This seems a classic example of the value of having experienced people take a look at operations once in a while. A person who knows the process will have built up a "feel" for how things should run, and will often be able to spot when something isn't quite right -0 even when it is "within spec". Following up on such observations often discovers a problem that will eventually become a bigger problem. Nipping it in the bud prevents later losses that may include production loss due to work stoppages, equipment damage, etc. etc.
Alas, modern "lean" production systems are trying hard to eliminate those experienced people, who are perceived as too expensive, or discourage them from "gilding the lily" by trying to fine tune a process that is already within spec.
These trade-offs are subtle, but over time they make the difference between a "good" company and a "cheap" company.
And this principle applies not only to manufacturing, but to all sorts of other endeavors. My own field is embedded software engineering, where I increasingly see schlock completely clogging up the systems.
In the last couple of weeks, I have been immersed in a reference design package for a new microprocessor that my company will be adopting. Even though it comes from a large semiconductor house with a good reputation, it is full of stuff that looks like it was never reviewed. Many corners of the design have timing that is out of spec. The memory map is contorted. Elements of the software kit came from 3 different sources that were never reconciled, so the same registers are defined 3 different ways in different include files etc etc. It scares me to think that this stuff will end up in safety critical systems in many industries.
You're right about losing those experienced engineers. A lot of them were cut during the 2008 through 2009 recession. I understand that many of the experienced plant engineers are baby boomers who have retired over the past few years. I remember in 2007, there was concern in the automation industry that there were not a sufficient number of experienced engineers, but the recession took that pressure off.
Talk about getting things just right: It's instructive to note that placement of the surface mount chips was within 0.1 mm across one inch. Since a millimeter is 1/25th of an inch, it means that these chips were being placed with 1/250th of an inch...and this was unsatisfactory.
Good observation, Chuck. That shows just how precise it needs to be in order for it to be "right." So you have to hand it to this Sherlock Ohms to correct a situation that was so very close and "within spec."
I agree, Rob. You have to give credit to Glenn, especially considering that he said: "the chips were slightly skewed, but within specifications." In other words, he chased down the solution to a misplacement of 1/250th of an inch, even though it was already in spec.
The loss of experienced engineers is most tragic indeed. My boss says (thinks) we can get replacements easily. I have seen examples of these replacements firsthand and have yet to be impressed. One can hire poor engineers and technicians for ten cents a pound, and they are overpriced. Great ones are cheap at one hundred dollars an ounce, but are difficult to find.
In my experience engineers and techies are one of two flavors. The first are hourly employees who think only of the paycheck and watch the clock. Most belong to a union but I have no problem with that. The second are the guys who think only of the problem(s) at hand and are somewhat mystified that somebody keeps putting money in their checking account. In the late 60's accountants in the company I worked for kept calling me because I seldom cashed my paychecks. Direct deposit later fixed this problem. Last Sunday I received a PDF manual on some equipment we were having problems with. This vendor went into work to find, and send me, the documentation. He is one of the second flavors.
Parado was exactly correct with the 20-80 rule where 20 percent of the people perform 80 percent of the work. In the long run the 20 percent earn much more money but usually find little time to spend it. Of that original 20 percent, twenty percent of them are the true Golden Child ones.
The best example I've heard of this, Island-Al is from a process plant. Apparently they laid off so many workers that there was nobody left who knew how to turn off the plant. That may be an urban myth, but even so it makes a point.
That was a while ago, but I think the brake pad was a rubber piece on a pivoting arm. The brake does not hold the rotational orientation of the nozzle - inherent friction in the assembly does that. The brake holds the nozzle still from spinning until the theta 1 meshes. There is very little friction wear in the braking action. The theta engagement is a steel V-block that nests into a matching V-slot in the steel nozzle. The wear that does happen is the V-shape of the block, from the vertical engagement about 10 times per second.
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