Sunday, January 6, 2013

Hello Mr. Braun

In my general opinion, if someone takes the trouble of doing something at all, then it has to be done well, worth the effort and of some use to humanity. It seems to be so difficult to achieve that, that if someone does make the effort of analysing a problem a bit longer than what the corporate gurus and men wearing well-pressed suits deem necessary, then that person is labelled to have a case OCD while in reality, those who seemingly do their job well and yet not display OCD do, in an annoying number of cases, what my grandfather would have called, in his times, a half-arsed job.

Granted, there were less mouths to feed and less clothes to iron back then. There weren't many people back then and those who were, didn't have money to afford clothes or other such luxuries, in fact, they were passed on from father to son like inherited property. Some others wore a factory uniform, went to work and demonstrated in front of the factory gates burning effigies of popular political leaders of the time. So, on the outlook, the time between the war, establishment of republic India and the advent of colour television in India has seen troubled times, even then, everything made in that era seems to last forever. Most people from the seventies, seem to hold on to their things saying they're better than what you can buy today. For example, my grandfather was alive till i was 12 and i have never seen him buy shirts and never saw him or his shirts change in those years. When i look at the photos of him from my childhood, he looked the same in the same shirt in photo just after my birth and ten years hence. We threw out most things only in the 90's, kerosene stoves, pots, boiler, charcoal iron boxes and the whole deal. I still have a watch, which was someone's wedding gift from 1932 and all you have to do it wind it. A film camera gifted to my parents still works today and it has never needed any batteries. Clockwork, was the answer back then, everything, including bombs of the time, had clockwork mechanisms. These made them supremely mechanical, robust, effective and immortal.

It is not to advocate the use of clockwork mechanisms in modern times (the automotive gearbox can be thought of as a clockwork mechanism with the engine perpetually winding it with the energy stored in the flywheel for the return and so on, that's for another time.). But, it is only to draw attention to the fact that when people took an effort to do something back then, it was well thought, well executed and usually was an engineering marvel, if not, at least an embodiment of the attempt to attain near perfection unlike today where most things break down right after their warranty expires or worse, just out of the box. At this point if you're wondering if this is in the iron box series, yes it is. I went through three iron boxes in the last year, one in India and two here. Now i have a fourth one and surprisingly it is not made in any republic of the people although it comes roughly from the same direction of here, east; much closer, in the same continent, Europe. But it did mean that i had to buy it from ze Germans, they are probably the last few people, a country full of grumpy old men who want their money's worth regardless of what they buy. It does mean that it costs much more than the other irons, so now, rather than paying for it for being a brilliant piece of manufacturing, i, rather we all buy from an expensive brand in the hope that it keeps them from breaking down, unless we really can't afford it. That being said, i am happy with the iron from Braun and i can report it isn't broken after the first use and while working, it works indeed well. It's a thing of beauty. 

Coming back to the bigger point. I would like if one among you, whoever knows about this, could tell me why is it that in the present composite age, with all technological breakthroughs, automated production lines and a lot of the big companies boasting six sigma and CMMI level 5 badges make things which aren't better than what was done in what can roughly be called a Victorian Workhouse in the 70's with manual assembly lines, in a time when certain quality certifications probably didn't even exist to have been awarded. In short, i went through three iron boxes in the last year, if that company has a six sigma certification then does it mean that three defective pieces out of eighteen million statistically good ones came only to me? how improbably unlucky must i have been? 

After an explanation, i will really consider not writing about iron boxes and the problems associated with them. 

1 comment:

  1. It's mostly just economics at play.

    Products these days are not designed with longevity in mind. Most companies actually prefer things to break down more frequently to keep their cash flow going - but not frequent enough that you'd blacklist their brand.

    A very sad and major effect of all this consumption driven economy is the huge amounts of garbage and landfills. It's just not environmentally sustainable. Most companies are focused on making money in the short term, and turn a blind eye to the big picture.

    Another non-iron-box example would be the huge number of cheap underpowered smart phones which get obsolete very fast and end up in landfills.

    The economics of cut throat cost cutting ensures that goods are designed to exactly withstand the tortures of what they are meant to be, not a bit more. Apply a bit more force/pressure, and the break.
    But the old-school stuff - they were overengineered - built to last for generations!

    However, I see this trend only in consumer goods section.
    Don't you feel that industrial equipments, cars, bikes, engines, satellites, etc. last way more than their old-school counterparts?

    This only reinforces the theory about certain products being engineered to fail after X uses.