Monday, August 31, 2015

The ugly truth of Engineering


I started working on open source platforms for my projects in the beginning. If you ask me why, the main reason would be to reduce the cost. Since the beginning of my career, I have been always an enthusiast of open source platform for development of projects. Creating something new from nothing was exiting and interesting and kept us pushing to our limits. To be honest I still love to have my first job back, because in those days at office every day is a new day and there will always some thing new to learn.

This was real and i really enjoyed my first job and I think it will be my best ever. 

Since the last three years, there has been a shift from the open source platform to the latest paid and proprietary application platforms. Despite my interest, the fact that this changes was forced upon us mainly due to clients requirements. 

The point is that, from my experience, an engineering problem that we face for 90% of the time, stated that unless there is a design issue, can be solved with few tricks. You just need to put you brain to work and see practical solutions. Be creative and proactive to solve it. 

Even in my day to day routine job and stuffs, we used to come across a lot of issues. Which can be solved with small effort and at low expenses. I know its really hard to explain and convince the MBA guys with all these stuffs and probably that's why most of these problems with which can be solved by small engineering tricks rest in the hands of them at high stakes. 

There is this story which give you an idea what i was talking about. This story happened in one of the food packaging industry where there was an automatic machinary system which packs the food one by one. It was found that once  in every 1000 packing one pack is skipped by the machine with out filling the food stuff in it. It became a headache for the operators in process line. Because this  empty packet, their entire process of packing was distirbed. Every time they have to stop and start the machine. So the management want to study the and put a practical solution for this disturbance in the process. They invited quotation from a third party consultant to study for a huge sum. The consultant studied the entire system and suggest for replacement with a new system. These consultant study and preparation took 6 months. 

As it was mentioned before, each start and stop of the packing machine will take 10 to 20 minutes of time. This is actually a lost time in the productivity. During the year end audit, they found that for one particular shift of employees there was very less lost time compared to others shifts employees. The management was amazed how this could have happened. Since this is a design problem with the machine, the same problem should have happened in all the shift. Management guys found that the lost time was very less during a particular shift specially when they are in the night duty. So they decided to observe how this is happening. 

On the other side of this story, there is this lazy engineer who is assigned for the maintenance and operation of this machine who got literally tired due to this frequent stop and start of machine. It was disturbing his cat sleep in the night. He knows this machine is coming to stop due to a empty packet getting stuck in the sealing drum. If that empty packet is not there, it will not get stuck in the drum, machine will not stop, and what he have to do is to subtract 1 from each 1000 finished packet. He simply placed a fan in front of the rail so that the light weight non filled packet will fly off. 

The management guys got stunned by this trick. After all spending 6 months study on design and spoiling a huge amount to consultants, the solution was there at free of cost. The shift employee necessity made him to discover a way to overcome the difficulty. This is a spectacular feature of human. They can find simple solutions if they really want to. Here in this story the necessity was reason.

Recently I was working with a project in my current company. This was a simple requirement, and when I saw the quotation from the suppliers, i was like what the heck! few hundred thousand euros. And for what ? Just to transfer ready available data from one locatiom to another. They were suggesting additional hardware, networking, cabling etc etc. Even if didnt care about the money they wanted to have total production stop for 3 days. Thats millions of dollar they asking literally 40 times the cost of the project.

We decided to take up this project and our team did it just by 1/20 th of the quoted price of the vendor. Few guys take the effort sitting day and night with zero down time. 

We did this since we know it can be done and we are 100% sure this technique was never tried before. But theoratically we were sure it can be done in another way. This project was an open example for others.

I Remember a cartoon in US news paper when the ISRO launched satellite reached mars. The fact is that it is possible and ofcourse it is not rocket science. All you have to do is to put your brains to work. 

1 comment:

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