On 10 September 2020 I gave a full day of lectures and workshops on Configuration Management for the Minor Factory of the Future from Avans University of applied sciences at the Brainport Industries Campus in Eindhoven (The Netherlands). I had a lot of fun doing this, but I was also impressed by the students ability to stay engaged during some hardcore CM topics like identification, the change process, impact analysis and re-identification. Of course we also did the CM Game. During the reflection at the end of the day, one of the students, Teun Snoeren made the following remark (translated and edited):
I knew about the Bill of Material and that changes can impact multiple levels. But I never realized till now, that a seemingly small change can have a such a big impact. If you change hardware, that it might impact software or if you change the weight of one part, that the entire balance of the product can be impacted.
I call it The Butterfly Effect. And that is what I would like to address with this blog post.
According the Cambridge Dictionary The Butterfly Effect is “a situation in which an action or change that does not seem important has a very large effect, especially in other places or around the world”.
An example of a small change with big impact
Now imagine that an eager engineer finds a way to reduce 30% material cost on a certain part. But without proper alignment with work preparation, manufacturing, supply chain, customer service, etc, it is difficult to assess the complete scope of the impact such a change might have. If your process allows that engineer to get this change approved, and starts executing the change and pushing the change to the factory, the result could be that you have to completely change the layout of the production line. That is a significant cost, but due to the new layout, the cost of production has gone up. So not only are you spending money to change the layout, in the end your cost price per unit goes up as well. Result, the Return on Investment will never be achieved.
Probably one of the most well known butterfly effects in product development, is the Y2K bug. A design decision to use only 2 numbers to identify the year in a date instead of 4 numbers (or more), caused a huge ripple effect when the year 2000 came into view. Sometimes the impact is not obvious, especially because a person can only understand a limited scope e.g. if you change a hardware component, it can impact software and vice versa. It requires a lot of people to cover the full scope of the impact of a change.
But everything starts with the awareness of this butterfly effect like Teun Snoeren mentioned.
Let’s create our own positive Butterfly Effect
Would it not be great, if we can create our own positive Butterfly Effect. Starting with Teun, who became aware of the fact that small changes can have big impact. That with this awareness he prevents an oversight or mistake to be past on during product development. Preventing injuries or loss of life or just preventing a lot of financial impact for a company, so that they do not have to let go of a lot of employees.
And not only Teun, but all the 20 students that were there on 10 September 2020. And all the other students that have taken the CM Course at Eindhoven University of Technology from professor Ton De Kok, where I gave guest lectures and workshops. They might also use this awareness, this knowledge to do good things, make the right assessment and decisions and have a big impact. Which will keep paying itself forward.
But this is not enough. So I call on everyone with a Configuration Management background to see how you can help improve this awareness, improve the exposure of Configuration Management to students around the world. Reach out to your local University/College and start the discussion and create your own positive Butterfly Effect. Even if it is just a couple hours per year. Because what seems like a small effort, a small contribution, can have a very big positive impact.
Feel free to reach out if you have ideas or questions.
Header Picture by Conor Mccreedy, ''The Butterfly Effect Trio'', 2019, pigment, oil paint, olive oil and turpentine on Belgian linen - CC BY-SA 4.0 - Picture has been cropped to fit header. Source