Meat grinder, super-robots and research institutes (not artificial intelligence)

    If you have been running a project for several years, believe me, does it look like a meat grinder knife from history No. 1 or a plate from history No. 2

    This will help you optimize your project by throwing out everything superfluous from it that only slows it down.

    History No. 1

    The case was many years ago at one of the domestic plants. Among other things, the plant produced meat grinders, the usual manual ones that were in every Soviet family. These meat grinders have been produced for many years, according to one technology. But there was always one problem in their production: the operation of sharpening a knife from the back was very difficult and dangerous.

    The fact is that according to the technology, the knife was sharpened from two sides, firstly, from the side that is adjacent to the grid (parallel to the grid), and secondly, from the back side at an angle to the grid. And if there were no problems with the first part (several knives were put on the emery and sharpened at once), then the second operation was carried out exclusively by hand, which was low productivity and extremely dangerous for the worker.

    In 1987, the robotics and automation department of the Electrosila plant developed an insanely expensive super-robot that accurately repeated the movement of the worker’s hands (I recall that it was 30 years ago (!)), But its productivity was so small that the worker was returned to sharpening almost the next day.

    To solve the problem, an external consultant from one research institute was called. The consultant began his work, naturally with an analysis ....

    ... and analysis from the survey. And the first question: “Why sharpen the knife from the back?”, Introduced the director of the enterprise into a stupor. Then there was a meeting at which none of the plant employees could answer this question. The only thing they said: "That's the way it should be with technology."

    A little later it turned out that knives from time immemorial were made by casting and initially they were poured into earthen forms. Therefore, an uneven edge was obtained, with defects, and naturally, all this had to be straightened. But quite a long time ago the plant switched to precision casting, after which a very clean and smooth knife is obtained. For more than forty years they have been grinding the second edge of the knife in vain ...

    End of story No. 1

    Now look at your project. Is there something superfluous there ...

    Maybe there is an extra block of code that has not been needed for a long time (for example, due to new features of modern browsers)? Or are there extra business processes that only slow down? Or maybe extra staff?

    In my practice of consultations, I can say that this is found in most projects older than five years. But there are projects in which it is simply impossible to exclude the operation, but really want to, then some changes need to be made.

    History No. 2

    Everyone knows such a sports discipline as trap shooting or skeet shooting. There was one problem in organizing competitions and training firing: collecting fragments of plates, fragments can fly out over a large area and not always above the “clean field”.

    Solving the problem, of course, they invented a super-robot that actually collected the fragments, but, firstly, it is a very expensive device, and secondly, it coped poorly with the task in the woods.

    Someone smart (history is silent about who it was) was asked to make plates of ice. These saucers flew no worse than plastic ones, but you don’t need to collect fragments at all, besides the plates themselves are cheaper.

    The end of story number 2

    Take a look at your project again. Does it really want to be removed? What prevents it from just picking up and putting away? What can be changed in this barrier?


    The conclusion from these two stories is simple: often when working on a project the so-called psychological inertia. We do as we did before, not paying attention to the changes around us, we solve problems the way everyone around us solves it, and we put up with the shortcomings of these solutions.

    In fact, both of these examples illustrate one of the varieties of psychological inertia “Inertia of traditional conditions”, and there are 16 (!)

    Of these varieties. Well, the second conclusion: do not rush to buy / invent robots to solve your problems, try connecting the Research Institute (Not Artificial Intelligence) first .

    PS If the article was useful to you and you applied it in your project. Or if you would like to learn about other types of psychological inertia. Write in the comments, with interest and some usefulness of the article, I will continue to write on this topic.

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