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The case of the not-so-melodious motor

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WKetel
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re: The case of the not-so-melodious motor
WKetel   2/26/2011 1:50:16 PM
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Haldor is certainly correct in his remarks about 5S, which we started referring to as "5F". But when we got a new (idiot) manager, neatness trumped all other considerations. Yes, they would now throw out parts and assemblies just to make things look neat and uncrowded for our Japanese visitors, who were also evidently MBAs, like the new manager. Of course, this was the same manager who announced to a division meeting that they would be reducing engineering staff, and if it turned out that they needed more engineers, then they would just hire them, "since all engineers are the same, and completely interchangeable". The only good that came from that was that we all knew exactly how he felt about our talents, and just how valued we all were. I won't name the manager or company, but it is close to Evergreen and Ten Mile, in Southfield.

Rupert Goodwins
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re: The case of the not-so-melodious motor
Rupert Goodwins   2/25/2011 7:57:34 PM
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When I was embarking on my (sadly abortive) career as an EE, one of the first things I was taught as a student engineer at a big UK defence contractor was "Always document what you're doing in your notebook. We might need it for patent filing, and you might need it when you go back to an old project." Wise words. Not so useful when one's handwriting looks like a spider on acid. However, it was a habit I kept when I turned into a programmer and scrupulously over-commented code, and it saved my backside more than once.

Haldor
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re: The case of the not-so-melodious motor
Haldor   2/24/2011 7:00:59 PM
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Typo correction "clean up your workforce" should have read "clean up your work place". Sounds like a bit of a Freudian slip.

Haldor
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re: The case of the not-so-melodious motor
Haldor   2/24/2011 6:55:54 PM
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We are currently implementing Lean Sigma (the quality program dejure). The most visible part of Lean Sigma is 5S (basically clean up and organize your workforce). The 5S precepts are valid for a production facility, but result in serious problems in a development group. A big part of 5S is to discard anything you aren't currently using regularly. This means that we are constantly having to order parts that got 5S'ed and test setups that represent huge investments of engineering time are routinely discarded (only to be laborously recreated later when MOL is required). As you can imagine I am not terribly impressed with Lean Sigma as applied to development engineers. It has given us a few bit of humor though. At one department meeting I suggested we try implementing JIT processes (Kanbans) to our engineering output. I would have a Kanban of firmware sitting on my desk. When someone need some firmware they would come grab one out of my Kanban. The empty slot in turn would trigger me to write another piece of firmware. One of the drafters thought that was a great idea and he wanted to do the same thing with engineering drawings. This idea was not warmly received.

Haldor
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re: The case of the not-so-melodious motor
Haldor   2/24/2011 6:44:30 PM
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In the past we routinely used email to document change requests and decision processes. In the last few years corporate has forced us to stop doing this. First our individual email server usage was greatly reduced to 200 MB per person and all local copies of email messages are prohibited. In addition the email system now automatically deletes the contents of our inbox and outbox that are more than 90 days old. The story is that this is to protect us during legal discovery requirements. If a manager commands that email files that are possibly subject to legal action be deleted this can result in criminal charges, but if emails are routinely destroyed then we can claim we were just following policy. The problem is that the process of decision making (why did we chose to solve a problem a particular way) is often lost when the email message chain gets deleted. This was not a positive change.

Kinnar
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re: The case of the not-so-melodious motor
Kinnar   2/20/2011 7:29:38 PM
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Documenting the work is not attracting the young minds, may be some new audio visual technique might bring back the interest of archiving the original concept.

bblack
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re: The case of the not-so-melodious motor
bblack   2/19/2011 3:08:30 PM
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Sometimes we experienced folks can loose sight of the basics and think we have it right and then make a choice made from our own arrogance. Sometimes the learning experience from that mistake can lead to a fractured leg.... A hard lesson from neglecting good practices!!

zeeglen
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re: The case of the not-so-melodious motor
zeeglen   2/19/2011 2:40:00 AM
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At one place (no longer in business) a head honcho was an ex-pro football player. Excellent choice to run a hi-tech corporation :-( . He did not bother us about lab notebooks, he had no clue what a lab notebook was. His main concern was that all lab cables must be placed in the overhead cable trays to prevent the lab from looking "messy".

TimothyRyan
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re: The case of the not-so-melodious motor
TimothyRyan   2/18/2011 1:43:53 PM
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For a while, we had a "Legal Beagle" for a CEO. On one of his dog&pony tours of the labs, he was horrified to see some of the Engineers with lab books. He wanted all of them destroyed (which no one did). To his mind, they made it way too easy for someone to sue us for product liability. And this guy was always calling us an Engineering Driven Company. Yow!

zeeglen
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re: The case of the not-so-melodious motor
zeeglen   2/18/2011 1:33:59 AM
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That senior engineer, back when a young engineer, had probably been advised by a mentor to "write it down". Good for him. Starting at an early long-ago job the first item we were issued was an engineering notebook. Hard cover, quad-ruled paper, and property of the company. These books got dog-eared and bulged with Polaroid scope photos, but everything we did was on record. Useful sometimes for patents (we were told) but mainly used to go back a few months during one of those "Why the heck did I design it that way?" moments as you related. These days it is far more convenient to record design specs and lab test sessions as PC files with a word processor along with instrumentation plots, partly because it is so much easier to click on "find" rather than flip through pages, can be emailed to anyone that needs them, can be given a table of contents, and those darn Polaroid photographs don't bulk up the pages. But I have to wonder if a word processor document has the same legal impact in a patent courtroom as a paper lab notebook. Maybe the "young engineers" of today rely on their computers to retain all of their working data. Come to think of it, the last few jobs I've had did not require the notebook - everything was on computers.

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