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A story for the engineering type folks

Post in 'The Inglenook' started by bogydave, Jan 6, 2012.

  1. bogydave

    bogydave Minister of Fire

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    A Short Story for Engineers

    Anyone who has ever worked for a big company (or the government) will understand this one...

    A toothpaste factory had a problem: they sometimes shipped empty boxes, without the tube inside. This was due to the way the production line was set up, and people with experience in designing production lines will tell you how difficult it is to have everything happen with timings so precise that every single unit coming out of it is perfect 100% of the time. Small variations in the environment (which can't be controlled in a cost-effective fashion) mean you must have quality assurance checks smartly distributed across the line so that customers all the way down to the supermarket don't get pissed off and buy another product instead.

    Understanding how important that was, the CEO of the toothpaste factory got the top people in the company together and they decided to start a new project, in which they would hire an external engineering company to solve their empty boxes problem, as their engineering department was already too stretched to take on any extra effort.

    The project followed the usual process: budget and project sponsor allocated, RFP, third-parties selected, and six months (and $8 million) later they had a fantastic solution - on time, on budget, high quality and everyone in the project had a great time. They solved the problem by using high-tech precision scales that would sound a bell and flash lights whenever a toothpaste box would weigh less than it should. The line would stop, and someone had to walk over and yank the defective box out of it, pressing another button
    when done to re-start the line.

    A while later, the CEO decides to have a look at the ROI of the project: amazing results! No empty boxes ever shipped out of the factory after the scales were put in place. Very few customer complaints, and they were gaining market share. "That's some money well spent!" - he says, before looking closely at the other statistics in the report.

    It turns out, the number of defects picked up by the scales was 0 after three weeks of production use. It should've been picking up at least a dozen a day, so maybe there was something wrong with the report. He filed a bug against it, and after some investigation, the engineers come back saying the report was actually correct. The scales really weren't picking up any defects, because all boxes that got to that point in the conveyor belt were good.

    Puzzled, the CEO travels down to the factory, and walks up to the part of the line where the precision scales were installed. A few feet before the scale, there was a $20 desk fan,
    blowing the empty boxes off of the belt and into a bin.

    "Oh, that," says one of the workers - "one of the guys put it there 'cause he was tired of walking over every time the bell rang"

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  2. SlyFerret

    SlyFerret Minister of Fire

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    I will be sharing this story with the engineers at work tomorrow.

    Thanks!
    -SF
  3. RNLA

    RNLA Minister of Fire

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    This is so typical of what I saw in a couple places I have worked. One was a carton factory and we made ice cartons, arm & hammer soda cartons, potato chip cartons, ETC. The production line was very similar to what was described in this story. We made millions of cartons and it was a real Rube Goldberg show! :lol:
  4. spirilis

    spirilis Feeling the Heat

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    hahaha. Classic.
  5. ironpony

    ironpony Minister of Fire

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    these are the types of things I deal with on a daily basis.
    Engineers typically want to complicate things, when there are simple solutions.
    I do, honestly understand why they are the way they are
    but sometimes they need to ask the "workers" who actually use the stuff
  6. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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  7. certified106

    certified106 Minister of Fire

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    At my work we have made it a standard practice that before anyone changes a manufacturing process we sit down with the technicians and review how the change will affect them or the process and whether they have any concerns or ideas to share. The last place I worked it was a disaster and they would implement stuff all the time that didn't work due to a disconnect between engineering and manufacturing, the result of which was a lot of wasted money!
  8. Jags

    Jags Moderate Moderator Staff Member

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    The classic "Sledge hammer for a finish nail" solution. :lol:
  9. btuser

    btuser Minister of Fire

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    Today we had a $680 meeting to discuss the cost of giving away a free piece of equipment (approx value <$10USD) to a customer contemplating a $5000 sale.

    Owner: "That part may have been free to us, but it still has value! Its still the company's asset!"
    Smart-ass employee: "How many free parts can we buy with the 2 hours this conversation has cost the company?"

