In the article “Communication Failures Contributing to the Challenger Accident: An Example for Technical Communicators”, Winsor describes the communication failures that occurred prior to the Challenger accident. The Challenger was a space shuttle that exploded during flight before exiting the Earth’s atmosphere. The cause of the explosion was a malfunction in the Challenger’s solid rocket boosters. The problem is that there were people aware that the Challenger shuttle would malfunction; why would people that knew there would be a malfunction in the rocket boosters not cancel the flight?

People did try to cancel the flight. One of the major reasons that the flight was not canceled was because managers and engineers took the same information and interpreted them differently. Some of the engineers communicated to their managers the fact that there was a malfunction in the rocket boosters. The engineers took this information and estimated that there was  1 out of 100 chances of flight failure and loss of life; however, management thought there was a 1 out of 100,000 chance of flight failure and loss of life. This difference of interpretation caused management to think lightly of the situation.

Another cause of the communication failure is that it’s difficult to give or receive bad news. It’s very difficult to communicate bad news to your superiors or outsiders. The bad news then took much longer to spread throughout the company. One Engineer Roger Boisjoly, from MTI (Morton Thoikol International), communicated to his superiors just how dangerous the O-ring erosion was to the flight. O-ring erosion allowed for hot pressurized gas to escape its specific chamber, and burn nearby objects. Other tanks in the shuttle that held fuel and furthermore could cause flight failure or an explosion. Boisjoly warned management about the dangers of O-ring erosion and said that there should be a team of engineers specifically assigned to try and provide a solution. The management at MTI was then supposed to tell Marshall, the company that contracted MTI, that they were having problems with the O-ring which could lead to flight failure. Instead of MTI telling the whole truth, they told Marshall that there was an O-ring problem but played down the gravity of the situation. MTI stated that they could not guarantee that the seal the O-ring should create would be able to hold throughout the whole lift off.

After discovering this information, the battling of interpretations between engineers and management started again. With the take-off date approaching, engineers disapproved of the shuttle launch and persuaded one of the vice-presidents at MTI to echo their response. While the rest of management saw O-ring erosion as an acceptable risk in the flight and wanted to continue with the launch. Among the final days before the Challenger was scheduled to take flight, MTI held a meeting where the four vice-presidents voted on whether they should perform the launch. Three of the vice-presidents gave the go ahead to allow the launch, while one vice-president, Lund, still did not want to perform the launch. Lund finally gave in when he was told to take off his “Engineering hat” (Winsor, 106) and put on his “management hat”. From the perspective of an engineer the launch should have been canceled but management still gave the go ahead for the launch.

One of the key moments was that the engineers at MTI knew the gravity of the O-ring erosion, but they would vary the seriousness of the situation when communicating to those that were their superiors compared to outside companies. This lack of true communication caused the other companies, Marshall and NASA (the company actually performing the launch) to not understand just how serious the situation was. It is also sad that one of the reasons MTI were not telling the whole truth was because they feared losing their contract with Marshall. This means MTI worried more about job security than the success of the flight. So, MTI feared losing their jobs more than they feared the flight crew dying. This may be a rash judgment placed on the engineers because they did not willingly say this, but actions speak louder than words and they allowed for the shuttle to take off.

Another key moment was when a group was assigned to solely work on fixing the O-ring erosion issue. While this group was trying to work on something vital to the success of the mission. They kept on getting halted by administrative delays and a lack of cooperation from the company. People in the group complained that they were being delayed by regulations management set in place for long-term development, when the problem needed a solution fast. This shows that the management at MTI was still not fully convinced of the gravity of the situation when the engineers knew truly how catastrophic the O-ring erosion could be. This showed the disconnect of interpretation between the management and engineers. Whenever you’re working with people that are not on the same page, the process of doing something becomes longer. Also, it showed that management pretty much created the group just to let the engineers think they cared about the situation when clearly the management did not see much alarm in O-ring erosion.

When reading this article, I was surprised and shocked at what caused the Challenger launch to fail. The problem that caused the Challenger flight to fail was preventable, through communication, if the companies had able to communicate how serious O-ring erosion was, and if the engineers had been able to communicate with management and show them how to interpret the facts than the Challenger incident may ever have occurred. If there was constant and truthful communication between the companies we might have been able to look back at the Challenger flight and praise the fact that  it succeeded. But communication did not occur so we look back on this day as a sad and tragic disaster.

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What is the Lure of Industrial Engineering

What is the Lure of Industrial Engineering?

Industrial Engineering focuses on the optimization of systems (an operation that creates products). It is hard to put a specific description on what an Industrial Engineer does. Industrial Engineers are educated on the many areas of engineering but if you wanted to sum up the job description in two words it would be: problem solvers. No matter the problem Industrial Engineers are there to find a reasonable solution that will help the company. This may not be the newest field of study. People have been attempting to improve productivity in systems for years, but the areas that Industrial Engineers are growing. .

The word Industrial Engineering is quite misleading, making people believe that this Engineering is based solely on industry, manufacturing, and factories. It is true that Industrial Engineers work on making factories more efficient, but the job description is much larger than that alone:

Industrial engineers are prime sources of management talent. They learn to make decisions concerning the best use of people, material, equipment, and energy in achieving an organization’s aims. To accomplish best use of resources, the industrial engineer systematically collects, analyzes, and arranges factual information in such a way as to fulfill management’s needs.”

Industrial Engineers are known for great management; they always try to get the best out of the hand they were dealt. The difference between Industrial Engineers and normal managers is that Industrial Engineers attempt to solve problems through an Engineers mindset. They tend to rely on their study of mathematics and use quantitative data to try and find a solution.

While people joke about the social lives of engineers, Industrial Engineers need to have social skills. In order for Industrial Engineers to be able to make improvements there must be cooperation between multiple people. I am not saying they are social butterflies, but I would like to think that they at least can communicate between each other.

 

Industrial Engineering is unique because Industrial Engineers focus on people just as much as machines.You normally do not find an Industrial Engineer working solely in the lab, you can find Industrial Engineers working in businesses helping out. Industrial Engineers are vital because they not only help industries improve, but they also help people become more efficient

Industrial Engineers are hired by industries, corporations, and the government. Many companies use Industrial Engineers to help solve their problems (malfunctions in the way a company creates a good) or help optimize the company (simplify the operation of creating the product). The truth is almost everybody is affected by the results of Industrial Engineers. You can find the works of an Industrial Engineer at a fast food restaurant. While you’re waiting in line, see that an Industrial Engineer sat down and purposely advised the restaurant to set up the line a certain way. The line they created was made to get the customer served the fastest. Also, for the customer to feel like they have been in line for less time than they actually have. This focus on lines seems trivial, but in amusement parks lines are part of the experience.

Industrial Engineers are not like other Engineers that create, build, and discover ideas, buildings, prosthetics, and robots. Industrial Engineers are not inventors but innovators. Inventions are always great but an Industrial Engineer helps improve the invention/idea and makes it more useful to the general public.Some critics believe that Industrial Engineers just steal the ideas of others and add one or two “new” features. This is not Industrial Engineering. Industrial Engineers take processes that include people, machines, energy, and materials and make the process more efficient and cost effective.

The lure of Industrial Engineering is the chance to help enhance processes not only involving manufacturing but also people!