Very true. Some managers also annoy junior staff by the "not invented here" tactic. You put a lot of effort into your own idea to improve something and the manager rejects it out of hand. A bit later the manager proposes the same idea to his superiors and you get no acknowledgment at all when it turns out to be the success you knew it would be all along.
I certainly set off some good discussions with this anecdote! I think I can make some defence for "our" contracts staff. Anything that formed part of the actual earth station system was subjected to thorough scrutiny. About ten years after I left the original company I was approached and subsequently employed as consultant on a number of occasions to evaluate tenders for upgrades and replacements and spent many hours going through detailed proposals right down to circuit diagram level, or visiting the stations to assist in surveys and upgrade programs.
However, I suspect that local contracts for ancillary services like air-conditioning were just evaluated to ensure that they would perform their function at the right price, but I doubt that we would have asked for detailed wiring diagrams. After all, even the manager of the air-conditioning company was shocked and embarrassed when confronted with the evidence on the drawings. Clearly the "young engineer" had not been trained or supervised properly and was not ready for the responsibility of carrying out the detailed electrical design. I recall that he had personally supervised the work on site and his African techs would not have had the confidence to challenge the design - a regrettable but understandable attitude in post-colonial Kenya. Anyway, I think a purchaser has a certain right to expect that routine installations of equipment will be done correctly and in conformity to relevant regulations and standards.
But I do agree about "not taking anything for granted" before, during or after a project build. My next job was in meteorological telecomms in Nairobi and I once had difficulty persuading my assistant engineers to do something as mundane as locating and testing all the domestic mains sockets in the newly-built extension wing of our HF transmitter station. They said "there's no point testing them, they've only just been installed so they can't have broken yet". However, I handed Peter a desk lamp and said "Plug this into every socket and check them all out". I insisted they did this while the electricians were still on site and sure enough, a couple of the sockets didn't work! The faults were rectified within the hour and Peter and John conceded that they had learned an invaluable lesson. One wonders who had trained and supervised the electricians...
The person or persons who did not put in any overcurrent protection was actually guilty of serious fraud on day 1, when they represented that they knew what they were doing. To represent that one has knowledge and understanding that they don't have is just plain fraud. I have come across a few of those in my career and in most cases been able to assign them tasks that I could adequately describe the requirements of, so that they were able to produce useable results. But sometimes I was not the one assigning the tasks to be done, but still the one who had to make all of the pieces work when it was assembled into a system. Sometimes it was a matter of asking the designer how the package was going to provide the functions that I needed, and sometimes it was a case of asking the manager to explain to me how it was going to work. But I only did that when there was no hope of things working.
But the really important thing is to find and fix the problems while it is still only a paper design. Goofs in wire and steel are much harder, and a lot more expensive, to correct.
And now I wonder, would "whole system simulation" have detected the problem of no overcurrent protection?
In my current position I am finding out more and more of situations like this come down to training. Like you said, companies think people won't do something, but they don't train people so that they won't do it. We shouldn;'t be holding employees accountable for things that we haven't clearly communicated.
I think it's sad that there are so few ways for engineers to get ahead and some of the best end up in management. Rather than being able to mentor and help young engineers they are forced to go into management.
Scary how many times I have seen someone do something just like this to make it work. Now I realize how dangerous stuff like this can be. Electricity is not necessarily the best thing to "rig" when it comes to making it work.
I think the being open comment is really good. I remember when I first got into engineering I was a young punk out of college that thought I knew everything. I look back and remember a few different times when I wouldn't listen to the experts that were trying to help. Since then I have learned the more I listen, the more I learn.
@William K: I think there is enough blame to go around here. Of course you are correct in that someone up the food chain should have inspected and signed off on the design prior to build, but by the same token, if the designer did not have the knowledge to do the job right someone should been alerted.
When I first left the shop and began designing dies I was warned by the man training me to never forget, "You are the only one who signs his name to the project." It is a fact. There have been times in my career where we have had numerous meeting and consultations on a job with input and suggestions from all over the place. Many times the changes are incorporated into the design and if the tool did not work as expected, all eyes were turned to me and everyone wanted to know what I was thinking when I drew that. What is that old saw: "Success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan." Well not exactly, because there is a name on the design and he/she better have broad shoulders, or a relative as CEO.
The problem was certainly a management problem on the customer side. How could anybody agree to an installation design without seeing it? In my career designing all kinds of industrial systems I have always presented a design for approval prior to starting to build. And if the manager didn't have the knowledge to understand the design then they should have had engineers who were able to understand it do the evaluation. I have done quite a few of those evaluations as well, and have had to ask questions as to "how does this work?" That is a great way to either point out a mistake or to learn something. Usually it has been leading some designer to realize an error when they start to explain and realize that it does not work. The advantage of that method is that it does not put anybody on their defensive, which gets me better cooperation. In addition, if it does work, their designer gets to feel good, and I may learn something.
Fifty-six-year-old Pasquale Russo has been doing metalwork for more than 30 years in a tiny southern Italy village. Many craftsmen like him brought with them fabrication skills when they came from the Old World to America.
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