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MMD > Archives > November 2009 > 2009.11.13 > 08Prev  Next

Perflex Pouches
By Peter Neilson

How to make bad plastic materials.

My wife, a quality engineer, used to work at a factory that made

plasticized rubber.  Some batches were good, and some were bad and got

rejected.  By using a derivative of Marx's labor theory of value, those

bad batches were judged to contain the value of the work that had been

put into making them, even though they failed the tests.  So the company

in its wisdom called those batches "Category 3" and put them into the

warehouse for later use.

The idea was that you could add 10 or 15 percent of "Cat 3" to a good

batch and still have usable material, thus preserving the "value" that

went into making the bad batch.  Sort of like a winemaker pouring a bit

of bad vinegar into each batch of wine.  Often the result was a whole

new batch of Cat 3.  The warehouse filled up with Cat 3.

It's my suspicion that the people making Perflex had (or still have)

similar issues floating around in their Quality Control (QC)

department.  They know how to make the stuff right, but there is the

issue of what to do with the off-spec material.  My wife has been fired

more than once for failure to approve bad material.  Other QC engineers

have taken a more pragmatic approach.

Perhaps there are actual grades of Perflex, and the low-quality kind

gets sold to unsuspecting customers as being the better kind?  That has

happened with Grade-5 and Grade-8 bolts, where it was discovered that

if you made Grade-2 bolts but put Grade-5 or Grade-8 "-" marks on them

you could command a much higher price.  Who cares if an airplane falls

from the sky?

Peter Neilson

 [ I worked at Lockheed, on military airplanes, and we cared.  Parts

 [ and materials that were received from vendors without government

 [ certification were sent to Incoming Inspection, where the new

 [ material was checked against a previously negotiated Source Control

 [ Specification and/or Process Specification.  Then, if the vendor

 [ changed the product, the inspector would discover the problem before

 [ the material went to the storeroom or the factory floor.  -- Robbie

(Message sent Fri 13 Nov 2009, 20:40:18 GMT, from time zone GMT-0500.)

Key Words in Subject:  Perflex, Pouches

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