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alfadriver
alfadriver GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
8/4/21 10:32 a.m.
Keith Tanner said:
 

Haste may make waste, but failing to iterate means you're stagnant. It's possible to walk the line in the middle. The context of this quote is the very, very slow-paced launch industry where it can take six months to orchestrate a test firing of some proven engines bolted to a fuel tank. But if we look at it as racers - F1 iterates on designs from race to race. If the teams only update their car every few months, they visibly fall behind the pack. SpaceX is mostly in a race against themselves, but it's the same concept.

The real problem is when haste prevents good iteration.  That's dangerous.  Or can be, at least.  If you rush things by skipping steps, that's a real problem that leads to massive waste, too.  One good saying is that it takes 9 months to have a baby even if you add a bunch of managers and engineers.   I have seen in more than one occasion that design changes happen way earlier than testing can show what actually *needs* to change.

I'm not at all questioning that a process can be streamlined, or that a hard process can hampen creativity.  That happens for sure.  But there are plenty of instances that time is cut that prevents proper informaton to pass through to iteration.

Snowdoggie (Forum Supporter)
Snowdoggie (Forum Supporter) Dork
8/4/21 10:42 a.m.
Keith Tanner said:

I know not everyone is a fan of Elon Musk, especially if their primary source of information is Jalopnik articles on his tweets. But SpaceX is massively transforming the rocket business, and this process is clearly on display. Not all of this applies to someone welding up a race car in their garage, but the first three steps do.

Suggestion: I think this thread would be so much more useful if we discussed the ideas instead of our opinions of the person.

They said Henry Ford was a real SOB too. Especially if you read Upton Sinclair's book about him. But the Model T and Ford's manufacturing process put America on wheels. And Elon Musk's rockets work. 

You can't accomplish anything in this world without collecting a lot of criticism.   

ProDarwin
ProDarwin MegaDork
8/4/21 10:52 a.m.

Accelerate != hasten

Haste:  excessive speed or urgency of movement or action; hurry

There is a negative connotation there for a reason.

 

Accelerating cycle time does not necessarily have to come at the expense of other requirements/design.  

Jesse Ransom
Jesse Ransom GRM+ Memberand UltimaDork
8/4/21 10:53 a.m.

Nobody has mentioned Colin Chapman for point 3 yet?

OldGray320i
OldGray320i GRM+ Memberand Dork
8/4/21 10:57 a.m.
rob_lewis said:

I'll have a slight counter to his approach.  I wonder how much bureaucracy and process was built into the space programs because they were more publicly funded and mistakes meant programs were shut down. Elon is funding this himself (so to speak) so he doesn't have to appeal to the great unwashed masses for the money. 

No small amount.  Govt contracting officers operate according to law, so if they break it, they could theoretically go to jail. 

Engineers will do things because it's cool, and they usually enjoy what they do.  There's also, "it wouldn't take much more to do this" and add that several times over in a project schedule, and cost and complexity grow.  Even reliability, but reliability that may not serve the product's intended purpose. 

Pretty good set of rules, and as said must be in sequence; without good management, that would devolve in to catastophe (goes for any org or program, obviously).

I wonder how much could apply in Detroit, even though cars have gotten much better.   

tuna55
tuna55 MegaDork
8/4/21 11:01 a.m.
Keith Tanner said:

Which are harmful? Which are valuable? Get past the source, discuss the content. That's a lot more useful than offering opinions on someone's personality or intelligence level. 

  1. Make the requirements less dumb. The requirements are definitely dumb; it does not matter who gave them to you. He notes that it’s particularly dangerous if someone who is smart gives them the requirements, as one may not question the requirements enough. “Everyone’s wrong. No matter who you are, everyone is wrong some of the time.” He further notes that “all designs are wrong, it’s just a matter of how wrong.”

The danger of this is that people are super arrogant. Generally speaking, people are too quick to throw away requirements for quick and easy rewards, we could be talking about metrics in a corporation, environmental issues, labor issues, safety issues, or thousands of others. If my company decides that emissions requirements are dumb because I love smog or don't believe in it, can I just throw them away? Some of the things the NHTSA have done are annoying (headlights for instance) and are dumb requirements, but to allow everyone to just throw them away when they decide that they are dumb means that everyone can just decide to overrule whoever they want, eve if they don't fully understand the background. There is no humility here. We are engineering off of the shoulders of giants. Starting from zero and deciding we are the smartest people to ever tackle this particular issue is not often a good tactic unless you're in pure R&D. Decision makers need to not make dumb requirements (see headlights) but some of them (crash testing, emissions requirements and testing) seem to be awfully important, especially when bad actors try to get away with things (VW). So the overarching theme to make them less dumb makes sense only if we proceed with caution and pay attention to the history before we throw everything away to start from scratch.

