<b>As I ramble through life, whatever be my goal, I will unfortunately keep my eye upon the doughnut and not upon the whole. – Wendy Wasserstein. </b>
The engineering management team at the start-up phone company had worked extremely hard to ensure that their new phone design would be a success.
First off, they had called in a ‘touchy-feely’ guy from a rather expensive consultancy in Paris. And, although it was hard to decipher what he was talking about most of the time, when it came down to conceptual design, the man was a genius. His phone design was ingenious and irresistable – everything from the handset to the base unit and through to the very flex that connected the two, looked sparklingly original.
After he had collected his fees and left, the engineers set to work to turn the French designer’s dream into reality. Based on their intimate knowledge of the very latest solid modelling packages and finite element analysis tools, and working with a well-known plastics vendor and moulding subcontractor, they produced a design that was optimised for high-volume production and low cost.
Not content with that, they even sent out for rapid prototypes of parts of the design, both for the handset and the cradle, to allow them to reconsider their design, should they have needed to.
But they didn’t. After the solid models had been passed all over the marketing and engineering departments, and the 3D CAD models had been sent world-wide for customer approval, the new design was given the green light to go into production.
Things were certainly looking positive for the cheapest, most luxurious looking telephone that had ever been developed.
Unfortunately, the good times didn’t last. It wasn’t long after the new models had started rolling off the production line that one of the chaps in corporate HQ decided to buy one to try out at home. And when he did, I’m afraid, he got a bit of a shock.
You see, when the phone rang, and the receiver was picked up off the cradle and pulled to his ear, the lightweight base unit simply followed it across the table and onto the floor. It just wasn’t heavy enough to stay put. And all because the designers had cost-reduced the base unit to make use of as little material as possible in the manufacturing process.
Fortunately, dear reader, all was not lost. Because the design engineers were really on their mettle when they heard the news. In what seemed like no time at all, they turned to a local diecaster who manufactured thousands and thousands of rather heavy slugs which were then, rather quickly, affixed to the base units of the phones.
And so, the problem was solved. And I’m pleased to say that despite the added manufacturing and assembly operations, the phone is still the most cost-effective unit on the market.