Thursday 7 January 2016

Interchangeable Will Eat Your Lunch

Let us go into fantasy-land for a bit here.

Let's say that you're employed by an awesome business. They actually do have an ethic where their employees are not interchangeable, they are valued, they are trained properly, the highest quality of service or workmanship is job one, et-fucking-cetera.

You're doomed.

You see, there's always some fucktard out there who is willing to do it for less. They're that desperate for the work, for the money, that they'll cut corners and do a cheap job.

Your employer can't match that undercutting.

The customer loves it. He'll happily take a poor quality job, so long as he saves a boatload at the beginning. Because he doesn't click to the following:
The bitterness of poor quality lingers
Long after the sweetness of low cost is forgotten
It's not that the customer's stupid (though he's definitely stupid). It's not that he's blind to what he's doing (though he's definitely blind).

It's that the effects of poor quality come to light long afterwards. It gets you through for a while - and then it bites your ass. The time between is just long enough that the general dumbass out there can't connect the dots. Especially the beancounters.

Meantime, the business which once employed you has long gone.

I've seen some strange things in life. Stuff that's made me think: "Don't you have a fucking brain?" To the point where I must believe that management and employees have a weird relationship. Like the old military toast: "Here's to inferior superiors and inferior inferiors. The stuff armies are made of."

Stuff like a beancounter actively saying that there's no profit to be made in X, then breathlessly states that "we should get into as much X as possible". Hello? The person the beancounter was rabbiting on with at the time made the commonsense observation: "If there's no money in it, why are we doing it?" The beancounter couldn't think of anything to say to that...

Stuff like a commercial manager so desperate to get his yearly bonus, that he made an absolute sweetheart deal with a customer. One so sweetheart that there was no money in it. He got his yearly bonus, the customer realized what a sweetheart deal it was and went to do 3-4x as much as was expected, and the business had to hire extra staff to cope with the load...forget breaking even, net loss to the business...

Then you get the sensible people, the rare ones who proactively think about this shit.

A small example: I've been doing a woodworking project, one which I want to bolt together (as well as nail) for extra strength. So some 24x 10mm galvanized cup-head bolts, 170mm long, are in order (actually 160mm but they're popular, they didn't have enough, so I was forced to go for the 170mm - just-in-time supply in action).

While working this out I realized: I also have to drill 24x 11mm holes through 150mm (6 inches) of solid tanalized wood. The problem is that most drill-bits aren't that long. I sure as shit didn't have any. So I head in to the local building shop looking for some bits, and the only ones I can find are auger bits that look like this:
Which is all well and good. There's the cheapass bits, and the expensive bits. Being a thinker, I go for the $29 one because:
  1. The $12 ones only come in 10mm or 12mm size, too small or big
  2. The $29 ones will last me for years while the cheap ones will crap out earlier
Now, most fucktards will go for the cheap ones. Because most people are cheap bastards and only thinking of the immediate job, not 10+ years down the line. Plus they'll ram it into an electric drill and try to use it at high speed - which will likely fuck the job up, maybe even break the bit and cause themselves an injury.

(Power tools are awesome. You can fuck the job up in half the time.)

Being a half-smart fucktard I decided to use the correct piece of equipment for the job:
Yes, it takes time. No, it doesn't take a lot of effort. And yes, I still made a few crooked holes. Inexperience. Never mind. My woodworking project should last the next 10+ years, easily.

Poor quality and low cost, versus high quality and high cost. (Make sure it's real high quality, not lip-service crap.)

Unfortunately, you can have middling-high quality in what you do. The poorest quality job, done by a bunch of clueless interchangeable knobs, will beat you out of the work just about every time. (I say "just about" because there are a few people who have a clue and recognize that high quality is better in the long run.)

In New Zealand terms, it's the difference between:
  1. A house put up in the 1960's by an experienced tradesman with quality materials, and
  2. A house put up in the 1980's by a jackleg builder who was frantically slapping everything together in the middle of a housing boom - most of which housing starts falling to pieces in the 2000's due to leaks causing the guts of the house to rot and fall apart
By which point the bloody jackleg builder has long ago closed his business down, only to open up another one under a new trading name. Want to bet that the quality of building done is any better than the shit that's already falling apart?

I wish I could shake the hand of the tradesman who put my house together. It's 50 years on, a little maintenance (new longline iron roof), a little bit of upgrading (air conditioning), and still going strong. Built like a brick shithouse, in a time when the idea was that it would stay in the family for generations.

So I live in a 50-year-old house with brick exterior and original matai wood floors that have been sanded and polished (that's a native New Zealand wood, fucking beautiful). While my parents live in a semi-modern 1985 house with fibrolite exterior and wool carpet with disintegrating rubber underlay, laid over fucking particle board - which is so soft and rots so easily that you could just about piss a hole through it.
Quality. Shines. Through.

Except when you're blind, dumb, and stupid.


  1. Regarding power tools, they are good to use only when you don't forget to use your head as well. :) I use a handle operated drill stand to control the hole depth, if possible. If it's too difficult to maneuver the drilled part under it, then there is still the depth gauge in the drill handle as the safety measure (I know it doesn't help much if you drill diagonally to the surface). BPS, any electric drill that can be also used as a screwdriver allows low RPM drilling (preferably ones with a slider or wheel speed setting), so I fail to see the problem here.

    If you have bought a manual drill, why didn't you go for one like in the photo linked below?
    I have one as a hand-me-down from my father and use it when too far from a socket to use a cord extension reel.

    1. Hadn't thought of trying the screwdriver-drill. Will give it a go with some scrap, though I'm picking that the safeties will just make it judder. They're not high-torque things.

      Have never seen a drill like the one you linked. Interesting. I will keep an eye out.

    2. The drill type from the photo has a gearbox inside, which serves the same purpose as the transmission in a vehicle, trading revolution speed for power.

  2. Eduardo the Magnificent8 January 2016 at 17:26

    It's easy to get away with low quality when the products are obsolete 6 months after you buy it. I'd be curious to know the average job life of someone holding an H-1B visa is. I bet they're trained for only one gen, then let go immediately after new versions come out. Truly a throw away culture, in every sense of the word.

    1. The H-1B is for 3 years, optionally extendable for another 3 years - maximum. Supposedly they are meant to have the equivalent of a bachelor's degree or experience in the work similar.

      Which is a great way of sponging off another country's training-programs. Assuming that it's not some fake internet degree mill.