Deep thoughts at 30,000 feet

I caught an early flight to Fort Lauderdale this morning. There was still some snow in my yard from last week’s storm, so I was looking forward to spending a couple days in the sun… uh, I mean in about 8 conference rooms of some of my favorite manufacturing customers…

I always try to talk to my airline seat mates. You’d be amazed at what you can hear and learn. This morning, I got into a deep discussion with a super experienced guy from the world of power plant engineering! He asked me what I do for a living, and I started my typical layman “sorta like virtual reality” schpiel.

He cut me off and said, “what, like CFD?”

The only thing that kept me from falling out of my chair was the guy sleeping on my right!

We started sharing all kinds of stories about uses of various technologies in engineering. It was really refreshing to hear a guy in his position talk about the need to temper all this technology with some practicality. He quite logically stated that if you use a tool to get to the nth degree of accuracy, you’re missing the opportunity to get any real business benefit out of it.

He said, “Use this stuff to get 80% of the way there, gain some insight, make a decision, and get to building and implementing.” I’m sure this guy had already been around the block a few times back when I was still watching Captain Kangaroo. He pointed out that you’ll never get everything right in either a physical prototype or a computational model. There will always be differences in the production parts and unforeseen elements once your “thing” gets out of the lab and into the wild.

That’s experience talking.