Thursday, February 23, 2012

High Voltage Test Data Gone Wild?

Nothing spurs data collection faster than a problem occurring in the Production line. As a company, we’ve gotten really good at gathering high voltage test data, product yields, process parameters, and all sorts of really good things.  The collection process continues to evolve in ease of use and sophistication. 

Having relevant data on hand helps to make informed decisions.  Without a doubt, it is a step in the right direction.  We analyze the data, make reports, create graphs, discuss it in meetings, formulate solutions, and implement plans until the problem either goes away or gets fixed.
Everyone knows how hard, if not impossible, to make good decisions without data.

The problem is, sometimes we forget to turn the data collection spigot off. As engineers, we move on quickly to the next project, and only look back when something catches our attention.

High Voltage Testing Data
Finding the right balance between collecting data for its own sake (as in, “just-in-case something happens and we need traceability”), and discontinuing data collection because the issue has been resolved, is difficult to achieve.

Something else to consider – how important is data collection if no one looks at the data? Collecting, analyzing, and reporting all consume expensive resources. Sometimes these resources could be better spent somewhere else.

How do you determine when, if ever, to stop data collection?

Friday, February 17, 2012

Words of Wisdom from Thomas J. Watson - Past President of IBM

IBM has, over the years, been hailed as a great business to model. In some ways, they are. Sure, they've had their ups and downs, and committed more than one faux pas, but hey, they're still around and still going gang-busters.

Today's entry is provided by “Quotes of the Day” – A great place to find quotes.

Thomas John Watson was born at Campbell, New York on this day in 1874. He went to work for National Cash Register at Dayton, Ohio and was general sales manager at the time he left with a felony conviction for his part in NCR's conspiracy to control the used cash register market. He joined the Computing Tabulating Recording Company in 1914, made president the next year, and within a decade the company took on the name International Business Machines. Watson caused placards saying "THINK" to appear in offices, and was responsible for the boring, if reassuring, corporate look of IBM engineering, support, and sales staff.

  • Would you like me to give you a formula for ... success? It's quite simple, really. Double your rate of failure. You're thinking of failure as the enemy of success. But it isn't at all.... You can be discouraged by failure — or you can learn from it. So go ahead and make mistakes. Make all you can. Because, remember that's where you'll find success. On the far side.
  • Good design is good business. Design must reflect the practical and aesthetic in business but above all ... good design must primarily serve people.
  • Whenever an individual or a business decides that success has been attained, progress stops.
  • Solve it. Solve it quickly, solve it right or wrong. If you solve it wrong, it will come back and slap you in the face, and then you can solve it right. Lying dead in the water and doing nothing is a comfortable alternative because it is without risk, but it is an absolutely fatal way to manage a business.
  • A man is known by the company he keeps. A company is known by the men it keeps.
  • You don't hear things that are bad about your company unless you ask. It is easy to hear good tidings, but you have to scratch to get the bad news.
  • Recently, I was asked if I was going to fire an employee who made a mistake that cost the company $600,000. No, I replied, I just spent $600,000 training him. Why would I want somebody to hire his experience?

All from Thomas J. Watson, 1874 - 1956

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Of X-rays, Neutrons, and High Voltage

Photo of single Rubidium-85 atom
The other day I was researching X-rays and neutron generators. I was struggling with terms because it’s been many years since I studied physics. I knew the terms, and was familiar with them, but alas, I’d forgotten the definitions. After spending a huge amount of energy resisting what I knew needed to be done, I bit the bullet.

I finally googled ‘x-rays’ and ‘neutron generators’. Which lead me to atoms which lead me to nuclei, which lead me to neutrons, protons, electrons, and strong and weak forces. The actual discussion is beyond the scope of this blog entry, but for an in-depth review, consider visitingthe Wikipedia entry, and you’ll see what I mean about needing a refresher.

Maybe you struggle with different things, but what really helped me in differentiating between neutrons and protons, was the simple notion that neutrons kind of keep the nucleus of the atom like glue, since protons (being of like charge and all), repel each other. That neutrons have slightly higher mass than protons made sense too, even though they are generally found in the same amount within the atom.

I used to confuse ions and isotopes too. I was excited to (re)learn that isotopes have a different number of neutrons than that of protons within the nucleus. Ions are atoms that have a positive or negative charge because of a variation in the number of electrons.

Electrons are in orbit around the nucleus. Neutrons and protons are in the nucleus of the atom.

The moral of the story is one or two words (or images) can really make a difference in being understood. And of course, you’re never too old to learn.

As for me, I’m still muddling my way through neutron generation. But that is a tale for a different day.

When's the last time you resisted doing something you know you needed to do?

Friday, February 3, 2012

Hidden Talent in the Work Place

Every once in while we stumble upon hidden treasure and want to share it. In this case, an employee reclaimed scrapped electronic components and rearranged them into a miniature sculpture. (Note the eye glasses – they’re actual small gauge, insulated wire).

The overall height is approx. 3 ½ to 4 inches tall.

Not only is it a great example of folk art, but it also demonstrates creativity, initiative, and a sense of camaraderie in the work place. The sculpture is of a co-worker known for carrying around a red water bottle.

If you watch people as they pass by and see the little sculptures, you can't help but notice how they make people smile!  They are delightful! 

Guess that's what it's all about.

What's your hidden talent?