Iain Cameron's Diary
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2004-01-21 - 6:56 a.m.

A hectic pace of life the last couple of days. I am attending a course in Leamington on the Global Automotive Quality Standard at the Smallpiece Engineering Education Centre. Smallpiece was a Cambridge classics graduate who was gassed at the front in the First World War. As he recovered he taught himself engineering drawing and then made a fortune by developing novel machine tools. He retired in 1966 and set up a charity to promote engineering which has a mid 19th century house over looking the river at the posh end of Leamington.

The course is very hard work – yesterday it started at 8.30am and didn’t finish until after 6.00pm with only a half an hour for lunch. The members are an interesting cross section of the UK automotive industry. If you saw them in a pub you’d think of them as just an average mix – mostly male from late 20s to early 60s. But they have an amazing breadth and depth of practical knowledge in precision volume manufacturing One of the people on my table has come into the industry from high volume high value electronics which is just great from my point of view.

We were frying our brains yesterday on Measurement Systems Analysis – the different kinds of errors that you get on gauges – bias, repeatability, creep, operator variations etc. And then we also did a lot of work on auditing product realisation processes especially Design and Process Failure Mode Effect Analysis (FMEA). FMEA is a risk control technique – you think of the way that something might fail, the probability of failure, the consequences of failure, the effectiveness of the countermeasures. You score each aspect and multiply the scores together to get an overall value. You use these values as a priority system in error proofing. If its used properly it’s a massively powerful tool – and its deployment is one of the reasons why cars need less servicing and repair these days – or why Robin’s and Peter Chatterton’s Hondas just keep on going. I am doing the course as an input to my bit of the Cambridge Automotive Leaders product development that Keith is co-ordinating at our end.

The course is meant to lead to a qualification – but I think I may have to skip that part – I can always do it later with the people from our organisation who deliver the course. I am going to the University of Hertfordshire this afternoon to listen to their experience with Formula Student. FS is a global competition whereby students all over the world design and build racing cars within a tight specification regime to equalise any local advantages. Just before Christmas we interviewed the Warwick University team and got some very good data for the design of a product called the Graduate Bootcamp.

The Bootcamp is being put together by Bob who is on secondment from BMW Hams Hall – a plant he helped set up. BMW wanted to establish the most advanced engine plant in the world and so there was a largescale workforce development programme put in place which he oversaw. Stefan, Keith and I are helping with aspects of the design – my end is mainly market and policy analysis.

I had a long conversation with Laurence last night – his son’s EP is nearly finished. The band is a guitar and drums duo – Winnebago Deal – who have supported a lot of prestige US acts. I believe they toured with the Foo Fighters. We decided to have another half term day spree in Oxford next month. I said I enjoyed the Nobel prize winner lecture as much as I enjoyed anything in 2003.

I am still listening to Head Hunters. Keith has given me a vid of Friday’s BBC4 Cage concert.

I got an e-mail from Richard Jones who was in the Climax Blues Band . I was once in a band in Cambridge with him, Paul Bell and Fred Frith. He was good friends with Peter Ackroyd who went on to be a bit of a literary figure. Anyway his daughter is at Birmingham University and is doing a dissertation on radical social and political movements and musical innovation. He sent me her questionnaire which I had fun filling in.

Some where is the middle of all of this I managed to get some Dhorn-Airsynth material down.

Gavin wrote from the DTI.

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