Mean people suck. Yes, they do. I think I’ll get very little argument there.
But there is another category of people that I am very, very prejudiced against.
Ignorant, lazy people.
First, let me be sure to stand firm in saying, I have long been a champion for the rights of stupid people.
Stupid people can’t help being stupid. We’re born that way. You can’t sit there and just try really, really hard, and get smarter. Believe me, I’ve tried.
God, how I’ve tried.
So if someone, including me, does something stupid, and it slips through, hey. It happens.
There are things I personally do to try and minimize how much my being stupid affects what I do.
I’ll triple check my work before pronouncing it ‘done’. If I’m not 100% positive, after triple checking it, that I’m sure its good to go, I’ll get a second opinion. I’ll study how what I’m doing is supposed to work, I’ll research it, I’ll look for examples and try to understand the why as well as the what.
I’ll learn what I can from other people’s mistakes and suggestions and knowledge, in the hopes of at least making my stupid mistakes be original.
I’ll experiment with techniques, even if they are not the normal way of doing things, just so I know if there are acceptible workarounds before I might need them.
If it was a stupid mistake, but it was original, you get points for it, and a funny story to tell later. So it pays to be original.
But ignorant people… oh, how I hate ignorant people.
Specifically, I hate ignorant people that are supposed to be knowledgeable and skilled, but are too damn lazy, not stupid, but lazy, to actually make an effort to learn how to do something right. And who don’t care if what they do is correct when they’re finished, but just walk away and move on to something else. Just walk away. Time for coffee.
Would you like an example? You would? GREAT!
Take this fine summer morning. JUST as an example.
I walk into work, relaxed and thinking about the Shifting Perspectives article I’m publishing today. It’s mostly done, I just want to polish it, triple check it, and then fire it off to go live. Triple check it? Yep. Because I’m stupid. So I try to catch my mistakes before they go live.
And I sit at my desk, and check my work email. And I read an email sent out by one of the guys on the weekend engineering crew, stating that he ran a production run of a circuit board through SMT that had burnt parts, so he re-profiled it and continued the run.
The tone of the email was, “Some stupid shit profiled this before I got here, and it’s not right, but I was thankfully on the job and re-profiled it, so you should all be grateful you have me here to catch your stupid mistakes.”
The email was only sent to the engineering staff. Not our boss, or the managers, supervisors, production staff, etc.
Now, this particular engineer is pretty new here. And he has made mistakes before, of the ‘I didn’t really bother checking too hard to make sure it was correct before approving for production’ variety. I’ve asked him why, and he’s told me, “I’m new, you’re going to have to expect mistakes.”
And when I explained that it is our job to make sure that we don’t make mistakes, and that being new is no excuse when you have two other engineers available for a double-check of your work before pushing it live as production ready, he blew me off. After all, I’m not his boss.
So I’m reading his email. And I’m scared.
Because while I have certainly made mistakes before, the job he is talking about is one that I personally profiled just last Wednseday, and it was one that I had anticipated for two months. We knew it was coming, and I had worked my figures on it in advance so as to miminize downtime for the profiling process step. We have thousands of these boards coming, and we needed it nailed right, and fast.
And I know that son of a bitch was profiled freaking PERFECT when it was done last Wednesday, and on top of it, we ran it for production all day Thursday. All day. Perfect. Every process variable freaking nailed.
So, if it was perfect, and I mean omigod perfect, and ran all day Thursday, what the hell are you talking about? WHAT DID YOU DO? What ‘burnt parts’?
Surely he couldn’t possibly mean the two shields that become discolored through the reflow process? Nah, he couldn’t possibly. Those were specifically addressed in documentation. The lead-free temperatures and process necessary to nail the reflow of the solder discolored two shiny RF shields. A slight discoloration does not affect the electrical characteristics of a freaking RF shield. It was signed off on.
See, designing a reflow process for lead free SMT parts using solder paste is a fairly straightforward proposition, it’s not rocket science.
