Bill Hines' 50 Years with Monroe: A Reflective Chronicle
On June 27, 2017, Monroe's own, Mr. Bill Hines, celebrated his 50th year anniversary with the company; a nearly unheard-of feat in today's day and age. Bill has represented Monroe with the utmost dignity and respect throughout his time here. As Monroe's longest-standing employee, we decided to celebrate his grand achievement with an article about his life and times with the company.
Tell us about your background before you got to Monroe
Born and raised in South Philadelphia, I joined the Air Force immediately after high school and served a tour for several years stationed in South Carolina. Trained as an aircraft mechanic, I spent my time working on RF-84F, RB, and EB 66B photo and Electronic warfare aircraft.
The remaining time in uniform was spent in 1966-67 stationed in Thailand supporting the Vietnam conflict. The era of guided munitions and Electronic Warfare was in its infancy and the country was completely different than anything I had ever experienced. I counted every single day I was in the military; for 3 years 7 months and 9 days. After my service ended, I returned to the culture shock of civilian life. Since then, the USAF Museum received one of the EB66B planes that I worked on. It is currently on display and I hope to one day be able to visit and reminisce about my youth.
What was Monroe Systems for Business like when you first started?
Monroe was one of the first companies that I applied to. After a short interview, I was offered a position as a field service technician, no doubt, in part due to the fact that my military obligation had been fulfilled -- remember the draft?
My first day at Monroe was on June 27, 1967, a time when all of our calculators were still mechanical and used no electronic equipment. My first day was one of the more interesting ones with the company; a senior technician with over 40 years at Monroe gave me a small mechanical calculator to disassemble and reassemble. Returning this calculator to operating condition was a challenge I struggled with for several days. That calculator was one of the most popular calculators that Monroe ever marketed. It was in production from the late 1920s through the early 1960s and received a series of upgrades and updates throughout. The model was called the L series calculator" and to this day, the simplicity of the calculator is the number one reason why I still receive many calls from people who have acquired one of the L models or have had one handed down through the family. Some of these units are still in operation today. That's how good the quality of the calculator Monroe has made over the years is.
The mechanical calculators, adding machines, bookkeeping machines, and billing machines were very complex units. By the mid-1960s, they were the most complex mechanical business machines ever developed; the mechanical business machines had reached their zenith.
Technology was advancing rapidly and the market demanded more and more speed, with complex features and reliability. Monroe was at the forefront of this innovation.
Tell us about a typical day of your life at Monroe. What did it consist of?
I have worked a lot of different positions in my time with the company so the average day varied greatly over the years based on my job title.
My first job as a field service technician required me to repair and rebuild calculators in the district office, as well as the repair and regularly scheduled service of calculators in customer's offices. My service territory spanned from Pennsylvania to New Jersey and included both metropolitan and rural areas. The metro area required a walking distance in center city Philadelphia and a driving area in the rural zones. The district and area supervisor would dispatch the work assignments and quality control of the area to district technicians.
As I progressed in the ranks I became the district service manager and covered a larger geographic footprint in the Philadelphia metropolitan area. I was responsible for all district service and service profits, as well as covering all customer concerns and dealing with the sales department on a daily basis.
Eventually, I worked in Technical Service Support Operations. It required me to handle all problems ranging from the maintenance and development of company products, new and old, to troubleshooting fixes and publications for distribution on a national scale. The job also entailed constant help desk support for the technicians assigned throughout the country.
The next position I was promoted to was called Dispatch Operations. It consisted of receiving customer calls and trying to service the calculators over the phone without assigning a technician to the customer. The job also applied technical support directly to the technician -- if my assistance was needed -- and they could contact me directly while they were on the job.
My current position today is as the Factory Service Manager and it entails the coordination of all service repairs and customer support in the United States. I manage all issues concerning the pre-owned product, as well as quality assurance of all new and incoming products that Monroe produces.
What about the company that made you want to stay for so long?
The way the company treated their employees and the daily challenges that were there to be solved. I built up a vast amount of knowledge over the years of our product lines and their workings. As a result of the experience and training I received over the years, I progressed to several different positions, which are outlined above.
The many friendships I made over the years and the respect in the industry I had gained made me feel right at home with this company. We weren't just co-workers; we were family.
What steps do you think the company can take to continue to grow and expand in the future?
We have to keep our current customer base and focus on our core competencies. We need to continue to gain market share from our competitors, leveraging our product line and experience. If you’re crunching numbers all day long, a calculator can do the work faster and more comfortably than a computer. The UltimateX comes loaded with features and the Keyswitch technology makes for easy and quick access. The calculator will beat out the computer every time in this regard. There is still a huge market for the printing calculator.
What are your personal plans for the future?
I plan to work as long as I can. I enjoy working for this company and sharing my knowledge of our company, our products, our customers, and the history of the company.
There was a time when we were called The Monroe Men, and we were very proud to hold that title.