 

I don't have time for the rest, but that theme repeats in most of the other bullets.

AngryCorvair (Forum Supporter)
AngryCorvair (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
8/4/21 11:01 a.m.
codrus (Forum Supporter) said:

that's why "rocket science" is one of the stereotypical hard things.

quoted for awesome

 

 

NorseDave
NorseDave Reader
8/4/21 11:53 a.m.
tuna55 said:

Elon is not an engineer, and I see nothing in his history to prove that he is particularly intelligent. 

You do realize he is literally the Chief Engineer at SpaceX, and not as a figure-head?

Mr_Asa
Mr_Asa PowerDork
8/4/21 11:59 a.m.
NorseDave said:
tuna55 said:

Elon is not an engineer, and I see nothing in his history to prove that he is particularly intelligent. 

You do realize he is literally the Chief Engineer at SpaceX, and not as a figure-head?

Show me his FE exam results and his PE exam results and I'll believe he isn't a figure-head.

ProDarwin
ProDarwin MegaDork
8/4/21 12:11 p.m.
Mr_Asa said:
NorseDave said:
tuna55 said:

Elon is not an engineer, and I see nothing in his history to prove that he is particularly intelligent. 

You do realize he is literally the Chief Engineer at SpaceX, and not as a figure-head?

Show me his FE exam results and his PE exam results and I'll believe he isn't a figure-head.

I'm going to take issue with this.  In many (most?) engineering industries nobody takes the FE/PE. 

I am an engineer.  I have not taken the PE (it would provide zero value in my line of work).  I am not a figure-head, fake engineer, etc.  Professional Engineer and professional Engineer are not the same thing.  

alfadriver
alfadriver GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
8/4/21 12:14 p.m.
Mr_Asa said:
NorseDave said:
tuna55 said:

Elon is not an engineer, and I see nothing in his history to prove that he is particularly intelligent. 

You do realize he is literally the Chief Engineer at SpaceX, and not as a figure-head?

Show me his FE exam results and his PE exam results and I'll believe he isn't a figure-head.

If he is an engineer, he's a software engineer.  Not really known for their robust knowledge of physical stuff- like rockets.  And you can be a "chief engineer" and still be a figurehead.  I've not met one that actually did any work other than sit in meetings and planning.  Not to dismiss it, but they can be a pain when they speak as experts when they are not.

(fwiw, FE passed, but not PE for me)

Mr_Asa
Mr_Asa PowerDork
8/4/21 12:19 p.m.

In reply to ProDarwin :

Same here, I have no plans to take the PE.  Are you a Chief Engineer though?  To me that would also include titles such as Engineer of Record as well as other titles and roles that would be required to have a PE.

aircooled
aircooled MegaDork
8/4/21 12:22 p.m.
codrus (Forum Supporter) said:
Mr_Asa said:
Teh E36 M3 said:

When NASA was properly funded, they got us on the moon in 8 years. 8. That's a government entity.

I'm not sure if you think this is a good thing or a bad thing

The difference between NASA in the 60s and NASA today isn't just funding, it's much more about culture and the degree to which they were left alone to get the job done back then.  NASA today is a Congressional jobs program more than a space program...

The other way to look at that is that in the 60's NASA was able to be inefficient in a much larger scale and thus still get things done in a somewhat timely manner.

NASA (the government) has always been very political in how it spends money, it has to be.  I have a friend that worked for the National Parks Service, they were required to have vehicles (e.g. pickups) from all three major US automakers.  There's no way that it efficient.

NASA projects (money) are scattered as far a possible around the country to different companies and contractors.  That's not so they can work in parallel and get things done quicker, that's to spread the money around.  SpaceX has a huge advantage of doing everything in one place / organization.  They can iterate their designs wildly faster then a typical NASA project since they don't have to consult about what affects there changes might have on another companies part of the project (and all the company politics associated with that).

