Put the Damn Thing Out!

Put the Damn Thing Out!

Could you imagine what would happen if, when firefighters got to a scene, they just knocked down the flames and left? How many times would they be rushing back to same fire over and over? But, they don’t. You see, firefighters know that you must take the time to know whether the fire is truly out before leaving. Otherwise, they would spend so much time putting out the same fires that as new ones arose and added to the burden, they would be overwhelmed.

Unfortunately, many in the business world have not learned this lesson. I have seen managers struggling with the same fires over and over in an attempt to hide them. They were trying to maintain the facade that they had everything in control, while looking to the next promotion. The problem is, it eventually catches up with them when sufficient time and resources aren’t present to cover the issues up. The end result is usually a catastrophe. I have seen managers and engineers that felt they didn’t “have the time” and would rush to a conclusion and move on. Amazingly, they did not understand how much of their time was being consumed by putting out the same fires over again. I’ve seen lazy managers and engineers that would do as little as was required to get past an issue. They failed to understand how much more work they were creating for themselves having to put out the same fires over and over. Then there are the “deer in the headlights”, feeling overwhelmed by issues and not knowing what to do. They will just keep grabbing at straws until something seems to work and then move on, hoping the problem is fixed. But it rarely is.

To make matters worse, many companies will put metrics in place to combat this, making the closing of issues part of the semi-annual or annual evaluation process. They judge things like: number of issues, average time to close issues, number of issues by severity, etc. Unfortunately, the end result is not what is intended and leads to either issues being hidden or a rush to a conclusion, perpetuating the cycle. While there may be some benefit to monitoring issues and solutions, that can be a slippery slope. Many times, this leads to more ways to measure performance which, in turn, gets more cumbersome, requiring more time and exacerbating the problem.

So, do we throw our hands up and just give up? No! I have been on both sides of this fence and, though uncomfortable, there are ways to combat this way of thinking. No matter what your position is, it starts with a true evaluation of where you stand and a plan to battle this mindset. As an engineer or anyone else on the front line, make the decision that you’re going to do what it takes to put the fires out for good. Any new fires have to be extinguished completely. Since you still have to deal with management and whatever policies and metrics are in place, look for the biggest bang that will require the least amount of time and resources. Put it out. Then the next and the next. It will be a real struggle at first, but, eventually, you will gain momentum and the time saved can be used to fight the harder issues. Don’t wait for the company or others to get on board. You have the power to make your own situation better.

If you are a department manager, the situation is pretty much the same, although you will want to protect the people that are being successful at putting permanent solutions in place, even if it hurts your department metrics. It will hurt at first, until you gain some traction. But after the initial pain, you will likely be setting the standard.

For upper management, the same approach to prioritize the issues will work well. But, understand that you are dealing with people. The carrot and stick only work if there is guidance and direction. Be involved in the process enough to know when policies and metrics are becoming obstacles and remove or revise them. Instead of only looking at the metric, take time to understand why the numbers are what they are and if there is good reason to have missed “the mark”, if it happens. Put a human side on the fight and encourage those who are successful based on what they faced and overcame rather than an arbitrary set of numbers.

No matter where you fit within an organization, you can be the difference. Just put the damn thing out!



A question for the ages. There are really a lot of reasons to redesign like modernizing the product, adding features, etcetera. But there are couple not so obvious reason I want to talk about here.

Many times as a product is developed, initial volumes are low and the focus is getting a working product to market. The methods and materials used to produce it are based on low volume and are geared to keep the initial startup costs low. After all, if it is truly new, how can you be sure if it will actually sell? And, it’s not unusual for a company to just keep producing it that way if it is successful.

So the first reason would be part cost reduction.

Case in point. I worked for a company a number of years ago that had developed a product that used two aluminum parts. They were machined from 1’ thick aluminum material into two half circle parts and each one had 6 holes machined into them. One set cost $40.00. even after the product had become successful they just kept making them the same way for years. Eventually we redesigned the product and were able to create the half circle shape as an aluminum extrusion with the holes included in the profile. The extrusion was then sliced into 1” lengths to give us the finished shape. The new part did not have to be solid so we were able to substantially lower the weight and cost. The cost of a set with the new design was only $5.00. We actually wound up with a better product and a huge savings.

The second reason I want to discuss here is to reduce assembly cost.

Case in point. We were manufacturing a stand from an aluminum

extrusion. The feet for the stand where also fabricated from the same extrusion. Holes were drilled for mounting them to the uprights, for mounting the wheels and for attaching the cross-bracing. End caps were cut from aluminum strapping, drilled and fastened to each end of the extrusion feet. It took 30 minutes per stand to fabricate the feet. By redesigning the feet as a plastic injection molded part the need for the bracing was eliminated, the wheels were just snapped in and two self-taping screws held each [foot] to the uprights. The total assembly time for the feet was reduced to 3 minutes. Besides the obvious labor savings this had a huge impact on the backlog in the department that made them. So we had a better looking and higher quality solution that improved customer service and reduced cost.

If you have a part or product that is difficult or time consuming to produce, why not give DREaM a call and put our 30+ years of experience to work for you.

Design Smart, Design Right!

What is “Micro-Iterative Collaboration”.

What is “Micro-Iterative Collaboration”.

This is a term coined by my partner (Dan Jr.) to describe our unique design approach. In the beginning of my carrier as an engineer we contracted a number of machines for automation. Typically, we would have a meeting to discuss our needs and the contractor and they would go back to their office to create a quote. They may call a few times for clarification and then they would return with a quote. We would discuss what they were going …to build and if all looked good they would get an order and build the machine. It seemed at every instance what we got was lacking in one way or another. Typically, what followed was a push and shove with the contractor, they would make a few changes and eventually we would live with what we got. The problem wasn’t that the contractor didn’t want to deliver what we wanted, but rather the process. We made every attempt to fully explain our requirements and the contractors made every effort to understand them. Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to think of every possible issue that may arise and the contractor will by human nature hear what you are saying in terms of what they have done in the past. The contractor based their cost on what they understood our requirements were. They only had what we told them and didn’t understand the process as we did. They may have built in some contingency for surprises, but not enough to make drastic changes. It didn’t take long until we decided it was in our best interest to build our one machines. After all, who understood our requirements better than us.

“Micro-Iterative Collaboration” is a process I developed through over 30 years designing product and machinery. In the process we make every effort to involve the client in the design process. After all they are the true subject experts. This is usually accomplished using multiple methods depending on the complexity of the project. It may be through emailing concepts, a series of meetings, and/or both during the design process. By bringing the client into the design process early things that might have been overlooked during the initial disclosure can be dealt with before the design is completed. In some cases, they will change the scope and require adjusting the overall cost of the project. But, the sooner they are discovered the less the impact if any. It also helps the client understand how it effects the process and many times the effect on the overall cost of the project can be mitigated. The flip-side of this is there are also occasions where we are over-designing to a standard that is not required and this effects the overall cost of the project in a positive manor. The overall goal of the process is to give the client exactly what they expect by allowing them to make key decisions when it comes to weighing cost benefit.

Dan Sr.

Design Right Engineering and Manufacturing, LLC