This is the Fall edition of my welcome to the RAMS® 2013 web site (prior messages are archived on this web site). September has arrived with some cooler days and it is only four months until RAMS®. Advance Registration is open, and it is time to take advantage of the early bird discount. I hope your summer went well and I am going to discuss two quotes that have piqued my interest. One is a serious quote from a man who at many times has been viewed as quite silly. The other is a silly quote which can be applied to serious situations.
When I heard this first quote it struck me as quite profound: “Be so good they can’t ignore you”. The quote was from Steve Martin, a talented and at times quite zany comedian. This quote obviously applies to every line of work. But what does this mean for the Reliability Engineer? Many Reliability Engineers complain about being ignored at their jobs even when their results are significant and important. Part of being good is not just your engineering and analysis skills, but your ability to present this to those in charge and the confidence you exhibit when presenting your results. One thing I learned at RAMS® was how to present. This is important in getting the information across to the decision makers. When your audience does not ask questions – were they paying attention? In general, if you are not getting questions when you present, your audience is not paying attention. Another value of RAMS® is the networking process. As you attend the Paper, Panel and Tutorial sessions, note which presenters reach you and what they do to accomplish this. You can also meet many other Reliability Engineers, and one or more of them may have the experience to provide the means of conveying your message to those that count. I view RAMS® as a significant means to becoming “so good they can’t ignore you” as a Reliability Engineer.
My other quote is on a T-shirt I own: “Make it idiot proof and someone will make a better idiot”. A good laugh at first, but also a strong call for constant watchfulness about how products are, and can be used. There are many manufacturers who have made quite wonderful products that at the time of introduction into the marketplace were state of the art in safe design. It doesn’t seem to take too long for these products to be misused and injuries to start to occur. One case in point I remember from about 25 years ago. Two “idiots” thought it would be a great idea to use a rotary lawn mower to trim hedges. They picked up the lawn mower putting their fingertips in jeopardy of being sliced by the blade and they succeeded in injuring themselves. They also won a very expensive law suit because the lawnmower manufacturer did not anticipate the “better idiot” and had, in the view of the jury, inadequate warnings. The law books are full of cases like this. This sort of idiocy can also cause products to fail without impacting safety. RAMS® provides the venue to learn about human factors and reliability through our sessions and our networking. This knowledge can help you be prepared for “the better idiot”.
I look forward to seeing you in January at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort. Look me up when you get there and we can talk about these ideas, or whatever may be on your mind.
Aron Brall, CRE