Thursday, June 4, 2009

Label: How Things Are Made...Poorly

Ever went and purchased an item, only to find out it is the biggest piece of $h!t (P.O.S.)? How about a large ticket item? Something like a washer, dryer, refrigerator, dishwasher, TV, Car? Most of the failed products we never really notice because we pay $5-20 for the items and when they fail, we really do not perform our own Failure Analysis arriving at the causes from a quality, material, manufacturing aspect.

Well, this topic will allow you, the informed reader to see the products I think are complete crap and the companies, whose products and/or services I will no longer procure on a forever basis. Why? I think that a good product from a proud manufacturer deserves much recognition (those will be recommended highly on this site as well). I want them to stay in business. I want to recommend them to my friends and family.

Think a pro-union shop does high quality? Ha! Look at the auto industry. Unions do not care about the company they work for, or the product they make. They only care about the rate of pay, benefits for hardly working, smoke breaks, and when to strike for more $$$. There is no loyalty in these people. How could cars be made so well when the union pukes have the same opportunity to get equal pay for not working through a job bank?

How about all that off-shore outsourcing? Now there are times and reasons that it makes both good sense and that eventually it must happen to allow a nation to move to the next big wave, but look at what happened. China and India are booming economies as the result of American and some European (and Japanese) companies moving shop to the new, virtually endless population of poverty stricken people who will do anything for a small squaller of pay. But what do you get? You get a product made by someone who has no f-ing idea what they are making and/or why someone would want to own this (let alone the cost of this thing). Imagine you have never seen a dishwasher, yet you get a job where you are putting one piece on each of these "things" that roll by you on an endless conveyor belt that never ends. When you find out it is a "thing" that washes many "dishes" and "utensils" you would probably think to yourself "why would anyone have so many of these dishes...and WTF is a dish anyways". No pride. Just a meager amount of money for being on the human conveyor system.

How about "value engineering"? This is where we maximize profit by minimizing material parameters, material types, operational ranges, etc. When you replace a stainless steel washtub in a washing machine to a plastic tub, you are going to have a significant change to the lifetime of the product right off the bat. When you impart plastics into the body of an automobile, the same is true, but somehow amplified in a shorter time. You can only cut so much from a product before it begins to spiral down the hole. There are many products, whose function and purpose really have not changed much since the inception. Look at photovoltaics or the battery. When you begin carving away at your success to make more money, you expose your entire existence as a reputable firm. You begin to set yourself up for failure.

I am a physicist by education, an engineer by trade, and a technologist by profession, if any of this means anything. I see my job to do everything humanly possible to impart as much technology as possible to obsolete specific work functions that humans perform on a daily basis. That is how we transform our society, growing and building new cities, expanding our ideas, procreating and passing these ideals onto our children, and so on.

I was part of a company that built complex machines for handling a diverse amount of material, some hazardous and some a challenge to move from point A to point B. All of these "systems" were automated to provide specific operations that were in sync with the demands from other manufacturing systems within a giant manufacturing plant that made computer ships. Our product only consisted of the best materials and components on the market at that time. The designs were such that new technologies could be employed in the future, when new items were available. Our product was typically more expensive than many of our competitors, however, our products are still churning away in many of the facilities today. Some over 12 years and still pumping. That is something I am proud of.

My advice to anyone who is interested in building something:
1. Detail of design. Think it out accordingly.
2. Build it better than anyone else. Use quality materials and people to build it.
3. Build it so you never have to get another one. Why dwell in the spares world.
4. Make it last forever. Move to the next big idea.

There is a company that builds a pump that is the best pump ever. This pump is superior to other pumps. It can handle many aggressive environments that most pumps simply cannot. It can be controlled remotely. It does not even have spare parts. Now this pump does have limitations in its operational envelope. And this pump does have a higher price than other pumps, but it outlasts all other pumps. Usually by a factor of three, from my own experience. That is a product that Seriously Kicks A$$ (SKA).

I wish I could say that of the products and services of the companies I will brand POS from this point forward.

At any time, feel free to offer your own problematic Pains In The A$$ (PITA).

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