No announcement yet.

[ot] My name is Brian and I make engineers cry...

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • [ot] My name is Brian and I make engineers cry...

    Here at Consolidated Conglomerates we make circuit-breakers ranging from home-panel models up to fairly large "shunts", I think 1000 amps is our biggest.

    Well we have a 250-500 amp one we mold in two sections. The base is fairly robust and has few processing issues.

    The face has always had a bit of a knit-line where the two flow-fronts merge behind a cutout feature. From a molding standpoint it's a piss-poor layout, but it works if you know how to process.

    Every time I set it up and run it for a shift I process out the knit line. It's fairly easy when you know how. Next shift would come in, get a different lot of material and end up with a knit line.

    This line is a weak-point in the product, and it will fail in service. When one of these puppies trips it snaps with CONSIDERABLE force and the face will crack there every time.

    An alarming number of rejects later they decide to change materials to a more easy-flowing grade. Oddly enough some batches have a knit line others don't. It's better in service but still too many rejected batches.

    This lead to another material change -- now with more fiber reinforcement. Again, some batches have a knit line and fail, others do not.

    So now they change the base resin and add an impact modifier. Gentle readers, guess what happened. If you guessed "same thing" you are now smarter than our engineering staff.

    Two more material changes later, they are overhauling the press because clearly there is a mechanical or hydraulic issue at play here. That wasn't it.

    They took apart the water control unit that heats the material. That wasn't it either.

    Now they are seriously looking at the mold, that's the only thing left that it could be right?

    Well they sent a memo down to our shift, please run baseline samples out of each of the materials before we modify the tool. This is considered a "****ty" job so I ended up stuck with it because I am the new-guy still.

    Shift Tech comes over, I start 'er up.... look at the parts there is the knit-line. I reach over dial it out using "scientific molding" -- basically I read a chart in a classroom one time that said "fix knit-lines with these settings."

    Shift Tech raises an eyebrow, I run parts. We change materials. We start up again... knit-lines. I make them go away. Repeat this tiresome nonsense several more times.

    He looks at me and goes "well that explains why only one batch out of 20 passes the crack-testing those are the ones you run aren't they. If I cross-reference them with your clock number that's what I'm going to find, am I right?"

    He was right.

    He presented this to his boss On High, I got called into the office and yelled at.

    Let me take that back. They didn't just yell at me, they cussed me out up one side and down the other.

    Then they told me there was no way in hell that someone with as little seniority as I currently have... could possibly know something that THE MOST SENIOR BMC MOLDING ENGINEER IN THE HISTORY OF OH JUST SHUT UP YOU ARROGANT BASTARD.

    That's when I had enough. Explained to him in as simple terms as I could how scientific molding works, what causes knit-lines, how to process them out in most conditions and how the viscosity variations between buckhorns of resin were the REAL problem, compounded (no pun intended) by the fact that my 19 counterparts have no idea what they are actually doing they do their job by rote and don't actually THINK about how the process works.

    Furthermore there was no way in hell that he could possibly be considered an engineer, let alone a SENIOR engineer in a plastic factory because holy poop-tarts he didn't even recognize one of the most BASIC injection-molding errors and had NO CONCEPT that it took two button presses and a valve adjustment to correct -- that he was convinced that it was EVERYTHING ELSE except a simple rooten-toot'n adjustment to the process. An adjustment, that I teach people the FIRST DAY ON THE JOB when I wear the trainer hat in days gone by.

    Then I dropped the bomb: You have to be smarter than the material you are working with. If you manage to get your a$$ beat by a lump of polymer goo and glass fibers you are not smart enough to drive a car let alone claim the title of engineer. Now, if you want to learn basic injection molding theory better stand the farfignewton by and ask your questions now because this is my two weeks notice please and thank you now if you excuse me I need a can of Red Bull to calm down before I drive home.


    This is why my toolbox has wheels.

    I start my new job on the 28th.
    Last edited by Left Handed Spud Wrench; 09-13-2015, 01:55 PM.
    This is the ending.... still your need is driven on (driven on) as we trigger one more bomb...

