Measure Twice and Cut Once: Engineers Take on An Old Proverb
Dennis Smith | Mechanical Engineer
DISHER recently had the opportunity to serve a client who was tasked with an extremely aggressive deadline on a project for a very important customer. We had teams of engineers working around-the-clock on two shifts to quickly modify and export the customer’s data so our client could get it manufactured accurately and by the date their customer expected it. It was challenging and fun while still being intensely tedious. Once all of the data was exported, DISHER was asked to monitor the builds and provide engineering support.
We continued to put in long hours with our client’s team to ensure the first of many deadlines was met. After eight-straight long days, we were able to show the customer what they designed with relatively few modifications. During our time with the end customer, we offered several great suggestions that would improve the quality and manufacturability of their design. This went above and beyond what the customer was expecting and helped pave the way for six more upcoming builds.
We felt great. We were making progress and we were still providing engineering support when… it happened. The lead programmer came to me with what appeared to be a small shiny metal ruler in his hand.
“I think we’ve got a problem.”
He handed me the ruler and I noticed a familiar part number written on the side of the part, but the assembly that it belonged to was much bigger than the part I held in my hand.
The programmer calmly explained, “Luckily, this was the only one like this, but it actually made it to the floor, and we cut it. We need to have the model scaled properly and sent back to the floor so we can recut this and get the blanks to the presses with the rest of the kit.”
The programmer was very polite and pleasant despite just going through more than a hundred freshly cut parts to make sure the scale wasn’t off on any of the other models. I immediately brought up the file that I exported. Sure enough, the CAD file still showed it set to ¼ scale. The part was only 25% of the final size that it should have been! The bend allowance was corrected, hidden lines were removed, and the number of decimal places were adjusted properly. But I had failed to adjust the scale before I exported the file for manufacturing.
I immediately adjusted the scale and sent the model back to the floor. I called the programmer to let him know the new model was ready. He assured me by saying, “It’s no big deal, we’ll get right on it.” I ended the call thinking to myself, “If it is no big deal, then why do I feel so embarrassed about it?”
DISHER has twelve culture characteristics that describe our team and how we do business. We make it a routine to review each of these once a month every year to keep them in the forefront of our minds as guideposts for our team members as they go about their daily interactions with each other and with our customers. One of our culture characteristics is High Expectations which we define as “setting the bar high and holding yourself accountable to it, performing your best whether someone is watching or not, and continually improving yourself.” This explains why I felt embarrassed about missing the scale on the CAD model.
To the programmer, this was probably not a big deal. But to an engineer with more than 12 years of design experience, I should have known better.
“I was going too fast… I was reckless… I got distracted.” All are valid excuses. The bottom line was that my bar was set high and I missed the mark causing some additional work for my team to raise it back up. The programmer had to manually pull all of the incorrect parts out of production. He had to send another order out to the floor, and the floor needed to interrupt production to rerun parts that should’ve been cut right the first time.
Slow Down to Move Faster
After apologizing for my mistake and quickly correcting it, I was reminded of the old carpenter’s proverb, “Measure twice and cut once.” It wouldn’t have taken me any time at all to double check my scale before exporting the file for the shop floor to use. It was a good reminder for me to slow down and verify my designs before sending them for production. This includes quick interference checks, verifying the material properties, checking part weights, and at least glancing at the drawing to ensure I have reasonable dimensions and tolerances assigned before I send the models to manufacturing. By slowing down for accuracy, projects actually move faster due to less costly rework and quicker implementation for manufacturing.
The takeaway: Mistakes happen. Start by always taking responsibility for your actions. Build long term trust by rectifying the mistake and finding an appropriate solution as quickly as possible. Pride < Trust.