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The intricacy of mechanism has reached such a state that new designers are almost overwhelmed with the mere thought of trying to comprehend the existing machines. But with the advance of the world of machinery, there has been a better comprehension of the working of the "thinking machine", and we must take advantage of this knowledge in order to win out. It is particularly needful now to study its most efficient use. We are getting to the point where mental energy saving methods should be used.
It is not necessary to go beyond the bounds of orthodox science for schemes for getting the best results from a given mind. We have known for centuries that men tend to habits of thought as well as action,--that thought habits are like ruts, and these are encountered wherever the mind travels, and these ruts bring the mind back to a certain central group or community of groups of ideas.
Establishing Useful Ruts.
The real secret of success is in establishing ruts of a useful kind, ruts with switches that may be operated by the mind at will, or that work automatically when the mind would otherwise wander.
Since even fleeting thoughts are germs of acts, it takes no great effort or self-torture if we will but understand the processes and smoke out the undesirable germs, and allow and encourage the growth of the preferred groups of thoughts. This may be called a lazy man's way of doing things, but it is the way to conserve the mental and physical energy, and it gets results.
In saying that the problems of the work in hand should come automatically and agreeably into the mind when there is a lull in the impressions being made by other things, it is not the intention to convey the meaning that one must have no other interests.
The mind gets its clearest view by the scheme already mentioned for creating interest, viz., by repeatedly bringing it back to the subject whenever it is found wandering.
The best view for invention is that which reveals the most natural way for accomplishing the purpose for which the machine is wanted.
It should not be born of precedent. It should not follow the lines thought out by other designers.
It readily discovers the obsolete features in existing machines, features that were required in other days but have no use now.
Such things remain there just because later designers have followed blindly.
All designers follow more or less. We have shown the great need of following the set habits of users, but we should make a distinct attempt to get back to nature; that is, to see just what is best for the purpose, and to get the most direct and natural means. If this is too much of a task, just hunt for the obsolete features.
Above all things, we must not try to follow another's work. We too often follow unwittingly and to our misfortune even when we try to keep out of the rut.
Machine designers who have done original work will tell us that it is easier to do good work by striking out on new lines than it is to follow the work of others, or even to tinker over some of their own inventions of other years. It requires more ability to take up the work of another and change it, than to start out in some original scheme.
The machine builder knows that the success of any machine depends on the clear-sightedness of his designer and the oneness of purpose of all the heads of all the departments devoted to the construction, sale, and oversight of the running machines in the hands of the users. And last but not least, in these days of supremacy of specialization, he knows that success comes only to the largest group of men organized for this particular kind of work.
All Men are Human Beings.
One of the first things we learn in the works or office is that all men are really human beings. The second one is that the meanest one is only so because of certain physical or mental conditions that are the direct result of natural law. Usually it is not necessary to drag in heredity, for we find ample cause in his environment, within our range of vision.
As a rule, a good understanding of men insures a wholesome regard for them, while failure to understand the other fellow (or the equivalent, the failure of the other fellow to understand us) may bring out many things that make us feel that he is not one whose feelings or interests should be considered.
To any one that has had experience in the shop and a fairly well-rounded business and financial experience in this particular field of work, the other fellow is invariably a good fellow whenever there is a chance for a fairly complete understanding.
If we can accept this statement tentatively, and follow it up by a determined purpose to actually feel it, then we have obtained something by the royal process that would have otherwise required much time and perhaps some unpleasant experiences.
This knowledge is essential to success in designing machinery.
True, many have been successful with a very different att.i.tude, but engineers of the future must see to it that as many of the phases are as favorable as can be made so.
Regarding the absorption of the knowledge of working mechanism in the works this is greatly facilitated by a wholesome relationship with other workers, and it is greatly handicapped without it.
Therefore, it is one of the cardinal points for the machine designer to get thoroughly acquainted with others in the work so as to know their likes and dislikes, as well as the mechanical needs.
The favorable features in machine designs are: directness of mechanism for the purpose; its simplicity and its efficiency; its adaptability to the habit of thought and action of makers and users.
