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But at my back I always hear
Time's winged chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
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   Monday, February 10, 2003
Poka-yokes are not scrambled eggs. Though they sound like them, says a still, small voice in my ear. I've always used them, but now I'm just so continually tired that I'm devising and depending on them. Or should I start all this again with a definition. Mistake proofing devices - automatic ways of ensuring a 100% inspection without having to depend on the human element. To take a grossly simplified example, suppose you were making a box which had to be 25 cm wide, plus or minus 1 cm. If there was a gateway at some essential stage of the process which was, say, 26.1 cm wide, then it would prevent any boxes 26.1cm or wider getting through and ultimately ending up as waste. In manufacturing, they tend to be buzzers, mechanical devices, switches, disconnectors, sensors ... in the office, they tend more to be checklists.

So the option with equipment is either to go round in circles until I'm so paralysed by indecision that I don't even remember what I've done and what I haven't - or to use a checklist and get a kick out of being able to put ticks in bright red ink. I found, to my horror, that for every delivery, each item needs fifteen different actions and my boss has decided that nothing can go unless I'm happy with it. This is great for the ego, but now I have the support engineers coming round to see me every five minutes. Am I happy with the equipment? When will I be happy with it?

And the other gripe of the day is white coats. I don't belong to the department containing the clean room, though I'm down there every couple of hours or so. So I don't have my own white coat. It's very like that problem of a goat, a tiger and a man trying to cross a river, given that two of the group can't cross together or they'll eat each other. There are three exits where white coats can be left, two of which I can get into, the third of which I have to stand, nose pressed against the glass, until someone will let me in - assuming there's someone in there in the first place. One exit goes out into the cold, wet Scottish weather. So I use the other one. For three days last week, there were no white coats. I had to try the other exits and then - because my work involved going into the clean room for something, coming out briefly and then going in again, I found myself walking around with the white coat under my arm, just so that I'd have one around when I needed to get back in. Also, the white coats are cleaned over the weekend, which is all very nice on Monday, and perhaps Tuesday, but engineers have this deeply-rooted feeling that they are not macho men unless they sweat - profusely - and the only thing worse than that is wearing the "one size fits all" coat which is XXL. Which I'm not.

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