I work at a government R&D laboratory and as such we build numerous prototypes very few of which actually are converted into actual products (we do a lot of speciallty measurement systems). One prototype that was actually turned into a product had a similar problem when it went to production.
The instrument is a very large autonomous air sampler first designed and built back in the early 90's. We built several prototypes and succesfully demonstrated the system. The government decided they wanted to build several of these instruments to place around the globe. A defence contractor won the bid to produce said instrument. We turned over our designs and a prototype to the contractor and were basically held out of any interaction with the contractor.
Once the contractor finished the production prototype we had a look at the system. It performed as well as our system and they actually fixed some features but as a whole they did not change much wiring or components. One thing they did do was change all the wiring to white wire. Nearly every wire in the system was white. One component in particular is a 3U rack mount electronics box.
This electronics box has 115VAC, various DC power supplies and many signal wires. There are over one hundred wires in the box and all of it is point to point wiring. When we designed and built our prototype we used standard colors for all the wires inside this box. It made troubleshooting, adding and subtracting functions much easier during the prototype stage. Comparing the contractors version and our version the only difference was that all the wire was white. All the components were the same and positioned in the same location in the box.
We recently redesigned this box for the contractor. The main reason for the redesign? WIRING PROBLEMS! They said that they subcontract the production of the box. When they get the box back they always have wiring problems, ALWAYS. When the system is deployed and put into operation they have additional problems when they troubleshoot and correct problems.
Cabe Atwell wrote: "I assume that color blindness is something a field tech or line worker should admit? I will be sure to ask about this issue in the future."
Surprisingly, normal color vision might not even be a requirement for the job. In 1963, as a new high school graduate, I attempted to enlist in the Navy, in a program that included a degree in Nuclear Engineering and service as an officer on a nuclear submarine. At the pre-induction physical my color-blindness was discovered. I was ineligible for the neuclear program and asked the recruiter what other electronics options were available. He responded that the only one was Telephone Installer.
Given that it was common to wire buildings and ships with 25-pair and 50-pair telephone cables, that was surprising to me then, as it still is.
(I turned down the program and went to college instead.)
Actually we're all responsive to IR (and presumably UV). The response is just way, way down the curve. The eye (like the ear( is a logarithmic sensor with a range that spans many decades.
In about 1974 I was working in a darkroom testing IR LEDs and phototransistors, using a sniperscope from time to time when I needed to adjust something. After about 3 hours I I realized that I could see the IR emitters without aids. I was able to complete the testing with unassisted vision.
Having built, instlled and serviced equiptment I have found that it takes very little time to do it right the first time, and it makes for much more work to take a shortcut. Not having the right color wire generally means that someone chose to cut back on an order to save a few dollars and someone in the field wants to get teh job done so they use what is at hand rather than what was specced. It also seems that the panel that was wired neatly is generally wired correctly and seldom needs to be accessed. Conversly, the panel than was wired poorly is the panel that will be accessed again and again. It would seem that the guy who cares to do it neat also cares to do it correct.
Having the correct wire colors also saves time when it comes to repairs. Instead of having to look at a bundle of 100 wires, you have a bundle with 20 wht/blu, 25 blu, 15 red, 15 orange,a few white and the rest are green. If they are all the same color it is abotu certain that he wire you want will be the last one you trace out.
Indeed. I'm red-green colorblind and have to ask for help from time to time--or use really bright lights. Just this Sunday I was mending a cable that the puppy had chewed through in the car. She severed all seven wires, and shortened three of them.
The light blue was easy, as was the orange, and the black, and the black-with-white stripe. I had to ask for help to confirm that the remaining ones were a brown and two identical dark-grays.
OTOH it's very easy to work on my Whirlpool drier which labels each end of each wire with a distimctive identifier and has matching identifiers on the schematic helpfully placed on the back of the machine. These folks are a model for friendly design.
Interesting discussion on color blindness and tetrachromatics. As neat as a tetrachromat might be, I don't think they would perceive more colors, just perceive the colors differently (since the different cones are somewhere between red and green responsive). Makes me wonder if anybody might be responsive to IR or UV light?
But back to the article: I've had similar issues with our production department (when we still had one). Occasionally we would get a change request from production, on product we had been making for years without issue. When we (Engineering) would inquire what had changed, the answer would be "nothing". They had been building the product as we wanted them to (but not to the drawings/BOMS). Eventually, someone would actually look at the drawing or BOM and halt production until the change request was processed. Of course, this always happened when an important schedule date was looming.
Cabe, absolutely, the standards for wire color coding should be followed. They make sense! But during retrofits and upgrades, I expect to find contrary or insanity for color coded wires. Opening a panel often reveals a rat's nest instead of neat, orderly wire ducting.
Color coding can be a pain in the neck too, when it's a large-count multiconductor cable. Is that wire red with a white trace or white with a red trace?
Adding a second person to the process means adding cost.
Asking an employee to own up to a weakness that could cause them to be discriminated against is simply not going to happen.
The color does matter, in a way. If substitute wire is used in a system, it may not work. In this case, relying on someone to choose correctly, is chancy. I have another story coming out where someone installed 4km of wire that "looked the same" as what I suggested. There was a difference between the speaker wire they installed, and the shielded larger gauge wire that it needed.
However, taking into account for someone's color blindness is something I did not consider. If that is the case, perhaps a second person should be consulted. I assume that color blindness is something a field tech or line worker should admit? I will be sure to ask about this issue in the future.
Interesting topic regarding color differentiation. Regarding wires, you just can't be in industry very long without running into stuff that is not color-coded according to traditional colors (ex. red = Vcc; black = GND). Almost like whoever manufactured it was operating from an entirely different system but in reality was probably using wire that was most readily available to them. What is even worse is if they use a different gauge because they had the "right color" in that gauge - especially if they go the wrong direction for the current rating! I wholeheartedly agree that production should seek an ECN before arbitrarily making any changes, but it depends on the specific production facility and management as to whether or not that will be enforced..
Getting back to those folks who are colorblind, I can see how other methods of distinguishing wires would be helpful. Back in my school days there was a guy that was color blind so he couldn't look at a resistor to tell its value - he almost always had to ohm it out. And different shades of the same color also cause confusion among folks who are not colorblind...
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