Innovative Engineering


At Seamplex we believe that engineers out to solve problems. This can be accomplished a wide variety of ways, from applying complex scientificknowledge up to using common sense and intuition. The main goal is to have a problem solved using the least possible effort (i.e. money). However, we see that there are a lot of

  1. tasks and processes that are being carried out in a very suboptimal way, and
  2. issues such that if they are understood with a deeper insight, they can pay back more than the extra effort invested.

The following two examples will help to illustrate both cases.

The many-hands NDA

Say you have to sign an NDA with a client, or prepare a quotation or work in a technical report with other people. Raise your hand if you would do something like this:

  1. Ask a lawyer for a template and expect a .doc e-mail attachment.
  2. Save the attachment into your computer
  3. Open the document, replace the template’s gaps with your information and your client’s information.
  4. Save as… with a new name, say nda1.doc.
  5. Send nda1.doc to your client attached to an e-mail
  6. While waiting for his response, you spot a mistype and/or want to add something so you modify the nda1.doc in your computer and save it.
  7. You receive a modified version of nda1.doc from your client.
  8. Now you manually merge both version (your’s and your clients) into an nda2.doc and sent it to the lawyer.
  9. In the meantime, your clients sends you a newer version called nda-newversion.doc.
  10. While merging the new version into your local nda2.doc you also notice further misspellings and correct them. You now save as nda3.doc.
  11. The next morning, the lawyer sends you a new version called nda-final.doc.
  12. You send nda-final.doc to your client. 13. Then, you realize that even though it was named as final, that version does not have your misspelling corrections. So you attach to your client nda3.doc.
  13. Your client attaches a new document with further changes.
  14. At this time nor you nor me know what the NDA contains, because there is no NDA but several ones.
  15. Your boss calls you because he wants to know what the current version of the NDA contains.

You get the point. Because it has happened to you. And to me. A company I used to work to lost a bid because the document we finally sent did not contain a change I added to comply with the tender requirements. And I am sure something similar has happened to you.

Why do we accept this way of working? Are we dumb enough not to come up with a smarter way of working?

We at Seamplex think that this problem can be solved by thinking straightforward and combining knowledge that other engineers already developed (e.g. DCVS, Mercurial, Markdown, Pandoc, M4, TeX, and LaTeX )

documenttracking  

See these two examples of documents generated the Seamplex way (i.e simple, but not simpler):

Report Document Repo
SP-WA-15-TD-9E3D-B ** **
SP-MI-14-AR-5B44-D ** **

The period of a pendulum

Let us do the following though experiment: ask an engineer to calculate the period of a simple pendulum of length 60 cm. And of course, tell her that we need a written report.

Raise your hand if you think we will get something like this:

 

Highlights:

  • We receive an editable document in the original format (an Open Document Format in this case, but may have been worse if it was a .doc) and not in PDF.
  • The report has no identification code nor author.
  • The figures are clearly bitmaps taken from the Internet (because neither the colors nor the fonts match) without any reference.
  • The mathematical description is poor (the variable names have the same typography than the main text and the units of acceleration are written as m/s^2 instead of \(\mbox{m}/\mbox{s}^2\) or \(\mbox{m} \cdot \mbox{s}^{-2}\).
  • The report does not say that the result is an approximation.
  • The only reference is handled manually (and the year appears in a separate line).
  • The report is ugly.

See this example of an engineering document generated the Seamplex way (i.e simple, but not simpler):

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