Tag Archives: original

Essays: The Big Lies of Employment

Big Lies in Employment – Part I of II

Big Lies in Employment – Part II of II
About the *cough cough* hiring crisis and “shortage of qualified candidates”… and why anyone who points these things out is shouted down, drowned out, and threatened with Nice job search you have there… be a shame if anything happened to it.

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

 

Fiction: “Watching the Clock”

Did you ever watch the clock… waiting… praying for the time to pass? Did you ever have that happen so badly that each tick of the second hand was followed by an eternity before the tock, and another eternity followed before the next tick?  Did your mind ever race with thoughts you couldn’t control, looking back at your life and all the decisions you made as you waited for each minute to crawl by?

I could hear the clock on my office wall.

Tick.

Eternity.

Tock.

Eternity.

As I waited for the sun to set.

===

So where were you when The Wave arrived? The Wave, a wall of mystic energy that swept across the world in a silvery shimmer, asking every living person what they wanted to become.  Dragon?  No problem.  Elf?  Sure?  Great white shark?  Absolutely.  Alien?  Just say the word.  Anything short of a god, you could be.  What did you wish for?

Mark and I were sitting in my corner office, the office I’d gotten after breaking through the glass ceiling at other companies gaining experience to start my own. I built my company to the pinnacle of the industry through ruthless competence, long nights, hard days, and sacrifice of everything outside work.  We were talking right after lunch, relaxing in my glass box office.  Mark sat on the sofa, feeling the sun caressing him.  My desk was still in the shade.  The afternoon sun would sweep across the entirety of my office before slipping behind the wall to the hallway.  It made for a cheery place.

That helped, because most of my waking moments were in the office. I had no boyfriend, no husband, no nothing besides my career.  Sometimes I felt empty, but I’d think about my career, my bank account, my penthouse condo and vacation place on the Riviera, my Benz… and I’d get over it.  I was Number One.

So Mark and I were talking about the next quarter. He was my VP of Sales, my best salesman, and a long-time friend.  My best friend.  Really, my only friend.  As driven as I was, our conversation focused on work and was interspersed with numbers, goals, and how we were going to take my company to the next level.  Then something shimmered through the window like sunlight on rippled water.  We both look outside, and started to stand in shock, and The Wave rushed the building then swept through it.  As it hit us we felt, in our gut, the truth of what it said: Anything you want to be, you can be.

He looked at me. I looked at him.  We smiled and said, in unison, “Vampire.”

I felt myself shuddering, suddenly feeling cold as my body died, and the fangs sprouting in my mouth pushed my jaws apart. I looked at my hands, fingernails growing slightly into subtle claws.  I was instantly thirsty.  I looked up at Mark, also looking at his hands.  He smiled at me, a toothy smile that showed his new fangs… and then his face turned to horror and terror as the sun’s light ignited him and he burned, flames bursting out from multiple places on his skin as he writhed in agony and his frame collapsed into ash.  Acrid smoke filled the room.

Immediately I upended my desk to form a barrier against the light, crouching down to hunker inside the foot well. Escape was impossible as the sunlight bathed my door.  Even the sun’s reflected rays hurt.  And I knew it would get worse as the day progressed and the sun moved to light up my whole office, but at least I wouldn’t be directly touched by it.  I settled in to wait for nightfall.

Howls came from outside my door, and I somehow sensed that two of my employees had chosen to be werewolves. Trying out their wolf forms, they ran through the halls.  The building shook, rhythmically, as though something large was walking nearby… and then the shrill shriek of Godzilla ripped through the air.

The smoke from Mark’s incineration filled my nose. The reflected sunlight burned as the sun crawled across the room, bouncing off the wall and seared my skin.

Tick.

Eternity.

Tock.

Eternity.

I wanted to sleep. To close my eyes and lay dead until sunset.  The pain from the light was too much.  I squeezed my eyes shut.  I saw things… I saw my life.

I saw… my first lemonade stand at age six. I was so proud, sitting there at the end of the driveway, selling glasses to passers-by for a dime, and so thrilled at the end of the day having made a small pile of coins which went into my piggy bank.  Every weekend I was out there in good weather.  Soon I added cookies to my portfolio, then pretzels and peanuts too, in small bags.  I had to buy new piggy banks.  I learned about gross and net profit as my parents stopped subsidizing my business so I had to buy my own supplies.  I learned about price per unit to minimize my costs.

I saw… my flier for helping others around their houses, a flier I put in all the neighbors’ mailboxes when I was 12. I would rake leaves, shovel snow, clean houses, and run errands.  All to earn more.  I learned about scheduling, and profit per task, and focused my business efforts on chores that would give me the most profit per minute.  I learned to get by with less sleep so I could do more.

I saw… my first-place trophy from the university’s Entrepreneur Club sitting on my desk at school. I had won first place not only for a killer business idea, but for having a detailed business plan and even an investor all lined up.  It was my first real business.  I started it, built it, sold it, and leveraged that experience into a series of management positions that I exploited to gain knowledge.  I did everything to get ahead, including sleeping my way up.  I stepped on people like footstools.  All so I could then start my own company.  Only now do I see how ruthless I was, always looking to exploit every situation for gain.

I saw… my last boyfriend, George, walk away, shoulders hunched, slumped, after he had proposed and I had said no. He wanted a simpler life, a less hectic life.  He wanted a family.  He would have been a great father.  I wanted to be Number One.

I saw… my mother, on her deathbed, asking about George and where he was. She asked when I was going to have a family.  I lied to her, saying that George was just away on a trip and that he’d proposed.  I didn’t, I somehow couldn’t tell her I’d spurned him.  She smiled, closed her eyes, said “He really loves you,” and breathed her last.  My last words to her were a lie.

My mind snapped to the present again and I opened my eyes, squinting at the sunlight reflecting off the wall.

My best, my only friend, was dead, the stench of his smoky death still coloring my office. All the friends I didn’t make.  The children I would never have.  The sacrifices and compromises I made, the vile things I did to get ahead, the business I built which was now dead with the new society that would have to form in this changed world.

All just ashes like Mark.

Tick.

Eternity.

Tock.

Eternity.

Tick.

Eternity.

Tock.

Eternity.

Why is that clock moving so slowly? When can I escape from this sunlight prison?

And I’m thirsty… so very thirsty.

 

© 2016, David Hunt, PE

P.S. My first fiction story, Butterfly Dreams, is a sci-fi fantasy romance short story.