You are on page 1of 3

Technicians APPLY, Technologists ADAPT, Engineers ORIGINATE

METAMORPHS JOURNAL
http://users.senet.com.au/~metamorf mailto: metamorf@senet.com.au

Vol: 1 No:

7 December 2003

THOUGHTS ON EVERYTHING
Steven CONRAD Harrison,
B.Tech(Mfg & Mech.), MIIE, gradTIEAust

As I mentioned in the first issue this is where I get to talk about anything and everything, with no clear objective, no clear destination, but hopefully a journey of discovery. At the moment my head is spinning, well mind anyway, with ideas on quality, motivation and regulations. About qualitative and quantitative approaches to design. About the characteristics of objects that define that object. And strength, stability and serviceability evaluation of structures. About philosophy, metaphysics, science and engineering. About the tree of knowledge, about education and training. About quality control and quality assurance. About design, elegant and novel and plain routine. About technicians, technologists and engineers. About history, evolution, and the industrial revolution. About geography and economics, politics and the law. About the abstract and reality. All of these fields of study are related and dependent upon one another. For instance, consider the following. The difference between quality control (QC) and quality assurance (QA), in the simplest of terms is that QC is concerned with the destination whilst QA is concerned with the journey. QC allows defects to be produced and filters them out, QA attempts to avoid producing defects in the first place. Our legal and law enforcement systems are therefore based on QC, they allow the law to be broken then they seek to find people to blame for crimes and punish them. Thus, there is no real law enforcement. The quality assurance approach would seek to avoid implementing systems that lead to laws being broken. More over, QA would tend to avoid creating laws that are against human nature in the first place. That is QA is dependent upon defining functionally correct tolerances in the first place. Thus for the most part, the majority of our laws are undemocratic and an attack against our humanity. This is clear from the fact that most of our laws were created in the first place to curb our human nature. Why do we have road laws? If people travelled around in a courteous manner would we require such laws? Of course, the answer is not just a simple yes or no, there are technical issues to consider as well, but do any of those technical issues involve or otherwise require law? Building regulations that control building approvals suffer from a similar problem of QC rather than QA. Most of the process concerns a pointless and ill-defined paper chase, with little concern for the physical buildings themselves until an actual problem occurs, usually involving death and a coroners inquest. Many people believe that money motivates. However, consider the common story of the donkey and the carrot on the end of a stick. This carrot can be used to control the donkeys forward movement towards some destination, but the donkey is in no way motivated towards reaching that destination. If getting the carrot appears impossible, it will give up its attempts to obtain. If some other traveller feeds the donkey sugar cubes or something else more appetising than the carrot, the donkey will loose interest in the carrot. When the donkey looses interest in the carrot, there is no reason for it to travel forward. If however, you can find a donkey that is motivated in getting to the same destination as yourself, then there is no reason to control its forward motivation. The donkey will strive to reach its destination irrespective of whether you wish to reach that same destination as well or not. This now brings us back to quality assurance. The motivated donkey may not have any interest in the quality of the journey, nor of the destination. Especially if we consider that may be our donkey in question is travelling to the donkeys equivalent of an elephants graveyard, thus it fully expects and has no concerns about being dead on arrival at its destination. This brings us into the field of psychology and also metaphysics and philosophy, and of history and the ancient Greeks. About the question of the real world and the world of abstraction. The ancient Greek philosopher Zeno, was supposed to have contended that it was impossible to close a door, and achieve various other things as a consequence of a simple mathematical idea. Namely each movement of the door closes half the remaining opening. So if we take a sliding door, that is 1m open, then we close it 0.5m, then we close it a further 0.25m, and so on ad infinitum. Mathematically the opening can never reach zero, thus the door can never be considered closed. Which is interesting because mathematically the number zero itself is a relatively new concept, not understood as such by Zeno. Why mention this? Well I was talking about a journey. A journey typically has a starting point, an origin, and a finishing point or destination. Zenos paradox suggests that every journey consists of an infinite number of

Metamorphs

MorfJV01004.doc, [(29/02/04) 15:31]

Technicians APPLY, Technologists ADAPT, Engineers ORIGINATE

METAMORPHS JOURNAL
http://users.senet.com.au/~metamorf mailto: metamorf@senet.com.au

Vol: 1 No:

