Tag Archives: essay

The true content of America’s character…

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I’m Jewish.  I make no bones about it, I make no apology for it.  My mother was a Sabra – someone born in the Holy Land – as was her mother.  I am also a proud Zionist, believing that Jews need Israel as a nation and focus.*  (I wear a yarmulke as a reminder of my faith; the only overt incident of anti-Semitism I’ve experienced in person was here in New Hampshire… conversely, in my work-related travels to “deep dark red” states like Texas and Louisiana have been met with nothing but courtesy, and a genuine curiosity about my faith.)

On my father’s side, I have two ancestors who fought in the Revolution to whom I can, through records, tie myself; two others lurk in the mists of time awaiting my ability to focus on my genealogy – and a statement by my late father hints that I can join the Mayflower Society when I manage to get back that far.  I bleed red, white, and blue; I fly Old Glory, and only that, at my house.  I love this exceptional and unique country.

I am a mix.  As is my family.  As are my children.

America, too, is a mix; possibly the most mixed country on the planet.

Who You Admire Is Indicative

I’ve proposed many “penetrating questions” for candidates to ask in interviews; some are meant as attempt to gauge the interviewer’s character.  One such question was:

If you could have a civil, peaceful dinner party with five people from history, language aside, who would they be, why, and what would the main course be?

As an exercise, I answered my own question.  It was an interesting thought experiment, and hopefully revealing of my character.

In addition to the ones named in that essay, another one of my American heroes is Martin Luther King, Jr., whose words about freedom and race ring in my ears.  I strive, every day, to live true to his Dream that one day people would judge each other not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I even wrote an essay in praise of this, and of the concept of diversity, Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations; my co-workers are white, black, and every shade in between, as are my students.  I’ve had straight and gay people in my classes, and I don’t care; their orientation makes not a whit of difference to me.

The Spirit of America in a Heartfelt Letter

So here comes an open letter from a resident of Louisiana – a white man – to President Obama about the latter’s recent caution to Louisiana’s residents to not discriminate in their rescue and recovery attempts:

Dear Mr President,

I want to thank you for reminding us in South Louisiana not to discriminate against anyone based on race or religion. Had you not reminded us of this I don’t know what we would have done. See we rode around in a boat saving people and well race or religion never entered my mind. Not once. It didn’t enter my buddies mind or my wife’s. Just saving people.

I understand you may be miss informed because of all the race baiting that the media did a couple months ago here is South Louisiana. But I assure you that’s not what we stand for in South Louisiana. We love each other when the times get hard. We look out for our own. Now I know this doesn’t fit your agenda. But facts are facts.

O and by the way stay up in DC play a little golf and enjoy your last couple months in office. Make sure you clean out your desk. Clean out the house you’ve occupied for 8 years cause your time is up. Let ya buddy Ms Clinton know we don’t need her either. She needs her rest. Lord knows she needs rest more then the residents of South Louisiana do. She may could put some of that Clinton foundation blood money to good use down here helping others. But why would she do that. She already knows Louisiana doesn’t belong to her come November. If this was a state she needed she would have been on the boat with me. But that’s OK we got this we are strong here in Louisiana. Something you will never understand.

Thanks
The true citizens of Louisiana

To this white man, helping his neighbors and fellow citizens regardless of race or creed – per Luther’s dream – I can only say this:

Well done, sir.  Well done… and well said.  Thank you for showing the true SPIRIT OF AMERICA.

© 2016, David Hunt PE

 

* I make no apology for my zealous defense and support of Israel, whether in person, with charitable help, or online defending it; Israel, about the size of the state of New Hampshire (if that!) is the only nation in the world whose neighbors have – within living memory – repeatedly tried to wipe it out.  It is the only nation in the world that has neighbors whose founding documents call for its destruction, the only nation that is the focus of other countries who hold rallies screaming “Death to Israel!” and who paint, in Hebrew, messages like Israel shall be destroyed on their test missiles.  Israel is the only nation in the world with permanent agenda items in the docket in UN meetings, and the only nation in the world counseled to exercise “restraint” when missiles fired from its neighbors land in its cities.  And despite there being, what, scores of “disputed territory” situations around the world, Israel is the only one that gets worldwide attention… thus showing that Jews are still marked for “special handling” by the world.

