Saturday, October 21, 2006

In the land of the blind the one eyed man is king

Some eight years ago I did the mechanical design for a robotic manipulator. It was built. The project then ran out of money. So it was run once and then mothballed. Now for a different project it is desired to restart that robotic manipulator.

Several individuals worked on the design and controls when it was built. The CAD files and control software were all properly archived. Today, however, I am the only one who has decent notes. Nobody remembers what the original criteria were for the mechanical design, the workspace, what assumptions were made in defining our criteria, or the end effector tip speed. Fortunately I saved my notes in a notebook and my calculations in a directory on my computer. When questions come up now on that project, I am with a little bit of searching able to find the answer.

Once upon a time my employer had a very rigorous formal system for archiving engineering data such as cutsheets and calculations. That has long ago fallen by the wayside as engineering staff has been cut. I gather from discussions with other engineers with other employers that the situation is similar elsewhere.

Save your notes and data files in an organized fashion. They will eventually prove to be invaluable. Being able to answer questions about equipment designed or installed years ago will make you invaluable to your employer. Should you leave your employer, having your notes organized will help you leave on a good note.

I keep my paper notes organized in loose leaf notebooks by project. I put the name of the project on the back of the notebook so that I can tell at a glance what is in the notebook. For a large project I may have multiple notebooks for different aspects of a project. I end up with a set of notebooks labelled, for example: XYZ project, general notes; XYZ project, calculations; and XYZ project, operating instructions.

I keep my computer data similarly organized. I have a folder for each project and then subfolders for different topics of the project.

Keeping your information organized will help keep you in the loop and possibly employed.

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