Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The More Things Change...

One of the joys of advanced age is watching things published and called “innovative” which were standard practice when you were younger. A few years ago some company proudly announced that it had adopted the “innovative” practice of including production management in the design of its products, so that cost of production could be a design consideration.

A control panel was cited as an example, in which five different fasteners were being used in assembly and production suggested that the same fastener could be used throughout. This would save the assembler time, since he could use a single tool and would not have to be picking up and putting down tools while assembling the panel on the assembly line. The cost savings were substantial.

My question was, why in the hell were five different fasteners ever specified in the first place? Rather than bragging about reducing the design to a single fastener, they should have been embarrassed by the original design. In my day production cost was always a design consideration, so when and why did it ever cease to be? This firm was thrilled by the idea of returning to a practice that was standard forty years earlier.

Now, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune, hospitals are discovering that healing is promoted by comfort, and are designing hospitals to provide patients with an “oversized suite-style room with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking tranquil gardens or rolling green hills.” Awesome.

Not to burst their bubble or anything, but Tucson Medical Center was doing that thirty years ago, and it was not new at the time; it was something they had been doing for decades. My father was being treated for cancer there, and his room had sliding glass doors that opened onto a landscaped patio so that his bed could be rolled out for him to enjoy the sun, as did all rooms in the hospital.

TMC was founded as a sanitorium for treating Tuberculosis, back when that disease was treatable only with palliative care and the desert climate was considered the best venue for doing so. As it morphed into a full care and fully modern hospital, it maintained the atmosphere of comfortable care, and its example was emulated rather widely until medical care became centered on profit rather than healing.

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