Just as an exercise, imagine if Lithuania fired missiles into Vladimir Putin’s Russia… do you really think it’d take more than a week of three-a-day before Putin stomped Lithuania flat and he sent in troops to scrape it clean?  Can you imagine him waiting for over a decade, having over 13,000 mortars, missiles, plus numerous tunnels under the border with armed incursions into Russia?  Yeah, I didn’t think so.

So for all you LinkedIn weenies out there not liking my stringent and strident defense of Israel and pushback on the Arabs and other anti-Semites attacking Israel on what is, and should be, a professional networking site – STUFF IT.  When your ancestral and spiritual homeland is attacked and vilified and slandered – daily – in an attempt to so tarnish its existence that when it is attacked people will view its destruction as a good thing (just as Jews were so tarnished through years of propaganda in pre-WWII Germany, and for the same purpose) – then we’ll talk.

Fix the Problem XIII: What’s Different? What changed?

This is the latest of a series of case studies and examples from my career, where I attempt to summarize a problem solved, how I did it, all with an eye of passing along useful information… while still, of course, making a good faith effort to protect any confidential information. I hope this, and the others in the series – found HERE – will prove useful and education, illustrative of my abilities, and inspirational as to how I might fit into a new employer.  I am, after all, on a job search!

And a brief disclaimer: These cases are “a while ago” so it’s possible I am slightly off on some of the exact details – but the broad sweep of each case is correct.

Introduction

As a part of teaching at U Mass / Lowell’s Plastic Engineering Department, one of the tacks I’ve tried to stress is that the students’ program and thoughts need to be aimed – ultimately – at solving real-world problems.  I’ve told my students that when solving a problem in production, or returns from the field, two critical questions often assist in delving quickly to the root cause(s) of the issue.  Specifically, What’s different? and What changed?.

To that end, I’d like to put forth three examples where these two questions were instrumental in helping to find the issues involved.

Retaining Rings Wouldn’t Retain

In one position in my career I worked as a floor-level Manufacturing Process Engineer. I was constantly challenged (read: hammered) with issues ranging from fixtures to field returns to, well, you get the picture.  Lots of “opportunities”, as my then-boss used to say.

One of these was a long-standing issue predating my arrival in the department. On the smaller, hand-held units there were several pieces in a family of similar products.  Some would be sent out of our department and rarely come back from retaining ring issues (essentially, a female piece installed over a mating male piece and held on by that retaining ring).  Others would come back having “spontaneously disassembled”, sometimes even before having left our factory.  This was a constant sore spot in my area’s weekly quality issues, not to mention warrantee report.  Thus it became a priority to solve and get one high-profile issue off the list.

I sat down with a sample of each product: the male, the female, and the retaining ring, laid out to compare and contrast. Visually, on a first-pass look, there seemed to be no differences aside from subtle variations in overall lengths.  More to the point, arranging the pieces from small to large, and putting either an OK or a NOT OK post-it below the pieces, based on their problem frequency, there wasn’t an obvious pattern (e.g., if it had been the two largest ones, or the two smallest ones, that could have been a clue – but there wasn’t).  Since some worked, and some didn’t… “What’s different?”

Being a fan of the Value Engineering discipline, which drives me to think functionally, I asked “What holds these retaining rings on?”  Answer: The groove geometry.  The groove depth, the central diameter, the width… in point of fact, each assembly used the same retaining ring.  Clearly, the ring was not the issue.

So I pulled prints for everything. One possibility was that there was not enough clearance, or the tolerances were wrong, and somehow the retaining rings were being pushed off.  But looking at the nominal and “worst case” dimensions showed that was not the case.  Also note that the company had good machinists, and a strong SPC program; things were in control on that score… and each groove had the exact same dimensions and tolerances.

But doing the “sit and stare” at the drawings laid out side by side I realized that some of the drawings had a callout for the external corners of the groove: SHARP. Some didn’t.  And the ones that didn’t have that callout were the ones with the issue.  Aha, a clue.

