It's The Message, Not The Medium

Perhaps it's only natural to think that as our communication tools improve, so will our communication skills. After all, we're linked globally by communication systems that, from a technological perspective, are truly magical.

Columns From: 3/1/1996 Modern Machine Shop, ,

Perhaps it's only natural to think that as our communication tools improve, so will our communication skills. After all, we're linked globally by communication systems that, from a technological perspective, are truly magical.

The Internet, World Wide Web, satellite hookups, navigational tracking systems, cellular phones, et al, make reaching out and touching almost anyone incredibly easy and fast. Our planet is "wired" for global communication.

Many of our manufacturing plants are microcosms of this communication capability. Information, the stuff of communication, moves around shops effortlessly as air.

Design terminals are linked directly to the machine tools that will give an idea mass, matter and reality. Taking a concept from inception to fruition is less a step-by-step process and more a smooth flow.

Good as these communication tools are, it's still the messages they carry that make them useful. We (people) are the big variable in the communication technology experiment. The equipment works well--getting better all the time. But what's being sent over these networks is a continuous source of potential problems.

Communication requires a sender, message, medium and receiver. It is not communication, for example, to call someone in Finland, speak gibberish (what English sounds like to the Finn) and then hang up. To communicate, the message must be understood by the receiver.

To the caller, a message was sent. But to the receiver there was no message because there was no understanding. It's likewise in inter-shop communications. Unless the shop floor understands the messages being sent from design engineering, the end product--a workpiece--may go in the scrap barrel.

Having wonderful tools, that increase the speed of information transfer and dissemination, is no guarantee that the information going out is useful. In today's networked shop, it's a responsibility of all communicators (everybody) to make sure not only the message sent is received but that it's understood. Relying exclusively on a medium for communication, without closing this loop is like shooting arrows into the sky. Some may find the mark but most will not.

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