Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Must Reads for Engineers

A few articles worth a read, especially for engineers.

Liberating America's secret, for-pay laws « Boing Boing. The title is a bit overly dramatic, but still a fascinating article. In order for an engineer to do his job and meet legal requirements, he needs access to engineering codes that aren't freely available. "Incorporation by Reference" is a way that our public laws are, in a way, kept secret, or so the article argues. I like this quote: (Having spent a lot of time with these documents, we can vouch that many of these standards are very high-quality technical documents. This is important stuff and groups like ASME and NFPA do a great job.)

Mississippi River creates its own diversion. Note that you're going to hear more and more about river diversions as the last, best hope for coastal restoration in Louisiana.

MIT NSE Final Report on Fukushima Lessons Learned. [PDF] Billed as a technical report, it's actually quite accessible and well written.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

2 Factories

First, a modern factory:

Making the Lamborghini MurciƩlago. Note that the Lambo factory is probably the LEAST automated you're likely to find in the Western world.

Now, take a look at a mid-evil scene:

Try and count the workers. No climate control. No sprinklers/fire suppression system. Benches without backs, made of scrap wood.

Here's a interview about "The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs"

(NOTE: there is some controversy about the show, but the larger points about sweatshop practices are still valid).

I love the point Bill makes about the arrows being expensive, because that hits the nail on the head. Why should we spend money on things like CNC machines, when I can hire (and fire) 1,000's workers to do the same work for a fraction of the cost?

I will take issue with one of Daisey's points: Chinese manufacturers have to cut corners in order to come out ahead. Let's just put morality aside for a sec; almost 100% of the time, controls and automation beats out "human-wave" tactics (at least in the long run). The "human wave" approach mainly has the (significant) advantage of lower CAPEX costs, but even a slight bump in, say, transportation costs (higher fuel prices for containerships) coupled with sightly higher wages (workers only working 12 hour shifts instead of 16+)... and much of the 'advantage' of Chinese manufacturing evaporates.

NOTE- The National Geographic video of the Lambo factory doesn't like to show up in Google Reader for some reason.