Quality Magazine

From the Editor: Working Smarter, Not Harder

July 31, 2012
Poignant adage or misplaced catchphrase?



Working smarter, not harder. Whether you like it or hate it, it’s a familiar adage. It’s a catchphrase for prioritizing and systemizing a process to make it more efficient and productive. Some argue that doing so takes more time and effort and the phrase would be more accurate if it were complementary, working smarter and harder. Others, more pessimistic, have commented that with some tasks, no matter how much you streamline a workflow, “six gallons of water is never going to fit into a five gallon bucket.”

I first heard this phrase some 15 years ago. I was in the waiting room of an automotive repair shop having my car looked at. Another customer having his car serviced made note of how efficiently the mechanic moved about his vehicle-no wasted movement, totally focused, with all the tools he needed seemingly at the ready. He commented that the mechanic moved with the precision of a surgeon.

Think of one man moving a pile of bricks from the back of a truck to the corner of a work site, one brick at a time. This man could work harder, carrying as many bricks as he can, moving as fast as he can. He is working harder, but there are limitations to his brawn and stamina. Also think of how the man could work “smarter.” He could be inclined to take the straightest route from the truck to his destination and he may attempt to pull and pile the bricks for optimal efficiency.

After tackling his task numerous times, he may begin to see a need to lighten the physical burdens of the job and-necessity being the mother of invention, after all-builds and employs a tool to increase his efficiency and lighten the load. Perhaps it’s a wheel barrow, then a forklift and pallet system, and finally a crane capable of lifting the entire pile of bricks from the truck and placing it at the work site.

This could very well be an analogy for the progress of knowledge and technology that has taken place in countless industries over the years. Henry Ford is accredited with revolutionizing mass production with the assembly line. Today, robotics has further increased the efficiency and production in the automotive sector. Like Rodney Dangerfield, some technologies, like the wheel barrow, don’t get the respect they deserve with the proliferation of modern technology, but remain the tool of choice for many tasks. Still, the knowledge and experience of the technician remains the greatest tool for efficiency for countless projects across a host of industries.

It may seem odd to reference Henry Ford and Rodney Dangerfield in the same breath, but this month’s Quality offers the wisdom of both. Rodney could easily relate to the plight of air gages and Henry embraced the principles of green manufacturing way back in the early 1900s, so learn “All About Air Gages” and how they deserve our respect with this month’s Quality 101 and see how green manufacturing has progressed in the auto industry with Michelle Bangert’s feature, “The Green Advantage.” Also, check out how there is no substitute for the technician’s eye for making color judgments in our “Colors, Colors, Colors” measurement feature.

Enjoy and thanks for reading!