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Cold Shoulder Leaves Engineer Hot

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Rob Spiegel
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Management by monkeys
Rob Spiegel   10/3/2013 11:03:29 AM
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We're seen this type of management problem a couple times in recent Made by Monkeys postings. It's quite surprising that management would shrug off -- or refuse to accept -- solutiuons presented by engineers. This seems to be more than just a communications problem.

GTOlover
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Re: Management by monkeys
GTOlover   10/3/2013 11:36:04 AM
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Rob, I have to agree to a point. When large coprporations set up quality systems of processes and procedures, changes become rigid and inflexible to the point that many people do not want to do the work to make any change (even when it is benefical). I have worked at a large manufacturing facility that it was nearly impossible to upgrade a simple proximity sensor. Then I worked at a small shop that I could completely re-engineer a robot cell with little resistance!

However, it would seem that this change should of been a worth while if it prolongs the servo motors life.

tekochip
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Re: Management by monkeys
tekochip   10/3/2013 2:10:31 PM
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You're right GTOlover, once a procedure is approved in an ISO company, it's really hard to get the procedure to change.  If this is a component part that is shipped to another company they may need to go through the qualification process all over again.


Charles Murray
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Re: Management by monkeys
Charles Murray   10/3/2013 6:51:01 PM
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Rob, I think the answer they wanted was, "Everything's fine. Don't worry about it." I used to have a boss who always said, "I don't like negativity." Of course, he always got the answers he wanted, which always boiled down to, "Everything's great."

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Management by monkeys
Rob Spiegel   10/3/2013 6:56:29 PM
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Hey Chuck, so much for preventive measures. 

TexasTJ
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Re: Management by monkeys
TexasTJ   10/4/2013 9:56:19 AM
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I once worked with an engineer at my first engineering job who was very bright and an excellent mentor. Then he got promoted into management and things went south, especially his judgement.  I once heard him say that his decision making was easier when he was, "unencumbered by knowledge."  I left shortly thereafter and heard through the grapevine that he was demoted back into staff engineering.  But, due to his previous behavior, didn't have a lot of friends.

3drob
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Re: Management by monkeys
3drob   10/4/2013 8:42:03 AM
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As an Engineer that was nick-named Don Quixote by his boss (on more than one occasion), I can sympathize.  Having fought (and lost) many battles, I (still) try to choose my battles wisely.

But, playing devils advocate, if it's working (producing in-spec parts on schedule) but runs hot, perhaps the bureaucratic machinery can handle replacing failed components easier than fixing a non-optimum situation.  Often the true cost of changes are hidden (such changes can run tens of thousands of dollars, where as perhaps replacing a servo might cost a hundred's and is already rolled up in attrition budgets).

Communication runs both ways.  I'm still on the non-management side but I underdstand that you need to understand "their" point of view to strategically pick your battles well.

BrainiacV
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Re: Management by monkeys
BrainiacV   10/4/2013 10:37:56 AM
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Don Quixote, I used to work with a hardware manager that we called Harry Houdini.  He could get out of anything. We had a project with a tight time line and he told me to work on just a segment of it so we'd have at least something done.  Later in a meeting explaining our project progress, he threw me under the bus claiming that we needed a little bit of everything done instead of concentrating on just one small section I had worked on.

I didn't care, I had given my notice and he was obviously going to use me as the scapegoat as to why the project was not keeping to schedule. I had been warned by others that he would never take responsibility for his management decisions.

Sorry, your nick name just triggered a "that reminds me" moment.

My kids told me their friends called me McGyver.

3drob
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Re: Management by monkeys
3drob   10/4/2013 11:16:37 AM
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BrainiacV (AKA McGyver ;), Your story reminded me of a similar experience I had with a PM who was known for throwing his Engineer's under the bus (when his bad decisions came to roost).  He tried it with me a few times, but I quickly (and I do mean immediately) responded with paper and Email trails each time.  He quickly stopped trying that with me (though he got a few people fired along the way including, ultimately, himself).

The trick he would use was to only work verbally (that way he could remember it any way he wanted).  But the trick I countered with was I would always follow any verbal conversation with an Email (usually disguised as a request for clarification or agreement).

It's unfortunate, but knowing how to CYA is a necessary skill for any Engineer.

