Article #3 Carrera UC7 “Your Design Sucks”

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Adam Bahret
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If you missed them here are the first and second articles of the 911 UC7 saga. What’s UC7?

Studying people who are good at design for reliability and those who are not, I see one consistent and defining factor.  Those who are good at reliability engineering look at their designs critically and think “There is a lot wrong with this thing.” In contrast, Those who are bad at reliability engineering always say “This is a great design” and then make a list of excuses and quick fixes for any apparent issues.

This fundamental mindset of “There is always room for improvement” is the underlying principle of Kaizen. Kaizen is a Japanese term meaning “change for the better” or “continuous improvement.” It is a Japanese philosophy regarding the processes to always continuously improve and involve everyone, at all levels. Kaizen sees improvement in productivity as a gradual and methodical process. The lack of this mindset in Western culture, is one of the reasons we Westerners are doing some catchup and why many of us have “The Toyota Way” on our bookshelves.

So stop making excuses for those field failures or the inability to pass the simplest of V&V in development.  To be frank, Your design sucks. It really does.  Do you know how I know that?  Because 90% of designs suck and the other 10% are bad. If it’s a commercial product, then it was created in a program that was ferociously schedule-driven. Even if a product has been #1 in its market, it still sucks.  I’m not being hyperbolic, I have proof.  Take a product that was the market leader, even a game-changer from a few years ago, and compare it to what came out next. One of two things happened.  Either the market leader continued to improve and kept their #1 position or they someone else took it. 

Simply put, if you are thinking you have a great design and are completely satisfied it’s the same as praverbally siping celebratory champagne on a boat headed for the falls. This is the topic of today because I am just coming off a classic torpedo’s by schedule pressure and arrogance.  It was a personal project and a small scale but non the less the same ingredients as the big fails. 

I needed to make the roof basket for the 911 UC7 initiative. I had to fit the build into one weekend.I thought, “No biggie, I’m a smart guy, I know what I am doing and it’s going to be a great design.”  Can you see the torpedo streaking along smoothly and silently approaching just below the surface? 

For all the 911 UC7 roof cargo challenges, I needed some kind of weight distribution system. Simple roof bars weren’t going to cut it, so my strategy? Design and construct a modular an aluminum roof basket/tray.

Last week the roof bars finally arrived. I purchased the Porsche design, because clearly there was nothing better after evaluating a few designs. they bolt right into the roof structure. I have to say, I am blown away at the design and how it grabs the weld joints between the roof panel and the body. It gave me confidence that the sailboat carry just might work. 

Now I would start coming up with a general design for a roof tray.  I began to source the extruded aluminum and figured out that with all the long stock requirements and individual sources. It just made more sense to buy a big roof basket that has the stock shape I am looking for and use it as, well, stock. Once I found one that had the right shapes and pieces, I began cutting and welding based on some quick pencil sketches and loose measurements.

The downside to this method is that I didn’t have exact dimensions of the stock I was working with until it arrived, so I never had the chance to make detailed drawings. Again, I said, “No biggie, I’ve got the design roughed out and I’ll figure out the rest.  I’m a good designer.” Torpedo streaks just under the surface… Well, as each new design issue came up I kept telling myself, “I’ll just make an adjustment or maybe I’ll go in this direction now.” 

The first issue I found was that I had made it about 1.5 inches too short and now It didn’t hit the factory roof bars right.  So, now I had to make an entirely different design for the front bar clamp. Then I noticed that the new front bar clamp aligned awkwardly with the actual front cross bar.  There were a few more of those kinds of detours throughout the weekend.

Yet, the entire time I’m feeling all proud and sharing progress pictures with my friends, never really stopping and addressing the bigger issue, which was that I had no high-level design or plan. When I was done, I looked at the finished product and saw what a hacked design it really was. It would work fine, or so I hope, but it  was nothing to be proud of.  I had sunk myself with the torpedo of pride mixed with schedule pressure, and could no longer write about the smart design idea I thought I had. Instead, I had to write this article, confessing that I am a Kaizen hypocrite.  

The basket worked well once the bugs were worked out (finished Tuesday). It’s a little ugly, but it carried 125lbs of construction trash to the dump like a champ. So I can check of the first roof carry challenge from the 911 UC7. Now I’m encouraged to move on to the next, the long construction lumber carry. However, through this challenge I’ve realized that I need to start thinking more about the boat carry that is farther down the road sooner rather than later.

I think I am going to use those arcs to carry the front load of the catamaran evenly on the two bars.  Basically an “Arch Bridge” style load carrying system. This time around, I need to be ready to have a “this design sucks” mindset or this could turn into an expensive disaster.  But will I…? So many hard-learned lessons are easily forgotten.


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