Why is Mission Control for NASA in Houston?  Do they launch a lot of rockets in Houston?  Is Houston a major rocket manufacturer.  Does Houston naturally just have more rocket logistics people?...... 

....so, this powerful congressman from Texas....

To relate this to a car project it would be like having the engine at an engine shop, the shell at a body shop, the interior at an upholstery shop etc.  Then wanting to make changes that might affect them all.  Comparing that to having it all in your garage.

Robbie (Forum Supporter)
Robbie (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
8/4/21 12:32 p.m.

I'm going to go ahead and say that many of our engineers posting here missed the BIG PICTURE of this thread. 

Which might be proving Elon's point. devil

ProDarwin
ProDarwin MegaDork
8/4/21 12:36 p.m.
Mr_Asa said:

In reply to ProDarwin :

Same here, I have no plans to take the PE.  Are you a Chief Engineer though?  To me that would also include titles such as Engineer of Record as well as other titles and roles that would be required to have a PE.

"Chief Engineer" is just a job title.  I know many Chief Engineers that are not PEs.  

 

The requirement to have a PE would be internal to that company/from the board/etc.   As I mentioned before, many industries to not have PEs.

Mr_Asa
Mr_Asa PowerDork
8/4/21 12:42 p.m.
ProDarwin said:

"Chief Engineer" is just a job title. 

Sounds like a figurehead?

WonkoTheSane
WonkoTheSane GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
8/4/21 12:45 p.m.
Keith Tanner said:

About deleting parts - it's about removing things that unnecessary, not removing required redundancy.

In literary terms, it's a whole lot like the quote attributed to Mark Twain, “I apologize for such a long letter - I didn't have time to write a short one.”

codrus (Forum Supporter)
codrus (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
8/4/21 1:02 p.m.
aircooled said:

NASA (the government) has always been very political in how it spends money, it has to be.  I have a friend that worked for the National Parks Service, they were required to have vehicles (e.g. pickups) from all three major US automakers.  There's no way that it efficient.

Why is Mission Control for NASA in Houston?  Do they launch a lot of rockets in Houston?  Is Houston a major rocket manufacturer.  Does Houston naturally just have more rocket logistics people?...... 

Back the 60s NASA didn't have Congress passing legislation requiring certain payloads to go on certain unfinished launch vehicles, or stuff like this:  https://arstechnica.com/science/2021/06/legislation-requires-nasa-to-build-sls-test-article-after-initial-flights/

As for Mission Control, it's in Houston because that's where NASA's main facilities are.  There's no reason why mission control needs to be at the launch site, launch is only a fairly small (if spectacular) part of most missions and they have multiple launch sites anyway.

wvumtnbkr
wvumtnbkr GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
8/4/21 1:03 p.m.

These ideas seem very related to VA/'VE to me and make sense.  There is some "lean" thought here as well.

 

In other words, if a solution is handed to you, it's probably best to "trust but verify"...  or even directly question where each of the criteria come from.  Mistakes at this point cause wastes and delays for the entirety of the project. 

Moving quickly and accelerating is not the same thing as going too fast.  

 

Also, it does not matter if a person has a degree or not.  The field of engineering is primarily defined by physical laws.  These laws don't care if you have a PE or any degree at all.

 

To put it another way:  most people (including engineers) are E36 M3 at defining problems.  It is good to question the problem statement and requirements.

 

It is also good to complete projects with the minimum NECESSARY requirements.

Snowdoggie (Forum Supporter)
Snowdoggie (Forum Supporter) Dork
8/4/21 1:13 p.m.
codrus (Forum Supporter) said:
aircooled said:

NASA (the government) has always been very political in how it spends money, it has to be.  I have a friend that worked for the National Parks Service, they were required to have vehicles (e.g. pickups) from all three major US automakers.  There's no way that it efficient.

Why is Mission Control for NASA in Houston?  Do they launch a lot of rockets in Houston?  Is Houston a major rocket manufacturer.  Does Houston naturally just have more rocket logistics people?...... 

Back the 60s NASA didn't have Congress passing legislation requiring certain payloads to go on certain unfinished launch vehicles, or stuff like this:  https://arstechnica.com/science/2021/06/legislation-requires-nasa-to-build-sls-test-article-after-initial-flights/

As for Mission Control, it's in Houston because that's where NASA's main facilities are.  There's no reason why mission control needs to be at the launch site, launch is only a fairly small (if spectacular) part of most missions and they have multiple launch sites anyway.

