One of the most important aspects of modern technological innovation is that so many of the most up to date machines use the most basic techniques to accomplish their function. In other words, if you were to look at a “modern” version of a pant’s presser, you would see something that is faster, more compact, easier to use in today’s factory or cleaning store, but the basic function of the actual putting steam and pressure on the garment is the same today as it was 75-100 years ago.
Agriculture in ancient China developed a method of pushing seeds into the ground using hand labor and a stick and a way to cut the mature plant using a hand knife. Modern machines still push seeds into the ground and use the same harvest-cutting actions (how the cutting blade hits the plant), in the same way as was done thousands of years ago. Only in today’s machines, we do it with hydraulics and engines instead of the human hand waving a machete or scythe. We have many machines all around us, even in the home, that the basic way in which they perform their function is similar to the way that function was done hundreds of years ago, but with electric power doing the heating, the moving, hydraulics doing the carrying, or other function. The basic work function has remained the same over many years, but its performance measures changed.
Identify a machine that performs the same basic function today as it did 50-100 years or more ago and tell what performance measures applicable to it changed as the machine evolved into its present form. Discuss how the machine developed from its incarnation (birth) to the present and what likely innovations were made to increase performance numbers.
A 60-year-old individual working for an airline became instantly obsolete when the jet-powered airliners took to the air and pushed piston-engined aircraft out of the skies. In his case, he had been the world’s greatest expert in low voltage direct current systems used on the piston-engined planes and he was absolutely left at technological ground zero when the new jets came with high voltage alternating current generators. He suffered instant obsolescence as soon as the jets came into commercial airline service in 1957.
Assume you are advising a 55-year-old auto mechanic who has been repairing cars since he was just a kid hanging around auto shops and learning by doing. He used to be expert at everything from repairing engines, fixing steering, electric power systems, dashboard instruments and systems, collision repair, repainting, seat repair, and more. You and he work for a dealer of the most advanced cars and the elder auto mechanic is finding himself helpless in the face of computer controls, video screens, electronic troubleshooting, etc.
How would you plan a program for him to put his talents to use as best as possible on the new cars and their hi-tech computers, electric drives, new batteries, etc.?
How might you choose what duties you would channel him into so that he can narrow his focus and development?
How would you pick the training classes he should take in automotive school to sharpen up his knowledge and experience in those specialties? What specialties would you pick?
You join a mid-size 1000-person machine shop company. The owner calls you in and shows you the following cost curve he has just finished plotting for the nine years his firm has been in business. His curve starts with what he calls his year zero at 2003 and he is terribly worried about the fact that his costs per unit of production are now rising after years of reducing them.
He has been working with the firm’s cost control engineers, accountants, and shop personnel to remove/reduce every penny of waste costs he could achieve. It seems, however, that by year five, he hit a level bottoming out of his costs. He could not achieve any more savings from his operation.