BrainiacV
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Re: Management by monkeys
BrainiacV   10/4/2013 11:27:54 AM
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"The trick he would use was to only work verbally (that way he could remember it any way he wanted). "

Hahaha, Harry was the same way.  One of my colleague's favorite stories was the time Harry was doing his usual arm waving and saying the problem was this or that. My friend pulled out a pocket recorder, held it in front of Harry's face, clicked it on and said, "Please repeat that so I get it right." Harry just sputtered and refused to say anything else.

Unfortunately we did not have an e-mail system or correspondance repository or we would have tried to CYA with paper.

They used to have trouble doing estimates until I offered to create an Excel spreadsheet to automate the process.  I discovered the problem.  Every time I'd go back and ask for clarification of their method for estimating a piece of equipment, I'd get a different answer and frequently from the same person.

William K.
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Re: Management by monkeys
William K.   10/4/2013 5:21:07 PM
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My response to verbal instructions like that has been to ask to have them written out so that I can be sure to get them right. That has saved me quite a few times, and it never comes across as a challenge to the instructions. Many are flattered that I "need to be sure to get the istructions right", and they are happy to oblige.

skyefire
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Re: Management by monkeys
skyefire   10/4/2013 7:02:43 PM
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Hah!  The old "As per our conversation of $DATE and $TIME, I will proceed to do X, Y, and Z, please inform me if I misunerstood anything" email, eh?  Yeah, I had a PM that needed that treatment, too.  I CC'd everything to my actual boss, as well, so that he was fully in the loop about what was going on.  That PM eventually got canned when he ended up in charge of a project where evveryone under him kept records too good for him to throw them under the bus.  His reputation had finally gotten around to everyone, you see....

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Management by monkeys
Rob Spiegel   10/4/2013 5:33:35 PM
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Good points, 3D Rob. Management may have been perfectly correct here. But good communication to that point would have done a world of good in maintaining decent team relations.

tmcghan
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Re: Management by monkeys
tmcghan   10/6/2013 4:52:17 PM
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1 saves

Most large technical organizations accept the concept of cost/benefit analysis as part of an engineering feasibility study that normally precedes significant expenditures of resources, whether the human resources of  engineering man-hours or the financial resources of capital outlays for physical systems.

For "routine" factory maintenance and repairs, where the costs are assumed to be minimal, these essential steps are often skipped, to the potential detriment of the resulting end-to-end lifecycle costs of the production system in question.  Total bottom-line production costs, especially for product that emerges from highly automated facilities, carries disproportionate weight, and is especially troublesome when the calculated/predicted costs and  MTBF/MTTR are badly disjoint from the actual numbers experienced in practice.  An experienced engineer who grasps the "big picture" is worth his weight in gold, but the evaluation scales available to managers are often improperly calibrated. 

 

Steve Heckman
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Re: Management by monkeys
Steve Heckman   10/4/2013 8:58:57 AM
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They found the issue and then requested this person to investigate it. So it was not like he was offering unsolicited advice. If you are not willing to make any changes, then don't waste my valuable time on the problem.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Management by monkeys
Rob Spiegel   10/4/2013 5:40:19 PM
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Interesting how this string of comments falls on both sides of the problem. There are a lot of non-management folks defending management here.

TJ McDermott
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Re: Management by monkeys
TJ McDermott   10/15/2013 6:55:21 PM
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There is at least one more solution to this problem:

Add an expensive and maintenance-intensive liquid-cooling jacket to each motor.

Add an expensive but lighter compressed air cooling system to each motor.

No, I'm not serious, but I'd have liked to see the response from the monkey-managers.

 

One could also ask the M.M. which solution they came up with that is better than the engineer's.

nyeng
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Re: Management by monkeys
nyeng   10/16/2013 6:58:43 PM
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I dealt with some GM people first hand while working for a large, evil, tier 1 supplier.  GM has some very intelligent people, however there seems to be a vein of arrogance.  It's like "We are the almighty GM and we are the experts in everything we do."


Now I'd like to expand this to my broader experience in auto manufacturing.  It's all about moving product.  Plant managers want to make their numbers at all cost.  They will knowingly ship questionable product to make theire numbers.  They make their number for their bonus and if there's a warranty problem you blame it on the design engineers.