Mission Control is where it is because Lyndon Johnson had some cheap swampland between Houston and Galveston that he needed a use for. wink

Tom1200
Tom1200 SuperDork
8/4/21 1:14 p.m.

I agree with the later half of part two; when I worked in manufacturing I've seen engineer dig their heels in because the people questioning something aren't engineers. We usually got around this by presenting a potential cost savings (beit through cost or through efficiencies) to upper management; if the part met spec, it usually turned out the person who was digging their heels had some arbitrary reason as to why they were digging their heels in.

As for # 3 Engineers are clever people and yes sometimes come up with clever solutions for things that are potential problems but may not be an actual problem.

Cutting times on rocket building  would make me very nervous given the consequences. Reference Soviet space program epic fails.

Finally; I am a government contracting officer; RFPs /  Bids can be done in as little as 2 weeks or take as long as 120 days depending on the complexity of the project. What takes as long or even longer in some cases is the approval process.  

 

alfadriver
alfadriver GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
8/4/21 1:20 p.m.

Funny how we discuss NASA and the locations of where they are- the ONLY place that they use that has real geographical logic in it is Canaveral- closer to the equator to gain the earth rotation speed, over water for safe emergency issues.  Other than that NACA and then NASA was building a brand new system- much of it based on current (read WWII) aeronautics companies, who were already scattered all around the country.  And the new parts had as much to do with political power than anything else- not that there's anything wrong with that- the places had to go somewhere, and the workers would be coming from all over the country.

Still, Musks concepts sound great, but that have to be applied correctly to really work.  Do it wrong, and things can end up a lot worse.  Do it right, and things can end up a lot better.

Pete. (l33t FS)
Pete. (l33t FS) MegaDork
8/4/21 1:20 p.m.
OldGray320i said:

Engineers will do things because it's cool, and they usually enjoy what they do.  There's also, "it wouldn't take much more to do this" and add that several times over in a project schedule, and cost and complexity grow.  Even reliability, but reliability that may not serve the product's intended purpose. 

Yup, and also marketing, and styling.  All breaking rule #1 smiley

I overheard a conversation regarding the development of the 5th gen Camaro where a whole E36 M3storm rolled downhill because one department insisted on having 20" wheels, which meant the chassis engineers had to deal with the increased NVH, and dealing with that led to increased wheel hop, and dealing with that led to...

 

sobe_death
sobe_death Dork
8/4/21 1:31 p.m.

In reply to Mr_Asa :

In our industrial company, that would be the VP of engineering or the CTO taking the legal heat.  In this case PE is just a nice asterisk on the resume, and probably doesn't even apply to ~70% of the engineers we employ around the world.

APEowner
APEowner GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
8/4/21 1:54 p.m.

It seems like some of this got lost in translation.  #5 isn't really part of the engineering process, at least as it's worded.  It appears to be related to manufacturing.  The other's aren't really all that revolutionary.

1. Make the requirements less dumb.  It's certainly worth evaluating requirements and it's been part of the design process in every industry I've worked in.  However, unless you're the CEO of the company engineers often have to work with dumb design requirements.  More than once I've told my team that it's our job to design and build the product that marketing can sell, no matter how stupid it is.

2.Try very hard to delete the part or process.  Yup.  That's that's also been part of the design process in every industry I've worked in.  It is, however against the instinct of most engineers.  Features and complexity are fun and we want to add it.

3.Simplify and optimize the design.  Again, good idea and pretty common.

4. Accelerate cycle time.  This is a common request/mandate from management but to do so you need to either add resources or skip steps.  The steps that are often skipped are the ones that control safety, quality and adherence to design specifications.

5. Automate.  This seems to be a manufacturing thing rather than a design thing and it's a pretty obvious way to improve repeatability, reduce per unit cost and increase production rates.  I'd like a little more clarification on the idea of eliminating in process testing.  Reducing testing on proven production processes is a standard component of most quality systems.  It does need to be balanced against the consequences of failure.  If you're making, say light bulbs and every millionth one fails prematurely it's not worth adding in process testing.  If you're making lithium ion battery cells and every millionth one goes into thermal runaway and spontaneously combusts then you should probably add some kind of testing somewhere to prevent that.

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