Knowing the environment, or being aware of your surroundings, is key to many a task. It’s at least one of the ways we express the importance of having all the information we need in order to reach a goal.

Take for instance George Costanza. In one episode of “Seinfeld,” while trying to secure a job—and the best possible situation within that job—George encounters several conversations in which someone says to him, “of course, you are aware that…”  and are interrupted before they can finish their thought. George consequently makes some bad decisions resulting from not having the information contained at the end of that sentence, including undue stress, public embarrassment, and, ultimately, the loss of the job.

Speaking of undue stress, our surroundings have a tremendous effect on our well-being and survival. According to the article, “What Impact Does the Environment Have on Us?,” from the University of Minnesota, “Since the earliest times, humans have needed to be sensitive to their surroundings to survive, which means that we have an innate awareness of our environment and seek out environments with certain qualities.” This includes seeking environments that are safe, secure, physically comfortable, and psychologically comfortable.

The article goes on to tell us that, “retailers and the hospitality industry know this very well and try to provide an atmosphere that creates a positive customer experience and offers three important attributes: comfort, safety, and entertainment. These attributes are equally important in healthcare as well.”

And speaking of our well-being, the importance of knowing our surroundings also extends to less controllable environments, like the modern battlefield. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine’s “Tactical Display for Soldiers: Human Factors Considerations” devotes considerable pages to what is called Situation Awareness, describing it as “a critical element of successful performance in the combat environment.” The treatise continues, “The battlefield poses a variety of challenges to situation awareness: information overload, nonintegrated data, rapidly changing information, and a high degree of uncertainty brought on by lack of needed information. Overcoming these problems is a major goal of the Land Warrior System. Evaluating the degree to which proposed system designs actually provide benefits to situation awareness and help the soldier to think and act quickly, however, is a critical issue that needs to be addressed through careful design testing.”

In other words, careful assessment of the situation. This is of particular interest in our industry where technology must adhere not only to the environments and needs of the manufacturing floor, but also common sense. Although hypocryphal, it conjures a story of another government undertaking, the space program. It is said that during the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. Careful consideration of the environment of outer space and its effect on the technology and tools of a mission to space led the U.S. to invest substantially in developing a pen that would write in the zero-gravity of space. And the punchline…the Russian cosmonauts used a pencil.

For a just-as-effective, and more truthful, assessment of the environmental challenges of today’s manufacturing operations, check out “Faster, High Tech Machines Demand Enhanced Safety Precautions,” “ISO 9001:2015 Implementation: The Good, the Bad and the Trending,” and everything else we have to offer in this month’s Quality.

Enjoy and thanks for reading!