Unconfirmed Short Story For Engineers [Archive] - Glock Talk


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Mrs Glockrunner
02-14-2012, 07:25
Engineers appreciate this story..............

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 can't 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 hacked 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 budget, 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
statistics 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 good.

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 rang."

02-17-2012, 21:32
Funny story.

As an engineer who designs scales including in-motion check-weighing scales, all I can say is, my designs have a reject output that automatically kicks off product that is out of spec (stopping production to deal with a rejected product would be a major fail).

Course we are also checking for more than a missing tube. Inaccurate fill weights are a much more common problem than an entire missing tube of product.

02-17-2012, 21:47
:rofl: Thanks for passing that along.

02-17-2012, 21:55
That's a fun good story.