That said, the engineer at the plant doesn't want you to resolve the issue.  He wants you to fix it and get it running asap.  Doing something to reduce the cycle time is sacriledge.  If he lets you do that his ass is on the line for letting you do something that may reduce throughput.  He wants you to fix it as it is.  That would mean either fixing it regularly (for free) or else upgrading to bigger servos or a cooling system or whatever (for free, of course).   You are supposed to quickly bow to their demands for no charge because "We are the almighty GM and you take care of this or we never buy from you again."


That's my take on the situation based on my own auto industry experience and opinions.

nyeng
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Re: Management by monkeys
nyeng   10/16/2013 6:59:45 PM
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I dealt with some GM people first hand while working for a large, evil, tier 1 supplier.  GM has some very intelligent people, however there seems to be a vein of arrogance.  It's like "We are the almighty GM and we are the experts in everything we do."


Now I'd like to expand this to my broader experience in auto manufacturing.  It's all about moving product.  Plant managers want to make their numbers at all cost.  They will knowingly ship questionable product to make theire numbers.  They make their number for their bonus and if there's a warranty problem you blame it on the design engineers.


That said, the engineer at the plant doesn't want you to resolve the issue.  He wants you to fix it and get it running asap.  Doing something to reduce the cycle time is sacriledge.  If he lets you do that his ass is on the line for letting you do something that may reduce throughput.  He wants you to fix it as it is.  That would mean either fixing it regularly (for free) or else upgrading to bigger servos or a cooling system or whatever (for free, of course).   You are supposed to quickly bow to their demands for no charge because "We are the almighty GM and you take care of this or we never buy from you again."


That's my take on the situation based on my own auto industry experience and opinions.

nyeng
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Re: Management by monkeys
nyeng   10/16/2013 7:00:41 PM
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I dealt with some GM people first hand while working for a large, evil, tier 1 supplier.  GM has some very intelligent people, however there seems to be a vein of arrogance.  It's like "We are the almighty GM and we are the experts in everything we do."


Now I'd like to expand this to my broader experience in auto manufacturing.  It's all about moving product.  Plant managers want to make their numbers at all cost.  They will knowingly ship questionable product to make theire numbers.  They make their number for their bonus and if there's a warranty problem you blame it on the design engineers.


That said, the engineer at the plant doesn't want you to resolve the issue.  He wants you to fix it and get it running asap.  Doing something to reduce the cycle time is sacriledge.  If he lets you do that his ass is on the line for letting you do something that may reduce throughput.  He wants you to fix it as it is.  That would mean either fixing it regularly (for free) or else upgrading to bigger servos or a cooling system or whatever (for free, of course).   You are supposed to quickly bow to their demands for no charge because "We are the almighty GM and you take care of this or we never buy from you again."


That's my take on the situation based on my own auto industry experience and opinions.

nyeng
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Re: Management by monkeys
nyeng   10/16/2013 7:01:06 PM
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I dealt with some GM people first hand while working for a large, evil, tier 1 supplier.  GM has some very intelligent people, however there seems to be a vein of arrogance.  It's like "We are the almighty GM and we are the experts in everything we do."


Now I'd like to expand this to my broader experience in auto manufacturing.  It's all about moving product.  Plant managers want to make their numbers at all cost.  They will knowingly ship questionable product to make theire numbers.  They make their number for their bonus and if there's a warranty problem you blame it on the design engineers.



That said, the engineer at the plant doesn't want you to resolve the issue.  He wants you to fix it and get it running asap.  Doing something to reduce the cycle time is sacriledge.  If he lets you do that his ass is on the line for letting you do something that may reduce throughput.  He wants you to fix it as it is.  That would mean either fixing it regularly (for free) or else upgrading to bigger servos or a cooling system or whatever (for free, of course).   You are supposed to quickly bow to their demands for no charge because "We are the almighty GM and you take care of this or we never buy from you again."



That's my take on the situation based on my own auto industry experience and opinions.


Jeff_A
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We've got a lot of experience with the hardware
Jeff_A   10/4/2013 1:03:59 PM
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My favorite justification for this type of decision making was provided to me at my first job.  "We can't change the design now.....We've got a lot of experience with the hardware."  My boss was a brave and brilliant man, a PhD Mechanical Engineer, whose response to that was, "Yeah, but most of it is bad......"

