A short story for engineers
A toothpaste factory had a problem: they sometimes shipped empty boxes,
without the tube inside. This was due to the way the production line was set
up, and people with experience in designing production lines will tell you
how difficult it is to have everything happen with timings so precise that
every single unit coming out of it is perfect 100% of the time. Small
variations in the environment (which canā?Tt be controlled in a
cost-effective fashion) mean you must have quality assurance checks smartly distributed across the line so that customers all the way down to the
supermarket don't get pissed off and buy another product instead.
Understanding how important that was, the CEO of the toothpaste factory got the top people in the company together and they decided to start a new
project, in which they would hire an external engineering company to solve
their empty boxes problem, as their engineering department was already too
stretched to take on any extra effort.
The project followed the usual process: budget and project sponsor
allocated, RFP, third-parties selected, and six months (and $8 million)
later they had a fantastic solution - on time, on budgett, high quality and
everyone in the project had a great time. They solved the problem by using
high-tech precision scales that would sound a bell and flash lights whenever
a toothpaste box would weigh less than it should. The line would stop, and
someone had to walk over and yank the defective box out of it, pressing
another button when done to re-start the line.
A while later, the CEO decides to have a look at the ROI of the project:
amazing results! No empty boxes ever shipped out of the factory after the
scales were put in place. Very few customer complaints, and they were
gaining market share. "That's some money well spent!" - he says, before
looking closely at the other staatistics in the report.
It turns out, the number of defects picked up by the scales was 0 after
three weeks of production use. It should've been picking up at least a dozen
a day, so maybe there was something wrong with the report. He filed a bug
against it, and after some investigation, the engineers come back saying the
report was actually correct. The scales really weren't picking up any
defects, because all boxes that got to that point in the conveyor belt were
Puzzled, the CEO travels down to the factory, and walks up to the part of
the line where the precision scales were installed.
A few feet before the scale, there was a $20 desk fan, blowing the empty
boxes out of the belt and into a bin.
"Oh, that," says one of the workers - "one of the guys put it there cause he
was tired of walking over every time the bell range."
I would just have skipped the box. Boxes for toothpaste is just a waste anyways.
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