12 – Engineering Miracle


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(Two engineers run into each other in the hallway of their consumer products company.) 

Julie: “Hey, Jim. Congrats on winning the Best Product Design award this year! Very impressive! How’d you get it?” 

Jim: “Thanks, Julie! Well, you know that popular face cream we sell?”

Julie: “The ‘Smooth as a Baby’s Butt’ face cream?” 

Jim: “Precisely.” 

Julie: “Sure. I know all about it. I worked on the original design. Very proud of it! I particularly like the applicator pump. I made it so easy to use. You can smoothly disburse any quantity you want. Even tiny amounts come out perfectly.”

Jim: “Well, ah, actually that’s how I won the award.” 

Julie: “Oh, I see. Further improvements, eh? What feature did you redesign? Bottle shape? Cream color? Texture?” 

Jim: “Well, ah, no… It was the pump, actually.”

Julie: “What? The pump? That pump was perfect! It couldn’t possibly work any better! How could you win an award for that?” 

Jim: “Uh, well I didn’t exactly improve it. I, ah, made it worse.”

Julie: “What? You ruined my beautiful pump?” 

Jim: “I made it spurt.” 

Julie: “Huh?” 

Jim: “Yeah, I made it so that you can no longer pump out small amounts. The minute you touch the pump, it spurts out a big fat glob.” 

Julie: “Why on earth would you do that? You know, that cream is very expensive!” 

Jim: “Well, the cost was the whole point. Your pump worked too well. My pump spurts out globs instead, so the product gets consumed faster. Sales are up ten percent!” 

Julie: “Ten percent? Wow, that’s a lot of money.”

Jim: “Millions of dollars, actually.” 

Julie: “So, let me get this straight. You intentionally ruined my perfectly fine pump to create a defective pump so that our customers would be forced to use more of our product? And for that, you won the Best Product Design award?” 

Jim: “Along with a $20,000 bonus.” 

Julie: “How do you sleep at night?” 

Jim: “Haha. I stuff my pillow with thousands of dollar bills. Sleep like a baby. By the way, didn’t you win the award last year?” 

Julie: “Yes indeed! Got a nice bonus, too!” 

Jim: “And what did you design?” 

Julie: “Well, I created this beautiful new bottle. Very aesthetically pleasing. So sleek! Our consumers love it!”

Jim: “And what was the impetus for the design change?” 

Julie: “Well, management wanted to reduce our 10 ounce Fizzy Pina Colada drink to 9 ounces. So, they asked me to come up with a bottle design that makes it appear to contain the same 10 ounces as before. Plus, I had to slightly reduce the text size of the contents.” 

Jim: “So, you redesigned the bottle’s appearance to provide the illusion that the volume was the same, thus misleading the customer? And, to make matters worse, you reduced the size of the already tiny text that said 10 ounces to an even tinier 9 ounces?”

Julie: “Gee, you make it sound so crass. The new design really is elegant!” 

Jim: “Sure, sure.” 

Julie: “Isn’t modern technology great? With computer assisted design software to create deceptive containers and faulty pumps, we can increase our profits to the moon! There’s no stopping us! We’re only limited by our own imaginations!” 

Jim: “Yes indeed. God bless modern technology!”

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