Critic
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Permission to Repair Robot, Sir!
Critic   10/4/2013 3:16:15 PM
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Sometimes it is easier to get forgiveness than permission.  I think I would have just proceeded to fix the problem in the least expensive way!

AnandY
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RE: Management by Monkeys
AnandY   10/8/2013 8:12:46 AM
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The management will always lament at how expensive repairing the robot will be but frankly speaking, they only have two options, either it bears the cost and gets the robots hot spot problem solved or continues having robots with hot motors. Of course there is a third option which is you getting fired which I would rather not talk about now. But seriously, if you are the man for the job then they have to consider your options and recommendations.

William K.
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Really hot servo motors.
William K.   10/10/2013 3:58:28 PM
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One unstated option would be to add a compressed air line to feed the servo motor housings with cool air and have forced ventilation. that might be enough to extend the motor and bearing lubricant life. Another option could be to add a reduction of current to the position holding steps of the program so that the motor would not be driveen so hard while holding position. Those would be add-ons and not require any change. I have dealt with some of those techmonkeys and they always get their way, no matter if they are right or wrong.

taimoortariq
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Re: Really hot servo motors.
taimoortariq   10/13/2013 8:46:24 PM
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Those were some really good options but poor managment at the side of the engineer incharge of the plant. Risking the working of servo motor is pretty reckless, because it might lead to huge repairing costs.

William K.
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Re: Really hot servo motors.
William K.   10/13/2013 10:35:49 PM
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There exists a problem in that a lot of unknowing people are terribly afraid to do anything that is not the way that it has always been done, so when I suggest a means of solving a problem that is different from the method that did not solve the problem they are afraid, and often it is not possible to explain to them how the alternate method would work, because they are unable to think, their minds being clouded with fear. So sometimes I leave them to suffer their disaster. This happens because "you can't fix stupid". Note that I did not originate that phrase, but it certainly fits sometimes.

GlennA
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Re: You can't fix stupid
GlennA   10/14/2013 11:13:44 AM
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William K;  And also "Even a blind man could see it is wrong".  There are times when you look at something that is so obviously wrong that it shouldn't have to be explained, but even after explaining it, it still doesn't sink in.  So all that is left to do is wait for the failure and say "Who would have thunk it ?"

William K.
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Re: You can't fix stupid
William K.   10/14/2013 9:34:29 PM
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The problem that I run into is that it can't wait to be fixed because I am getting blamed for problems brought on by others. So sometimes I just must solve problems that are not created by me, not my responsibility, and not really my problem, just because I need to keep the problem from becoming my problem, or my burden.

So if the job needs to be done sometimes I do it, despite cries that it is not my job to do it. Because sometimes that doesn't matter very much. And yes, it does sometimes cause repercussions. Oh Well.

oldtimer8080
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Management by REMFS
oldtimer8080   10/10/2013 5:03:02 PM
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I decided to keep a career path that always kept me in a lab and dealing with natural laws and not people related laws, like the ones in this article.

  This behavior fits the classic CEO, CFO and CTO who  like the REMFS they have become (anybody with " boots on the ground " or " front line people with responsibility " know this ) when it comes to management decisions.

They can " expense out " burned out parts ON THE CORPORATE INCOME TAX! which is what these bottom line REMFS only see.

There also is a psychological issue here too. What is the IQ rating  for most REMFS?

 What is the IQ rating of the Engineers who work under these people?

It is a military fact that there will be a leadership problem when there is more than a +/- 10% difference in IQ levels between the average front line soldier and their leaders.

That study was done to explain why many leaders got " fragged " during the Viet Nam war.

Unfortunately, many " leaders " bring REMF behaviors to key management positions and act as if they are still in the military.

Since there is a 90 day probationary clause in most new hires, I suggest that probation cuts both ways. I NEVER STOPPED LOOKING even though I supposedly have a job.

At Cray Research, I worked with several others in my IQ range. It was a wonderful 8 years.

Then a REMF type called John Rollwagen changed the rules...

Seymour Cray left. Dr Steve Chen ( my boss ) left. That left Cray Research headed by a REMF with no future. Two manager types put together a system based on notes Dr. Chen left behind.

