Things I Just Don’t Understand

There are a lot of things I don’t understand.  Some are just quizzical. Some are downright baffling. Here’s a partial list.

Women for one but I can’t write much about that. Any comments I might make here result in a deluge of long winded, disparaging email that I’m just not willing to wade through. Hardly thought there were more than a small number of women in this industry but I’ve since learned that apparently a lot of them pay attention to the trivialities I express.

Big companies for another. I don’t understand the decisions. I don’t understand the strategy. I don’t understand the inefficiencies, bureaucracies, delays in everything they do.

I remember being at a meeting at Allen-Bradley one-time. One of the VPs put our project on the “fast track”. The feasibility study had to be done in 18 months!

Speaking of RA. Look at their Micro 800. I can understand the reason for this. It’s for Asia. Small, cheap controller for that market makes a lot of sense. But why are they pushing it in the US? Their sales people don’t want it, their distributors don’t want it, their customers don’t want something that doesn’t fit with current tools and architecture and the kind of high volume, low cost machines that fit this product really aren’t being built here, at least that I know of.

I also don’t understand Profinet IO. Not the technology. I don’t understand why it’s so complex. Mostly because I dislike complexity and the need to be all things to all people. Yes, it’s amazing technology. I understand the how but I’m always afraid of things that try to do too much. [Click on Profinet IO Source Code to get the paper I wrote that simplifies it].

Most German products are like this by the way. A very detailed, intense and productive engineering culture over there. They cram oodles of technology and features into the smallest footprints imaginable.

The Germans gave us Profinet. And, of course, Profinet IO is all things to all people. That’s why most of the vendors (except us) are selling hardware solutions. The Softing code, the Siemens code is massive. 5meg of flash required. I’ve complained about this often so I’ll stop now.

I also don’t understand the ODVA. It’s a vendor driven organization right? Seems like the only vendors that get to participate in any decision making process are the ones that put up the big dollars each year and sit on the board. Apparently that’s why it seems they do as much or more promotion overseas than they do in the US. Most of the vendors and the vast majority of products sold are in the US.

The PI (Carl Henning and company) are doing a phenomenal job promoting Profinet IO with lots of really great seminars while the ODVA is doing a few OK seminars. Baffling to me.

And I don’t understand Engineering management at a lot of companies. They treat their engineers like children that have to be hidden away in case they might think for themselves. Most companies I know won’t let their engineers visit customers, see products in action, find out what the customer is trying to accomplish and see what the real needs and problems are that their customers face every day.

For some reason, this information has to be filtered through the sales and marketing channels. That’s not good management for a lot of reasons. The Engineers could do a better job if they understand more about their customers.

I think the big thing they miss is the motivational factor behind all this. Engineers like to solve problems. If you’re building a device that real people that you’ve met are going to use to accomplish some objective it’s more motivating and more fun to come to work every day. If you’re just coming to work to get rev 2.4 out by the end of the month, well, not so much.

So that’s just some of things I haven’t understood throughout 2011. I’m sure I’ll have an equivalent list at the end of 2012 but I’m looking forward to seeing what’s going to baffle me in the coming year.