  • #2
    I cried and laughed at your story. I was given the same treatment more than once in my career for,
    out of necessity, showing up a 'senior' with a degree. Was actually fired from a job once for saving
    their butts!!! Go figure.

    I feel 'ya buddy, I feel 'ya!!!

    1973 SB 10K .
    BenchMaster mill.


    • #3
      Thank you very much for your posting I truly enjoyed reading it. I see you have worked with engineers as I have, and have the same regard for them. Most of them really are a joke.


      • #4
        The day I decided to retire was the day that I realized that I was tired of correcting problems that were caused by bad management decisions. The final straw was when I was chewed out as being "too negative" when I tried to head off the problems before the decisions were made. It's a bad career move to correct your department manager in a meeting just because he's using wikipedia knowledge to make major engineering decisions.

        I just hit my 3 year mark as retired. I'm much happier with the new management. She lets me do whatever she wants.

        Last edited by danlb; 09-14-2015, 12:37 AM.
        At the end of the project, there is a profound difference between spare parts and left over parts.

        Location: SF East Bay.


        • #5
          I have been in the same boat a few times. Over a tool & die career I have known half a dozen really good engineers an a bunch more that were otherwise. Congrats on the new job.
          Kansas City area


          • #6
            Evidently you folks have never worked with a GOOD engineer.

            They listen, they take advice, and they solve problems, instead of yelling at them.

            Once in a while, they will yell back, if someone comes in with the same "you are an idiot, and I am here to teach you" attitude that some have expressed here, but then they will say, "cut the crap, what's the point here?", and if you talk, they listen.

            In the case the OP refers to, the first mistake was that nobody early on asked why some were OK.

            The second mistake was for someone more senior in manufacturing to NOT say "Ok, one of your guys can get it to mold, you have a demonstrated process that works, why the blinking blazes do you not run THAT process every time, and not one shift out of XX?".

            The third mistake was for a more senior manufacturing person to NOT go to engineering with the details of the process that works, and ask for that to be approved. You may need to do that because it's possible that the material is degraded if the process is modified, possibly more heat, etc.

            The fourth mistake was for engineering to believe they know everything. They don't, any more than the press operator does, or the CEO, for that matter.

            They deserved the last mistake, which was to let an employee who has a problem solving attitude and process knowledge, get out the door for the last time. Anyone with sense WANTS those employees, if they can manage to talk calmly to the higher ranks they may need to interact with. Hotheads you have to get rid of even if smart.

            Never mind, I forgot that the purpose of a corporation anymore is to get upper level folks bonuses, and not to make products......
            Last edited by J Tiers; 09-13-2015, 03:10 PM.

            Keep eye on ball.
            Hashim Khan

            It's just a box of rain, I don't know who put it there.


            • #7
              I noticed my old boss in Germany Technician talked very heatedly ( Screamed furiously ) to the apprentices who were learning under him if they made mistakes . It seems to be a thing done a lot in Germany and women sometimes seem to shout the loudest. I liked the guy deep down he was a good soul and was otherwise a really kind man. One day during such an outburst I said to him very politely that the younger generation would not allow themselves to me treated this way, I pointed out this was a very old fashioned counter productive way of operating. I pointed out that the apprentices both male and female quit on the day they qualified, one after the other and went off to work somewhere more congenial, where they would be treated like human beings. His answer was that was just the way he was made and couldn't change as he was too old by then. I pointed out his daughter was just as bad. I also said why did he spend so much money training these people to lose them ALL one after the other and that other companies were reaping the benefits of his hard work. I might as well have talked to the wall. He was not for changing. Yet as said underneath he was really a very caring kind person .They tell me when he died his daughter immediately became much nicer to every one the screeching stopped almost overnight. It is a funny world. Nobody should be talked to in this way not even a dog IMHO. Alistair
              Please excuse my typing as I have a form of parkinsons disease


              • #8
                Last paid job, I think called the engineering manager a total and complete a$$hole in a production meeting was a bad career move.

                Been self employed since.................................

                Sir John , Earl of Bligeport & Sudspumpwater. MBE [ Motor Bike Engineer ] Nottingham England.


