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Why Not Go Metric?

April 10, 2005

Filed under: life — Terry Wohlers @ 07:04

Robert Lipsett, engineering manager at Danaher Motion, makes a very compelling case as to why the U.S. should adopt the metric system. In his article title It’s Time go Go Metric in the April 4, 2005 issue of Design News, Lipsett points out that everyone around the world, except for the U.S., uses one language for measurement and that’s metric. The U.S. is the only industrialized nation to not standardize on it.

Lipsett goes on to say that every other country is demanding that more U.S. products are built and labeled to metric standards. Even long-time customers from the European Union no longer want nonmetric products. Likewise, they do not want to supply the U.S. with nonmetric products due to additional costs, Lipsett explained. Our on-going resistance to the metric system can only make it more difficult for the U.S. to compete outside its borders.

I encounter the problem all the time. When attending meetings and conferences with international attendance, I cringe when a U.S. speaker presents length and weight details but does not use the metric system. Can you imagine someone from outside the U.S. trying to understand feet, yards, and pounds? Publications, documentation, and engineering drawings are also a problem. If the U.S. continues to stubbornly refuse to adopt the metric system, we will continue to communicate poorly and leave the rest of the world wondering why we don’t get it.

Do we not have the intellectual capacity to grasp that 10 millimeters = 1 centimeter or 1,000 grams = 1 kilogram? I would like to believe that we do. So what will it take to make the conversion to the metric system? I wish I had the answer. Currently, it doesn’t seem as though we are making an attempt and this is very unfortunate.