dogs didn’t taste right nor had their signature pink hue. They tested the water, the new elevation, and the air differential. For a year and half they tried everything. It wasn’t until they were reminiscing about one of the old plant workers that the secret was discovered.
When it was decided that the new plant would be moved to the Northside, longtime employee, Irving, didn’t want to leave his Southside roots. He liked being able to walk to work and so when the plant left, he stayed.
Pushing the hotdogs on a thirty minute trip through the twisting factory to the curing room. As the hot dogs made their way, they cooled in the open air - just enough time to create the pink color and give them their unique taste. This remarkable little journey was the secret.
When they built the new factory, since Irving didn’t go, his position didn’t either and was replaced by a machine which moved the finished sausages immediately to the curing room. No need for anything special this time, the just needed efficiency.
In the end they built a new room in the new factory, dubbed, “Irving’s Room,” that mimicked the thirty minute excursion through the factory.
A machine had to be created because of something a human had done that no one else could do.
This little story from This American Life makes me think about so many things, but I’m left with two big thoughts:
1. Is there something that only you can do? Something that would be missed if you were to leave? If not, what could it be?
2. There is nothing that can replace good, old-fashioned work. You have all the fancy tools and apps, and conveyor belts, but if you aren’t willing to literally push the cart around, the chances of making something exceptional are rare.