Story: Computers Should Automate Tedious Tasks

Do you find yourself becoming a slave to the computer? That is not how it is supposed to be. This is the first of a new series of articles where I share some of my life lessons; I hope you enjoy and benefit from them.

A very long time ago, I was working in a small manufacturing company. As one of the few engineers in the building, I got called upon to solve a lot of tricky problems. The company specialized in building custom electronics components that all had to be tested, so we built a lot of test jigs for the production line.

I spent a year or two building test jigs, all the while helping to set them up as there were hundreds of different products in the line daily. I realized there were a lot of similarities between the tests and the equipment, so I designed and built a rack of test equipment that could easily be changed over from one product to another.

At the heart of the rack was an Apple II Plus computer (I told you this was a very long time ago). It used an Applesoft BASIC program to switch between tests. The program started from a simple button press and would end with a simple Pass/Fail indication for the operator.
The operators immediate loved the rack, because it meant they didn’t need to learn how to read all the strange equipment we used that changed from one product to another. The supervisors loved it because it was so fast to setup, they could switch between products several times in a shift and saved a lot of downtime.

After writing a number of test programs, I realized they were all very similar as well, so I wrote a program that actually wrote the test programs using a few simple statements. That saved me a lot of repetitive work and made it possible to hand the task off to other staff. This was my first real automation project, and I was struck by the power of the computer to automate hours and hours of work, and how easy life became for so many people. This is the reason computers were created – to help people do tedious work faster.

This life lesson has followed me throughout my career, where I continued to explore so many ways that new and evolving technology can be leveraged to simplify people’s work and free up their time. Time and time again, I discovered that people were easily overwhelmed by the technology that was supposed to help them. And time and time again, I discovered there were ways to leverage the computer to simplify and automate the work.

This is the core purpose of the Analytics Edge business – to simplify and automate tedious reporting tasks. I feel like I have been practicing for this my whole life. If you find yourself becoming a slave to the computer, pause and ask yourself why the computer isn’t working for you.