The Microscope Story

In the book “The H.P. Way” there is a story about Bill Hewlett working late one night and he needs a microscope. He goes looking for it and finds the tool storage room locked. He breaks the lock off and leaves a note with instructions that it not be locked again.

In engineering everything is a compromise, always a trade off.  Do you want this or that.  Can not have both.

Really there are two ways to do things,  lock things up, or , leave things out where people can get them. In the first case you preserve your tools and capital equipment but at the cost of getting things done. In the second case your workers are free to get to the tools they need to get things done but you may need to spend some money on replacing things from time to time.

There is nothing more frustrating than to be prevented from doing your job by a lock or other barrier keeping you from getting the tools or information you need to do your job.

Today we lock up the means to production with a new kind of lock, computer passwords. People all have different levels of access depending on their position and department. I frequently run up against password issues where there is no way to get the job done until we can get the IT guy in there to “Administrate” the computer.

The shipyard at Pearl Harbor has a big tool locker. The workers there spend much of their time being issued and returning tools. This is the opposite end of the spectrum from a company like old HP.

I always took my own tools.  Sometimes borrowed one or two from Sid.  I left them out where my fellow workers can borrow them if they need them.  Sometimes  they were not returned.  Most times they were.

Old HP was about making test equipment. And getting the job done was more important than possibly losing a few tools.

So what is more important at your company? Making sure all the tools are in the tool crib at days end, or is it a workplace free of barriers to creativity and production?


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