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You know Murphy? So do I.

Updated: Jul 9, 2023


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." Murphy's First Law

I think the nostalgia and reputation of this Capt. Ed Murphy is quite interesting and the fluidity using his namesake. Murphy has shown up as a 100-year storm on the day of a planned annual outage on outdoor transformers feeding your facilities. Murphy has shown up playing Bingo, where you got a complete row, but the game playing this time wins on a 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 a “design for reliability.” It was a list of the 113 Murphy’s Law of Combat, and number 12 made me reflect for a moment on the times I have been in a similar “oh no!” position.

12. Never forget that your weapon was made by the lowest bidder. - Murphy's Law of Combat Operations

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 must ensure that we are designing for expected reliability. We need to play out scenarios that we could face or have shown we have faced in the past, and have acceptable mitigations in place. Pictorially, you may consider these as the critical actions to the left of the y-axis on a PF curve. We cannot plan for everything, but we can plan for scenarios that have the probability to occur.

We must accept that Murphy always wants to join in on the fun. We must acknowledge that “anything that can go wrong, will go wrong." To be a world-class manufacturing company, we must disrupt contentment and demand nimbleness. If we catch ourselves complacent in producing products or implementing processes, Murphy will snoop into our business.

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