Engineers are also people, right!?

This is a typical conversation I hear at my workplace.

Japanese engineer: Please install the pipes here, not there.
Canadian pipe fitter: It’s better to install them there because it’s easier to walk here.
Japanese engineer: No, it doesn’t have to be. Only maintenance personnel walk here.

I can derive two points from this conversation.  First, although Japan is known for its advanced consumer products, maintenance personnel (engineers and technicians) are not considered to be “users”; only those product consumers are recognized as users. Second, technology-oriented engineers do not consider human factors.  Probably they focus on “efficiency”; in this case, using less pipe, thus shorter route with less material, is more efficient.  But, is it really?  No.  Uncomfortable work environment easily causes human errors.  It is inefficient.  Those engineers are not trained to recognize maintenance personnel as users of the facility and to design user-friendly work environment.

I have found another difference between Canadians and Japanese in this context.  Some machines to be maintained are placed near the floor.  This is because Japanese people often crouch to work, which is very uncomfortable for many Canadians.  Many Japanese simply do not know this difference.  In one case, I explained this to a Japanese engineer and Canadian pipe fitters, and advised to install some machines at a little below chest height.  Now those machines are placed as I advised, but only a few people know it.  No matter how many people know it, I’m glad to see them installed from designer’s view point in the engineer’s world.

February 18, 2013Permalink