Ever since then, I have been careful to keep a Lab position... and manage it too if the corner office types let me do that job.

As an aside, I test out as 153 on the Wechsler and Standford-Benet IQ tests.  What are your test results? Your Manager's? Geniuses see things differently when dealing with the same data. That is what IQ is all about...

GlennA
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tangent; IQ testing bias
GlennA   10/10/2013 8:41:29 PM
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oldtimer8080;  I remember a question on an IQ test about something that is both a monetary instrument and an affirmation.  To an American, the answer is 'check'.  But to a person of British background, a 'cheque' is different from a 'check'.

oldtimer8080
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Re: tangent; IQ testing bias
oldtimer8080   10/11/2013 8:57:51 PM
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I ran into the same thing in third grade about theater and theatre.

Does that mean you think ALL the different IQ tests given are invalid? Or is this an example of a REMF giving an opinion?

BTW, my parent gave us IQ tests as part of the psychology training for the doctorate. The results were consistent with the  original test administered by the School District which was host to a Renshaw experiment performed by several Stanford  students.

The good news: I can now speed read to the limits of their testing systems;  700WPM with a 70-80% comprehension factor. The bad news: a thick novel ( think a Tom Clancy novel ) is only good for a couple of hours of entertainment.

Back OT


What happens when the average public IQ of a society falls due to the " Idiocracy Effect " you see at the beginning of the movie IDIOCRACY?

When the smarter people become the MINORITY, you get questions like the one I just answered above.

Robert A Heinlein offered us the " pink monkey effect ". That baldly states that if you dye a monkey pink ( an innate, obvious change ) and shove it into a cage with other brown monkeys, they quickly separate and the other normal colored monkeys WILL kill the stranger.

The same thing happens at a homo sapiens level. How many stories about " mad " scientists do people know?...how many unconscious ( there is no such thing as SUB conscious; those thoughts govern the waking thoughts ) prejudices do you exhibit?

This type of thinking affects all the items you purchase today that no longer have the " pride of workmanship " our U.S. society had for many decades. We now have the effect of " planned obsolecence " that replaced " pride of workmanship " that gave us most of industries ( but not the consumer ) ability to force people to buy more of their product. You cannot sell another product until the previous one fails to function. Take a look around; how many products still function after 10 years NOW? Many products rely on the fact that the OLDER, NAME BRAND PRODUCT WAS STILL WORKING AFTER DECADES OF USE to sell their NEW crap!

 That is why I look at the repairability before I buy a new " heavy industry " product; many times, I just by a USED product that people give up for personal reasons. Even the " lemons " I buy can be maded perfectly operational by finding the needed parts. Compare that with the NEW lemon ( or MADE/DESIGNED BY MONKEYS ) Heavy Industries ( cars, washers,dryers, dishwashers and the like ) product you just spent your hard earned cash on...

Another OT thought: Why do we have the same type of government portrayed in " Idiocracy "? Why  has 200 years as a CONTITUTIONAL REPUBLIC changed into the failure we see in Washington D.C.? What would our Founding Fathers think of the careful planing that went into the founding of our United ( not DIVIDED ) States of America.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

nyeng
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Re: tangent; IQ testing bias
nyeng   10/16/2013 7:05:49 PM
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I dealt with some GM people first hand while working for a large, evil, tier 1 supplier. GM has some very intelligent people, however there seems to be a vein of arrogance. It's like "We are the almighty GM and we are the experts in everything we do." Now I'd like to expand this to my broader experience in auto manufacturing. It's all about moving product. Plant managers want to make their numbers at all cost. They will knowingly ship questionable product to make theire numbers. They make their number for their bonus and if there's a warranty problem you blame it on the design engineers. That said, the engineer at the plant doesn't want you to resolve the issue. He wants you to fix it and get it running asap. Doing something to reduce the cycle time is sacriledge. If he lets you do that his ass is on the line for letting you do something that may reduce throughput. He wants you to fix it as it is. That would mean either fixing it regularly (for free) or else upgrading to bigger servos or a cooling system or whatever (for free, of course). You are supposed to quickly bow to their demands for no charge because "We are the almighty GM and you take care of this or we never buy from you again." That's my take on the situation based on my own auto industry experience and opinions.

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