The company had a default callout requiring that all corners be broken by – going from memory – a chamfer of .010-.015 inch unless otherwise specified. In looking at the retaining ring groove design recommendations from the supplier, they stated that the edge at the outer diameter of the groove needed to be called out SHARP and could not have a break, whether radius or chamfer.  And the parts showed it; parts without that callout did, indeed, have that edge broken.

I showed this to the Design Engineer who acknowledged the issue, concurred with doing an ECO, and I wrote it up to put through.

Result: The problem went away… because I laid the good and bad parts out, l considered multiple potential factors, but the thing that was different was a design detail missed on the problem assemblies.

It Was Good, Now It’s Not

At that same company, in the same position, another product had a significant percentage of leak test failures. A far more complex assembly than the one above, it had multiple potential leak path failure locations.  Again, an inherited sore spot.

My path was to systematically take failed torches and block off one possible leak path after another, attempting to isolate which of the multiple possible potential leak locations it could have been was the culprit. My goal was to systematically examine the leak location(s) once I’d identified them.

But in one meeting in discussing the larger area, of which mine was a part, one of the managers said “We used to have no leak failures. Let’s find out what changed and change it back.”  A detail I had not known at the time.

It turns out that a design change had been made, with the best of intentions, that resulted in moving several o-rings axially by – IIRC – about 20 thousandths of an inch, which created the potential for them to move under pressure and thus lose their sealing ability.

However, ECOs are not done for no reason.  As I recall, a more careful re-examination of the initial ECO and its reason for being done found that the change could be made with a reduction  in the positioning and seating of the seals – leaks not being considered the first time – and thus maintain the ECO but eliminate the ripple effect that created the leak test failure issue.

Result: The problem went away. And the key lesson learned is to identify the time frame when things change for the worse, and ask “What changed?”  Not just materials, personnel, processes, etc., but consider Design changes too.

Cracked Handles… Sometimes

In one company, the plastic we sold was injection molded into large trash cans – the kind that are used for homes and often picked up by an arm to be dumped into a truck. The company that made them was receiving complaints from customers that the handle used by the truck lifter was cracking.  This was creating quite a problem for them and we were asked to investigate.

My initial role was to do a stress analysis of the handle. I obtained load forces, etc., and built several finite element models of the handle simulating both centered and eccentric loadings.  None showed stresses high enough to create cracks although the stress hot spots were where the cracks were forming.  I also considered impacts, not just static loads – again, while the stresses were in the right places for the cracks they weren’t high enough to exceed the yield strength.  I increased the mesh density – refining the model as sometimes that can affect the stress levels, but the numbers held.  Based on the force and impact load cases I was given, there was no reason for the handles to be cracking.

Our initial thought was that some kind of chemical might be attacking the material, and we started to inquire about possible chemical contacts, but then a clue arrived through our sales group. Only one color of the several the company offered to the end users was having the issue.

Aha! “What’s different?”  We supplied the base resin; at the molding location the customer would blend in colorant masterbatches to create the color variations.  Pursuing this further, we learned that the base resin used by the masterback colorant provider was, for this one color, significantly lower in average molecular weight.  I.e., by blending in this color masterbatch the molder was introducing a weaker and less impact-resistant material to be blended into the base resin.  (Material note: plastic strength is directly related, as a general correlation, to molecular weight of the polymer chains.)

Looking back with more experience under my belt, I’d ask two questions: 1: “Can the failure be reproduced?” And 2: If the answer to the first question is YES, “What happens to products molded from uncolored resin?”  Assuming YES was the answer to the first question, and the failure didn’t happen with uncolored resin, that would at least have eliminated the base plastic as the sole cause of the problem.

When a different masterbatch blend with a material molecular weight like the other masterbatch colors was tried, the problem went away.

Again, the key clue was learning that one color didn’t work while the others did… “What’s different?”  (And in the back of your mind you can add the potential for different colors to be questioned.)

Adding to the Toolbox

Multiple tools exist to aid in systematically looking for the root causes of a problem, e.g., Ishikawa/fishbone diagrams, the Five Whys (and Two Hows) questioning, etc.  Adding “What’s different?” and “What changed?” as appropriate can add an important new tool to your problem-solving toolbox.

 

© 2016, David Hunt, PE