Diminishing returns

I caught a glimpse of an advertisement on television the other day which grabbed my attention. As I don’t own a TV (through choice), seeing advertisements are a rarity. So as a mechanical engineer, this particular advertisement for an electric folding rear seat in an SUV had me intrigued and got me thinking. I have had a number of cars with folding rear seats; they operate off a single button, the seat mechanism releases and you fold the seat down, or even more effectively, you pull the loop to bring the seat forward. I use this particular feature about once a year, maybe. So I was a little confused as to why a business would add additional wiring, motors, weight, complexity, and more things to go wrong, into a car as an option that will cost the end user more time, on the one occasion per year that you need it. Maybe some people fold down their rear seats down every other day, I don’t know, but I subscribe to the KISS principle of keeping everything simple. I have seen business’s spend thousands of dollars for a custom solution to a problem they did not even have, as a result of bad specifications provided for a project. The concept of Pareto applies here as it does in so many other places. What systems can we build for the 20% cost that will get 80% of the result? At what point do we stop adding options that are making a system more and more complicated for a diminishing return of functionality?

The idea of a robust effective and efficient streamlined system is what we are aiming for. An additional feature to a product just for the sake of it, this is not conducive to good business practice. Consideration needs to be given to not just the extra risk associated with over complication, but the additional training for staff, the additional documentation and compliance and the additional cost of implementation. From a vehicle perspective, it gets engineered once and rolled out many times. In your business, that custom widget only ever gets engineered once as a singular product at great cost. Is this really worth the return on investment? Not everything can be automated, however if they can be, then do so. Otherwise, ensure that you have clear documentation and training for the tasks that need to be manually fulfilled.

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