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You know Murphy? So do I.

In manufacturing, we reference things like “Murphy will get you” or “Murphy’s Law” when describing unpredictable results and scenarios after they occur. Well, who is this infamous Murphy person that we have all met on occasion, collectively despise, but humbly reference with a degree of respect? Can we avoid meeting him? If Wikipedia has it right, this Murphy person was Edward Aloysius Murphy Jr.

“Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong."

I think the nostalgia and reputation of this Capt. Ed Murphy is quite interesting and the fluidity using his namesake. If you are a producer of aluminum, Murphy has shown up as a 100-year storm the day of a planned annual outage on outdoors transformers feeding your facilities. Murphy has shown up playing Bingo, where you got all of the I’s in a row, but the game playing this time is only using the diagonal. Murphy shows up everywhere, but there are ways to minimize the frequency of Murphy showing up. I believe there is a direct correlation between effective planning and the probability of Murphy making an appearance. Murphy is not that co-worker you want on a critical job, so we must find ways to avoid him. Let’s consider one.

I recently stumbled across a website when searching for themes and initiatives when working on strategies to implement “design for reliability.” It was a list of the 113 Murphy’s Law of Combat, and number 12 made me reflect for a moment of the times I have been in a similar “oh no!” position.

12. Never forget that your weapon was made by the lowest bidder.

We can all relate to an experience in manufacturing when the present scenario is not optimal for the strategy at hand. Consider an example of your procurement strategies, where there are occasions where you don’t always want “three bids and a buy to the lowest.” Because when you need that resource at a critical time, you sometimes conclude that what you have is not optimal for the current situation.

To minimize the frequency of meeting Murphy in this scenario, we need to ensure that we are designing for the reliability that is expected. We need to play out a list of scenarios that we could face or have shown we have faced in the past, and have acceptable mitigations in place. Pictorially, these are all of the critical actions to the left of the x-y intersection of a PF curve. We can’t plan for everything, but we can plan for scenarios that have an increased probability to occur. There are times we want to select the “lowest bidder,” but there are other times where we require the latter.

We must accept that Murphy always wants to join in on the fun and to avoid the inevitable “anything that can go wrong, will go wrong” requires that we have to remain nimble. To be a world-class manufacturing company, we have to remain in a position to disrupt contentment. If we catch ourselves complacent in producing products or implementing processes, Murphy will inevitably come snooping into our business. We have to challenge scenarios when purchasing a product, or we have to plan scenarios when planning outages. Murphy will show up, but the challenge is to minimize the frequency of him disrupting your plans.


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