Four signals. Three wires. In a sane world, I would have filed a report, the designers responsible would have been called on the carpet, and the system would have been re-designed properly and the correct components and cables ordered (along with project delays that meant going hat-in-hand to Ford for a deviation from the standard).
I was young, but I was already jaded and cynical from experience. So, before making the "bad news phone call," I bent back over the drawing package for the gun and looked for some sort of hack. After a couple hours, I eventually found one. It sacrificed one of the features that made the new weld guns better than the old ones, but at least it allowed the new guns to work as well as the originals, with one small software change to the standard package. After examining the hack from every angle I could think of, looking for holes, and wiring up a temporary test setup to ensure it worked the way I thought it would, I finally made the call.
In 20 minutes, I had not only the design engineer for that project, but the design engineering manager, and the VP for engineering, all standing there with me on the shop floor. After having the whole mess explained to them, what happened next was exactly what I'd predicted: All three of them turned to me and said, essentially, "Hey, you can fix this somehow, right?"
Long story short: My hack worked, and eventually became part of the standard as Ford switched to using the new weld guns all over. The engineers and managers got their bonuses. And me... well, I got another messed-up project to rescue. There ain't no justice.
This entry was submitted by William McMillan and edited by Jennifer Campbell.
William McMillan attained a BSEE degree in 1998 and has spent the time since as an applications engineer for robotic systems in fields ranging from automotive to aerospace.
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