The Virtue Of Making Good Parts

Imagine a very small, extremely intricate workpiece made of a tough alloy. Manufacturing it requires a number of tricky machining operations.

Columns From: 10/1/2001 Modern Machine Shop, ,

Imagine a very small, extremely intricate workpiece made of a tough alloy. Manufacturing it requires a number of tricky machining operations. Dimensional tolerances are in the millionths of an inch. The finished workpiece must be burr-free and have a fine surface finish. It must be made economically and in sufficient quantities.

Let's say this part is a component in a triggering mechanism designed to detonate an explosion of intense force. Each part must not malfunction; there is no room for failure.

Nowhere does the part print indicate what sort of explosive device this component belongs to. Perhaps it is a new generation air bag that promises to drastically reduce the potential for injury to small children while improving survival rates in severe auto accidents. This part may save many lives. Or perhaps it is part of an antipersonnel weapon designed to have a greater lethal effect in combat. In other words, the part will help kill opponents more efficiently.

Does it matter whether the part is for one device or the other? Is there anything "different" about making a part designed to save lives versus making a part designed to take lives?

On a sentimental level, making the life-saving part would seem more gratifying than the "killer" part.

However, the effectiveness of the weapon to which this nasty part belongs could determine the outcome of a battle. This victory turns the tide of war and an unjust aggressor is vanquished. Likewise, that nice part could be crucial in a class action lawsuit arising over an alleged design defect implicated in several deadly accidents. The resulting multibillion-dollar judgment brings down great corporations. Jobs are lost; investors ruined.

Who is gratified now?

What matters in any case is that the manufacturer exercises judgment, care and diligence applying technology to serve the customer well. That is the good (positive morality) in making good (meets criteria for quality) parts. Every person on the shop floor must share and support this mission.

A manufacturer making good parts can only act in good (true and honest) faith, often not knowing what becomes of the parts it delivers to the customer. That every part will fulfill its purpose is to be ardently hoped for, of course. It may keep the peace or save a life. Whatever happens, the best shops with the best people keep making good parts because that's what they love to do.

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