    Note to self- Stop being such a smart ass.
  10. Delta-T

    Delta-T Minister of Fire

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    you guys hiring smart-asses? I may be over qualified...but I'll do my bestest.
  11. mbcijim

    mbcijim Member

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    Hey now, I resemble that remark! I've been accused of a few of those things.
  12. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa Minister of Fire

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    I'm a fan of the Dilbert comic strip and because I work in IT I get to read it every day despite the corporate content filters blocking it. With the stuff Scott Adams comes up with sometimes I wonder if he works for our company.

    Years ago I was doing contract work for Ontario Hydro. There was a morale problem at a call centre and the manager had the idea to install motivational screensavers on each call centre operator's computer. I advised her of the license requirement and cost and that perhaps we should spend the money on making the workspace more functional, she still went ahead and purchased enough copies. I went ahead and installed it. The following morning was hilarious... the manager had stats of the phone system... number of calls in the queue, active, on hold, ect. and she comes running out of her office to see what was wrong. Everyone had their phones on hold and were sitting there waiting for their screensaver to come on so that they could get "motivated". I guess the manager had not grasped my explanation that screensavers only work when you don't, but she did get it then. She had me remove the screensavers from all the computers and was finally open to listen to my ideas.
  13. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    A couple of years after Dilbert started I met Scott Adams. I told him my goal as a manager was to never to see myself in one of his strips. He said "Give it up. You will.".
  14. PapaDave

    PapaDave Minister of Fire

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    If you can step back and look at this stuff, it's funny,......yet sad.


    I find it very amusing that when all you have is a hammer, some of us see nothing but nails.
  15. maverick06

    maverick06 Minister of Fire

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  16. pastera

    pastera Feeling the Heat

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    I work for the Navy - you should see how many engineers and managers we can stuff into a room in order to screw up a simple descision

    How about a several hundred thousand dollar repair bill to replace a simple $1.00 lamp? When the damn thing is buried in the bowels of a naval vessel the logistics of getting to it costs that much. The lamps have been in the design for 40 years but no one wanted to spend the money to redesign with LEDs - Why? Because engineering dollars and repair dollars came from two different budgets and the money handlers couldn't see spending $50k to fix a $1 lamp (they didn't have visibility into repair costs). Once the repair and engineering budgets merged - things change fast.
  17. snowleopard

    snowleopard Minister of Fire

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    Recently did a sweep of my chimney, and decided to do a thorough stove clean as well. In the process of attempting to remove the ^&*( cotter pin from the tubes under my baffle, I broke the $75 baffle. Started with a small crack, and spread by the time I had worked the @#$%^ cotter pin loose.

    When I picked up another baffle (w/in an hour of store closing for the long holiday weekend, which would have been not festive w/out it), I noticed that instead of the *$%^&* cotter pin, they had a simple wire that went through the baffle, wrapped around the the tubes with a twist, and that was it.

    I felt very confident that this solution was not an engineered one--it was a technician walking through a shop one day, nursing a pinched finger or bruised knuckle to pick up another baffle to replace the cracked one he'd/she'd just installed.

    I liked your fan story very much.
  18. bogydave

    bogydave Minister of Fire

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    It 's like a big corporation's safety program.
    A new safety rule every week. It's the safety department feeling like they have to do something to feel important.
    More engineers & they all have to add their input.

    We lost years of consecutive year safety awards : :)
    We had 6 consecutive years with no lost time accidents & safety awards. New owners & the safety department came in with a bunch of new rules.
    Never got another safety award. And were getting a new safety rule every week or so. Some were laughable, but we had to implement them & never were asked for our input.
  19. firefighterjake

    firefighterjake Minister of Fire

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    I really enjoyed reading this thread . . . especially the true to life personal stories.
  20. wetwood

    wetwood Member

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    At work everyone hates it when a higher up engineer retires. It means other engineers will be moving up, taking promotions to fill positions. Then they all want to mark their new territory by implementing more rules & procedures to the work load in the name of efficiency. :mad:

    For instance, at one time our time sheets were 1 sheet with 2 transfer sheets attached for a total of 3 sheets of paper per employee turned in every two weeks. In comes new head engineer/manager, to save paper we now turn in 1 sheet of paper every day per employee for a total of 10 sheets of paper every two weeks. Guss I don't know enough about math to make that add up.
  21. Stump_Branch

    Stump_Branch Minister of Fire

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    Nice to have been a hands on guy before learning the discipline. Quite a noticed difference in the fresh outa schoolers.

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