Monday, 22 February 2016

Inspecting millions of items

This is a management problem without an obvious solution.  In the U.K., private motor vehicles must - by law - pass a test each year.  It is called the "MOT test", and people talk about "going for the MOT", even though the Ministry Of Transport (MOT) is now the DVLA (




What the test covers

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Measuring is not (necessarily) controlling

We refer to it as "Big Brother".  Our electricity utility company has replaced our consumption meter with a smart meter, which can be interrogated remotely, removing the need for an official to come and read the meter every three or six months.  They told us that the old unit was out-of-date.  In the conversation about when to replace the meter, I was asked what the mobile phone strength was like by the meter; I answered that I never had tried to make mobile phone calls from underneath the stairs in our house.  (There is a good signal under the stairs on one phone network - not the one that we use!)
Part of the deal with the replacement meter is that we were given a smart monitor.  This interrogates the meter several times each minute and indicates our usage of electricity, with a three-colour light (green, amber, red for increased usage) and with a segmented dial with the same colours.  It also indicates the usage for different periods of time.  Default is the cost of electricity since midnight, so I am getting used to coming down to the kitchen each morning to find that Big Brother tells me that we have used 12 pence worth of electricity so far.  This comes from the background usage - clocks, freezer, refrigerator, central heating pump, radios on standby, chargers, and about 2 pence for the first kettle of the day for a pot of tea as we wake up. 
We do not have the toy!  The blue sectors are for those who monitor gas use as well as electric
We have both muttered "Measuring is not controlling" because there are comparatively few ways that we can reduce the amount of electricity that we use.  Nonetheless, we haven't turned Big Brother off yet, because it is interesting to watch the costs rise during the day, and associate activities (microwave on, thermostat on the electric iron reaching operating temperature) with changes to the light and sector dial.  And maybe we do not now boil too much water because each litre boiled costs 2 pence.
But, in the wider world, monitoring and measurement can be a good first step to controlling; so good O.R. may start with monitoring to obtain a series of appropriate measurements