                • #9
                  Originally posted by danlb View Post

                  .... She lets me do whatever she wants.


                  I had been drag racing a popular American made motorcycle during the 60s and then worked for the same company's racing department, Next I started my own business and was building experimental/prototype bikes & parts for them - but I never went to college.

                  One day in the mid 70s, an engineer friend who was tasked with trying to get more power out of one of their engines (W/O changing anything 'cuz that's too expensive[company policy]) stopped me in the hall He was excited to show me the dyno sheet from an engine they has sent out to a renowned engine builder.

                  He said the engine didn't put out more power, but the torque came up faster and stayed steadier. I was impressed with the graph and I asked innocently, "What was the engine's reading before you sent it out?"

                  A puzzled look came over his face and he said, "We didn't test it".

                  "Because of production variation", I blurted out, "You don't know if you have 4 HP more or 6 HP less", realizing I was stepping on his toes.

                  "This is the way we always do it. We take an average of every 10 engines tested and use that as our baseline", was his reply.

                  Ah yes! The hallowed, "We always do it this way" response. Usually spoken in hushed and reverent tones!

                  Later, their own racing department went so far as to develop a single cylinder engine for dyno testing. This way they could evaluate each tweak w/o an additional cylinder having any effect.

                  I don't know if their engineering department ever caught up.

                  BTW: Spud Wrench, I REALLY enjoy your posts and writing style and hope you can keep them coming!

                  Last edited by jhe.1973; 09-13-2015, 03:41 PM. Reason: made speeling beeter
                  Best wishes to ya’ll.



                  "To invent you need a good imagination and a pile of junk" - Thomas Edison

                  "I've always wanted to get a job as a procrastinator but I keep putting off going out to find one so I guess I'll never realize my life's dream. Frustrating!" - Me

                  Location: Bustling N.E. Arizona


                  • #10
                    The real test is neither what you suggested, NOR what they did. You are BOTH WRONG.

                    The test is what the average is for stock, vs what the average is for the special race modifications. If the mods are any good, they will consistently come up higher, so the average will rise.

                    If the average is no better, or just a small amount, then look at the total variability.... it may be that the race mods just bring up the lowest, so the worst are not so bad, which may make only a small shift.

                    Keep eye on ball.
                    Hashim Khan

                    It's just a box of rain, I don't know who put it there.


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by John Stevenson View Post
                      Last paid job, I think called the engineering manager a total and complete a$$hole in a production meeting was a bad career move.

                      Been self employed since.................................
                      Then I would think you meant "good career move"


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by John Stevenson View Post
                        Last paid job, I think called the engineering manager a total and complete a$$hole in a production meeting was a bad career move
                        How'dya figure?


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by J Tiers View Post
                          Evidently you folks have never worked with a GOOD engineer.

                          .................................................. ..........................

                          The fourth mistake was for engineering to believe they know everything. They don't, any more than the press operator does, or the CEO, for that matter.

                          Hey Jerry, you forgot the fifth mistake !
                          They should hire a MANUFACTURING ENGINEER !

                          A good manufacturing engineer prevents those issues because he understands the errors that can occur in any manufacturing operation.
                          He also is a go between that prevents engineering failures from getting to the floor and feeds back operation issues that Engineering needs to address or improve upon.
                          I agree with you that most engineers have no clue to the issues that arise in machining,welding,forming,fabrication and assembly.
                          Too many engineers focus on the "design" end of that skill.

                          Manufacturing Engineer
                          Green Bay, WI


                          • #14
                            As someone who works with engineers and production types, my question as a manager is: You knew lots were failing. You knew how to correct the problem (kudos!). You knew they were trying new solutions and the reason why, yet you waited and didnt tell anybody. Why?

                            You could have saved them lots of time, effort and money by stepping forward instead of waiting to be asked or till the end, as a means to prove a point.

                            Maybe there is a reason why, but I cant see it based on your post. I would have been pissed at you also.


                            • #15
                              The guys and girls in the engineering department get really pissed off when they are struggling with some new design and a spotty kid from maintenance brings in a working prototype from his home workshop and plonks it on the boss's desk!