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Sage Observations

POSTED ON 01 March

This is some great opening text from a paper presented in 2010 at an engineering conference in Perth, titled Lessons learned by one aerospace structures engineer in a 40-year career, by Dr L J Hart-Smith. The aerospace industry is defined by complexity, both in product design and regulatory compliance. To design an airliner is a decade-long process costing 10’s of billions of dollars with military vehicles even more costly and time consuming. These opening comments below are well worth reflecting upon when embarking on any new development programme or substantial commercial enterprise:

“…The second important lesson the author learned from almost 40 years of working in this industry is that getting the business plan wrong, usually to boost the stock price and, more recently, to generate bonuses and short-term profits, no matter what the long-term consequences, is a handicap from which most projects never recover. (The banking industry and the current global financial crisis is vivid proof that this phenomenon is widespread.) For this paper, it will suffice to repeat three of the author’s “old” adages. “The quickest way to complete a task is to do it right the first time, no matter how long it takes!” Next, “The least expensive way to complete a task is to do it right the first time, no matter how much it costs!” The reason why is that “Behind every cost over-run and schedule slippage can be found the successful implementation of one or more false economies.” Every attempt to disprove these observations has merely confirmed their infallibility. Even more puzzling is the obsessive drive for increased efficiency, despite the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which states that “Perfect efficiency can be achieved only when no work is being done.”

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