Picture yourself at a friend’s barbeque. Hear the sizzling meat. Feel the cool condensation on the bottle. Smell the freshly cut grass. It’s a good turnout, with mostly faces you know. On your right, is a man whose very presence oozes with an earthy integrity. Callused fingers, worn-in baseball cap, and eyes that silently speak of compassion make you want to introduce yourself.
You talk about his family, the weather, and the company he works for. He throws out phrases like, “There’s nothing worse than when something comes to you defective or bad. I’d never want to give another person that bad day” and “People need to set standards for themselves and then try to keep to them.”
You also learn that this man knows a heck of a lot about grommets. “A grommet?” you say, trying your very best to add something insightful. Your brain races with the familiar word. Something about a Claymation dog keeps circling through your mind. Maybe a manic affinity for cheese…
But no, this guy doesn’t strike you as the Claymation type.
A grommet is a metal, plastic, or rubber ring that reinforces the hole where rope meets banner. A grommet makes it so banners can withstand wind, overzealous installers, and other general abuse without ripping. If you’ve ever looked intently at your living room curtains, you’ve already seen a grommet and never knew it. They are absolutely foundational to a quality banner.
And this man in front of you–this professional “Grommeter”–works on 600 to 900 banners a day. Using a ruler, his pneumatic grommet machine, and a whole lot of experience, he installs up to 20,000 grommets before clocking out at five. Because his company sets their quotas according to quality instead of volume, he gets to, and is rewarded for, making every punch as precise as possible.
There are some things that people do better than automated machines and Stan Clark–professional grommeter–is living proof.
He talks about how it’s an eight hour work day like any other. It’s not a science, just a little math and attention to detail. Like anyone else, if he’s needed in the afternoon, he stays. If there’s a rush job that needs to get out the door, he sticks around.
You promise him without being asked that the next time you notice a sign, a banner, or a store display, you will take a second to see just how it’s attached. Notice the mounting equipment and especially the ropes or cables. If it’s a Britten Banner, then every single one of those holes were punched into that material with as much precision that you can get with a ruler, a careful eye, and the cumulative experience of watchful mind doing the same task fifty-million times a year.
Now, let’s check on those burgers.