7 December 2003

journeys. Thus, we can infer that a difference between quality control and quality assurance is a matter of resolution. That is we have a macro journey that comprises of several smaller micro or sub-journeys. Now my mind is really spinning. The other conceptual difference between QC and QA is the difference between product and process. QC is concerned with product (destination) and QA is concerned with process (journey). A product is the result of a transformation process. A product can be goods or service. I have already considered that goods and service are interchangeable. A physical goods can be transformed into a service. This is because the functional definition of the object that is a goods can equally well represent the supply of a service. But a service is a process. Therefore, I have already considered that product and process are interchangeable, but not as explicitly as above. Sorry, as clearly as I thought, when I wrote: Now my mind is really spinning. Is QA really giving attention to a process, the journey, or to the destinations of the sub-journeys? What is the journey? If the journey and destination become one, then the perception of difference is lost. It is these subtle perceptions of difference and similarity that lead to progress in understanding our world, thus to progress in science and technology. The engineering profession, profession meaning that persons get paid for engineering, not necessarily that they are any good at it, just that the competition is fixed, so that better players can not enter the game. This profession is constantly complaining about low rates of pay for the service they provide and the level of responsibility they assume. Contractors/Builders have been complaining about falling quality of construction documentation. The engineering and architectural professions say that if design fees were more realistic then the documentation would be of higher quality. Is this an erroneous call for money to motivate? Part of the problem lies in where engineers services are required and where engineers services are not required. That is part of the problem lies with the definition of engineering and the definition of engineers. This issue concerns history and geography, and the concept of science and the difference between the abstract and the real. Traditionally engineers designed in their own heads and transformed the design or idea into a physical system. That is they had what we now call Trade skills, to carve and mould and otherwise transform timber, stone and metals into useful objects. There was no prior documentation and evaluation of the idea. Documentation of an idea only emerges when it becomes necessary to communicate an idea to many people. Many people who contribute resources to a project that cannot be accomplished by one person acting alone. I think it was Buckminster Fuller, in Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth who identified the difference between craft tools and industrial tools. Craft tools can be made by one person working in isolation from others, industrial tools require a society. More over many of our ancient construction projects lasted for many generations. In fact, modern society/civilisation is dependent upon building on history. Each technology allows us to develop new technologies not otherwise possible. I have mentioned elsewhere before that once a product hits the market place it takes on a whole life of its own, acquiring uses well beyond the intentions of the original designers. The university graduate engineer is a product of industry and universities. No such entity existed: until it, they were invented. Now they are complaining about trades people stealing their name: this is nonsense. Technology is in a constant evolutionary flux. Now either individual humans arise that have the ingenuity to contribute to this evolution or they do not. To contend that there is only one kind of education that has ever contributed to such progress and can ever contribute, and that the required education is a four year Bachelor of Engineering Degree, is clearly nonsensical. All a formal education can achieve is to create technicians that maintain the status quo. Motivated, interested individuals are required to step beyond the boundaries of conformity and achieve progress. The education appropriate for such purposes is dictated by the individuals personal interests. Personal interests that cross the boundaries of formal courses of study, and perceive the subtle differences and similarities between topics in the human tree of knowledge. The tree of knowledge after all is an abstract map of the real world. A simplified model of reality that allows us to make decisions in an acceptable time frame. This is where the problems are arising. The projects are getting more complex and the acceptable time frames are getting shorter, whilst the simple models of reality are also getting more complex requiring more time to reach decisions. At the same time there is a huge gap forming between the producers and the designers. Increased specialisation as also brought greater division, whilst this brings efficiency on some levels it generates inefficiencies on other levels. In some cases, the efficiency of a minor subsystem as increased at the expense of loss of efficiency in the larger parent system. Metamorphs MorfJV01004.doc, [(29/02/04) 15:31] 2

Technicians APPLY, Technologists ADAPT, Engineers ORIGINATE

METAMORPHS JOURNAL
http://users.senet.com.au/~metamorf mailto: metamorf@senet.com.au

Vol: 1 No:

7 December 2003

Steel fabricators that once employed workshop detailers on staff, now subcontract workshop drawings to detailers, when and if required. This in itself is a further deterioration from a time when fabricators employed their own designers and/or engineers. More to the point: further deterioration, from a time when fabricators were the engineers and architects. Economics requires that scarce resources be used cautiously; human safety also demands that systems be carefully evaluated before being implemented. This increases the complexity of design, thus resulting in the separation of construction/fabrication from the design process. The separation is a consequence of capitalist monetary economics, not physical. A steel fabricator cannot survive if its designers determine the most appropriate solution for a particular structure is concrete. If they decide it is steel, then they can be seen as having a vested interest in the outcome, and therefore not motivated towards acting in the clients best interests. The result are semi-independent designers. Semi-independent because the designers also become specialised, and are themselves little able to determine if steel or concrete is the most appropriate solution. The designer will just choose their own favoured solution. Unfortunately, however, the design companies lack the practical knowledge of the construction and fabrication companies, and therefore their solutions lack quality. It is therefore necessary to get the design knowledge back into the construction and fabrication companies. There is another historical problem. The construction/fabrication businesses and technical schools that had high reputations for training highly competent technical personnel, have been swamped by the emergence of multitudes of technical schools. Whilst on the job training as largely been lost. The businesses that conducted training have seen loss of personnel to others businesses as too great a cost to themselves. Now on the job training is important to quality assurance, and vice versa, quality assurance is important for assessing the output of on the job training. That is people can learn on the job, if what they produce can be incorporated into normal production. The trainees learning process questions the status quo and therefore the production process can be improved. However, we have a problem. Any increase in productivity in capitalist business enterprises subject to the manta of survival of the fittest, usually results in loss of employment for someone. This improves the efficiency of the business enterprise but diminishes the overall efficiency of society itself. That is a society becomes increasingly unable to support its own population, and primary reason for existence. There is another reason for businesses being involved in training, many jobs do not require any skill base greater than that of a trainee, and further more are rather dull. Additionally a business can generally only have one chief engineer or any other kind of leader. Hence, individuals seeking such roles have to look elsewhere to develop and otherwise challenge their skills. Hence, some businesses have to accept a high turnover off personnel, and accept that they are training the entry-level personnel for enterprises involved in more advanced activities. Unfortunately, another problem exists: employees do not want to move on, and they become entrenched in the enterprise. Trainee positions are transformed into fully qualified jobs, and the understanding of the job being that of a stepping-stone to a more advanced vocation is lost. This as clearly happened with engineering.

Metamorphs

MorfJV01004.doc, [(29/02/04) 15:31]