This particular board is pretty tricky, because it is a high mass dual sided panelized board with routed cutouts, a lot of very small 0201 parts on it, some plastic thin walled connectors, and some massive solid transformers right in the center. And under heat, with the weight of the transformers, the board has a tendency to warp.
Getting a profile nailed down that reflows all the parts with good solder fillets, including the high mass ones, while not burning or melting the small sensitive components, or letting the board warp or sag is, well… it takes skill and art, and damn it I nailed it.
And now this arrogant little prick is saying two parts were burnt so he reprofiled it and ran it? What the hell?
And as I’m looking at this email in rising terror, trying to imagine how he could have successfully profiled the board so as to NOT discolor those two parts while still getting good solder quality… I get the first visitor to my office.
“I need you to look at the profile on the Oven for this job, it looks… wrong.”
Can you guess which?
I go out and look, and sure as hell, it is totally wrong. Just unbelievably wrong. Like, I’m looking at it and plotting the reflow temperature curve in my head based on his numbers, and it just…. what the hell was he thinking?
And as I look at it, I decide that I should trust myself first and get them back up and running. I find my backup profile, load and restore it, and say “Okay, back in business… resume production. Now, can you show me where the boards they ran this weekend are?”
And I pull the first board off the cart and throw it under the microscope.
And I see cold solder joints. Hell, cold solder my ass. Unreflowed solder. Grainy, sandy unreflowed solder without a hint of flux, and without any possibility of a solid connection.
And I look up at the operator, and ask, ‘How many of these did they run this weekend?”
“123. A full two shift run, three days, tops and bottoms.”
Are you shitting me?
I ask, “Did you see any signs that a new profile had been done?”
“Yes, they scrapped out a board this weekend to connect the thermocouples for profiling. It’s on top of the rack.”
I look. Sure as shit, he attached thermocouples to the two shields that were discolored coming out of the oven. And he ran a profile using just those two shields as his reference points for a proper solder flow. He ignored the actual solder joints of any parts, high or low mass. Just the two shields.
Now, we have a process. If there is a problem, there is a customer engineer that is supposed to be called in. You don’t just decide that a shield isn’t shiny, so you’re going to scrap a $1500 board to re-profile, and even if you did, it is absolutely unacceptable to leave the boards with that kind of crap quality and just walk away, la la la.
So I look at the cold solder, and I look at the scrapped board, and I mentally add up the rework time we were going to have on 123 $1500 boards due to ship this week, plus 1 scrapped as a loss.
And I know that there are now going to be a stream of people coming to ask ME why the run was screwed up.
So I go back to my office, and wait.
And the first person comes, demanding to know why my profile was all screwed up, and why the weekend shift had to fix it.
And then the next person comes demanding to know why the boards the weekend shift ran were all screwed up, and why my profile was wrong.
And then someone comes asking why I didn’t profile the boards in the first place, forcing the poor overworked weekend shift to have to make one from scratch.
And etc, etc, etc.
And each person I have to look at, and say, “I had a profile done. The profile was perfect. It was used in production all day Thursday for 100% yields.”
“I do not know why the weekend engineer is an ignorant son of a bitch. I do not know why, after being fully trained, and having other support personnel available to ask for second and third opinions, and after having a perfect profile that has run for several days and has been signed off on by everyone in the chain, with documentation and clearance, and had cleared in circuit test and functional test, he decided to shut down production for three and a half hours to lone ranger redoing the profile to make the run SUCK.”
“I do not know why. I assume he is both ignorant, AND arrogant. Best guess.”
“No, I do not know what he was thinking. And, since I am not his boss, I am going to refer you down the hall to the person who IS his boss, there to demand these answers. And I hope you use the exact same tone of voice to him that you used with me.”
“All I can tell you is, I have restored my profile, I have run three test boards, I have consulted with my fellow engineers, and we are all agreed that we are back in business with 100% perfect quality solder reflow.”
“Thank you, and have a nice day.”
And now I get to wait for the next visitor, and the next, and the next…