New control ideas


Thread Starter

Stephen Wright

I have always thought part of my engineering job was to investigate new tools, procedures, and equipment and possibly develop solutions for my
company. I find it incredibly difficult to sell testing or use of new products to my managers in the traditional way of cost vs. payback. Has
someone had more success explaining the value of a reasonable experiment?

Rick Jafrate


It's my guess that cost is not the problem but is rather fear of the unknown or failure. If you want to prevail you must understand and address the fear of your management and colleagues.

Eliminate all risk from your proposals; even the risk of success. Sounds crazy, doesn't it; but fear of change is one of the hardest fears to overcome. If you succeed change is sure to follow.

Present you experiments as "evaluations", "proof of concept", or "prototypes". For example: "Hey boss, I think we could reduce a lot of wastage by automating such and such. I could put together a cheap little system to see if the concept is workable. Then we could decide if it's worth
putting in a real system". In this scenario there is no risk that your experiment will remain in the production line because even if it succeeds it will be replaced with a "Real

Another possibility is to attach your reasonable experiment to an existing project. If the cost of your experiment is negligible with respect to the entire project cost then it can be justified as an evaluation of alternative methods.

An even better approach is perhaps to avoid the production equipment altogether. If you have a "lab" where you can test changes before deploying them on production equipment, make your experimental equipment part of the lab.

I don't know if I have been any help. I'm anxious to see what other ideas are floating around out there.

best of luck

Rick Jafrate

Anthony Kerstens

Look at it from your manager's perspective....

He may well see the value of what you want, but may have more pressing issues that need valuable resources.

Rather than looking at the fiscal side, look at other factors such as time savings, quality improvements, etc.

Take the time to find out what problems your manager considers important.

Anthony Kerstens P.Eng.

Curt Wuollet

This is a major problem with the status quo. Because changing is made to be so expensive and painful, all initiative to look for newer and better things is effectively stillborn. The majors deal with this by forced upgrade. New customers can be had. But getting folks to switch or change in any fashion from the first thing that
works at all is extremely difficult due to the large investment in discovery by trial and error that proprietary products require. It is by lowering this threshold that OSS products will live or die. Working with anything and providing all the information up front are the only hope for filling in the ruts and changing the game.



IMHO, it all comes down to the culture of the company. If you find a company whose products are more forward thinking and expensive, the chances are you will find one that encourages risk, experimentation and intrapreneurial behavior.

I was involved in a standards effort and tried to encourage colleagues from sister companies to join in. One colleague from an innovative SCADA company lept at the chance to make something new. Another colleague from a high volume manufacturing company simply said that when he got an order for it, he would be right there with me but until then, forget it.

Hlavacek wrote an interesting book, "Market Driven Management" that addresses this subject.