Not sure what thread this should go in so I tossed a coin
I’m just back from discussions with the client of my client. An unhappy client of my client.
Even they are not the ‘end user’: they supply complete factories of machinery to the end user.
The client of my client has been pushing my client to push the performance envelope of a mechanical component (a crucial, large, high-value component).
They’ve been doing this for well over a decade, for successive generations of their product.
Effectively they want more ‘yield’ from the same sized (and ideally, less expensive) component. And time after time, we’ve pulled assorted rabbits out of various hats in order to make that happen. (I’m the guy who has to dream up how and where to pull them out, and my client has to turn my ideas into metal)
The ‘comc’ have adopted a number of tactics, such as wanting, for instance, to be told what Factor of Safety
I was working to, in order to see if I was being inappropriately prudent.
(A bit like asking the designer
of a flat-bed truck, rated at 2500kg payload, to specify what safety
factor the truck was designed to)
Now it has apparently come unstuck: not with a breakage, but with a “fail-safe” condition: in other words, it refuses (for reasons of inherent physics) to lower a load.
(A load which is more than it has ever had to lower in the past, and approximately twice what the same size and configuration of component was required to lower twelve years ago. And which, it will probably turn out, is a little more than they asked us to accommodate. They’re dealing with a raw material of variable density)
At every stage, I have patiently explained to them that, as in investments, higher yields generally involve higher risks. And in return they have nodded impatiently, with slightly glazed eyes, wanting to return to the conversation about how much more they can ask of us, and how much less they can pay for it.
And this thought just occurred to me: there’s a parallel with what I see happening in the sailing community.
For which I blame my generation: the youngest generation who saw humans reach for the stars (OK, to be pedantic, the moon) and grasp it. The same generation who entered the workforce at the same time as the mighty microprocessor. Steve Jobs’ generation.
We have become accustomed to things routinely happening which are too good to be true. Every year, things which were impossible last year are already mundane.
And compounded over several years or decades it becomes eyewatering.
If I had paid for the memory upgrade my supplier did not even bother to charge me for on my last design computer, at the same rate per megabyte I once paid to upgrade my Mac Plus from 1 to 4MB, it would have cost $1.75 million.
At the dawn of the electronic era, the ceiling is so far beyond our perception that apparent miracles are happening routinely. We build this into our expectations.
But at the dusk of the mechanical era, we are pressed against the ceiling, in places, and it hovers closely overhead in others.
I suggest it’s worth bearing this in mind when we contemplate applying the “Liberace” principle (“you can’t have too much of a good thing”) in areas where electronics
cannot save our sorry arses.
Can you use, for instance, ultra-high performance chain, intended for carefully lifting known loads under controlled conditions, as anchor
And can you persuade the supplier this is a good idea?
The answer to the first question is, certainly you can.
If you’re not charging
your passengers, you can do whatever you want.
And possibly given time, and by asking for more rabbits to be discovered attempting to hide under various hats, you could achieve the second, although as niche customers, cruisers don’t have much leverage.
But don’t come crying to me when your high-yield investment decision turns bad.
(Thanks, I feel better now. It wasn’t about you!)