Science Experiments

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

More than once, I got in trouble with management over orders they felt were “Science Projects” rather than profit opportunities. It did not matter that some of those “boondoggles” were pet projects of theirs’ before falling out of favor; they wanted them completed quickly and never made again. A classic example of “find out what you don’t do well and don’t do it anymore.”

This approach makes perfect sense in moments of anger but can be a disaster if broadly applied. Who masters a new activity the first time they attempt it? Back in the early days of video games, I had a friend who would secretly practice on the new machines and then casually suggest the gang stop by a certain establishment “just so see if they had anything new.” Everyone was amazed at his skill level until his secret training sessions were “outed” by a bartender.

New machines and processes have a learning curve, just like every other activity we undertake in life. If you decide to take up golf, for example, you read everything you can find on the topic. You get lessons from experts. You spend way too much on equipment and then you practice, practice, and practice some more. If you give up because you are not immediately ready for the professional tour your golf buddies will have a good laugh at your expense.

Some of my “science projects” were doomed from the start by impossibly tight tolerances or features we could not create in our shop. For another shop those parts might not have been a problem. Other orders were eventually mastered with careful study of the defects, new tooling or fixtures, and adjustments to the process plan.

Success was “easier” to achieve when we attacked the challenges as a team and used the “golf” strategy outlined above. Read and research to learn from the experience of others, get good coaching from co-workers or vendors, and practice on small lots until consistent results are obtained. You may find that some parts are still “impossible” but you will have gained valuable knowledge along the way.

About Charles D. Schultz 580 Articles
Charles D. Schultz is President of Beyta Gear Service and one of Gear Technology's technical editors.

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