The obstacles to its success are any of the features it may have that cannot be readily comprehended by those who are to build, sell, buy, and use these devices. It is of little value for real success for a machine to be one that is readily understood by a draftsman or manager, or that it is one that may be made to perform wonders in the hands of a skilled expert.
The real economic success depends on the number of machines that will be used. The number of machines that will be used depends on the readiness with which the real workers take hold and manipulate the machine.
To get a true conception of the value of a machine, it is necessary to look at the showing of a business engaged in its manufacture. In estimating the value of a machine-building business for this purpose it is customary to speak of its "good will."
Easiest Way to Improve.
Inventions of complete novelty and of great economic value have attained success going in opposition to this principle of conformity to the habit of the world. But the easiest way is to direct improvements and inventions along lines that are the most readily a.s.similated by the minds of the beings to be considered, and this may be said to be one of the master-keys to economic success.
The work of building the first model of a new machine may be under the direct supervision of the inventor, and if only one machine is to be made, the inventor can follow it wherever it is used. By patience and industry he may instruct some one in the use of it, but in these days there is no chance for a great economic success in making just one machine, or in fact any machine for which there is not a large market. Hence, we will confine our attention to machines made in such large quant.i.ties that the complete supervision of manufacture, sale, and use is beyond the capacity of one person.
For all such machinery the design must more or less conform to the thought and habits of work of all concerned. Some of the most direct designs have failed to meet with success just because the inventor did things in an unusual way. The unusual way is a blind way, and is difficult to find. In some instances it amounts to no way at all, for it is never used.
If a radical change in design is to be made, the new machine should be one that will be the most readily understood. Obscure parts or unusual means should be avoided.
If moving parts must be covered, some way should be provided for convenient observation. It is the obscure departure that is the most troublesome, and it is the obvious thing that offers the least resistance to progress.
There is a chance to progress by obvious devices, and such progress is enjoyed by all, from the makers to the users. It stimulates their weak but wholesome appet.i.te for progress.
Technical View Insufficient.
But whether the clear view of the designer is due to peculiar fitness for seeing such things, or to proper application, the fact remains that this clear view of the technical side is insufficient in itself. The man with the clear view must also realize that others do not get the same view. He must know that the mind automatically takes in things of interest to it and wards off others. Even when the individual apparently tries to comprehend something in which he has no special interest, it only results in a superficial mental impression, one that has no appreciable effect on the actions.
This failure of mankind in general to grasp the advantages of a new mechanism as it appears on paper is only a slight part of the troubles to be encountered by a progressive designer.
He has to contend with habits of thought and action of all the human beings affected by the new machine. This includes the entire group of men in the manufacturing plant in which the machine must be made, the business organization both in this plant and the one in which it is to be used, and, after all this, the greatest obstacle of this kind is to be met in the man who uses the machine. For it is in his hands that a machine must prove its value.
When we consider the inertia of mind and body, it is truly marvelous that there has been any progress in machine design. In fact, if the machine-building trade were in retrogression, with only a few new men being taken in there would be little or no excuse for making machine tools of new design. The older workers would get along about as well without the improved machines.
This is not said in a spirit of fault finding. It is a great fact that we should grasp if we are to design machinery successfully.
It is difficult for the man of sanguine temperament to really accept this view, and it is also hard for one who is continually searching for knowledge. But it must be appreciated, and all work must conform to this principle, if it is to be pushed forward along the lines of easiest progress.
Accepting this view is no barrier to progress. It will not ultimately delay the work of a reformer if he is induced to act in accordance with this principle. It only prevents a wreck.
The knowledge of the force of habit of man should therefore be used in two ways:
First, when the designer is trying to make the most natural machine for the purpose. Then he must overcome his own tendency to follow precedent. Second, when considering the kind of a machine that can be easily made, sold, and used, he must give due consideration to the inertia of others, for their inertia he cannot hope to quickly change. Reformers in this world generally have a hard time whenever they under estimate the inertia of men's minds and bodies.
A designer of machinery, by close application to his tasks, should obtain a clearer view than it is possible for others to possess, of the way a machine should be designed, made, and used. It is not necessary to a.s.sume he has a better brain. An ordinary mind applied to a given subject sees it more clearly than an abler mind which has not considered the subject with the right interest.
Inventions Should Not Mix With Details.