in the cockpit

Wow! I just piloted a British Aerospace 146 on a flight out of Manchester, over Macclesfield and back into Manchester. On a simulator. The experience was frighteningly real – even including the juddering of the wheels on the runway during take-off and cars on the motorway.

My knees are still very wobbly…

paradise mill

Monday was a public holiday in the UK. We had a typical British summer’s day – watery sunshine interspersed with periods of torrential rain. We needed to keep the kids occupied somewhere new and somewhere indoors, so we decided to visit Paradise Mill. Macclesfield used to be a leading centre for the manufacture of silk garments, and Paradise Mill is a fully restored working Victorian silk mill. The exhibits are great, and the tour is terrific – the kids got to try some of the work that their counterparts (they’re aged 8 and 6) would have been doing in the 1820s!

On the wall at one end of the main weaving room was a notice from the mill’s owners, entitled “Don’t pass on faults”. The mill workers were all paid according to the amount of work they did each week – for example the loom operators were paid a penny or two for each inch of completed, perfect silk cloth. The notice pointed out that any worker who did a faulty piece of work should fix it themselves, and not allow it to be found by the next worker in the process. Faulty work, the notice advised, slows down your co-workers (and so reduces their pay), slows you down (and so reduces your pay) and may create a bad impression on customers (resulting in loss of business and therefore less pay for everyone). The impact was stated just like that – baldly in financial terms.

I remembered reading that the same philosophy held in the 1920s in the Toyoda Spinning and Weaving works. But instead of writing a notice, the mill’s owner Toyoda Sakichi implemented a series of failsafe devices that automatically stopped the looms if they detected a fault. In this mill it was near impossible to pass on a fault. And this became one of the pillars of lean production – pursuit of perfect quality makes the whole process faster and more predictable.

As we know, test-driven development and the daily build help to do this for software development. A while back a very senior manager in a large multi-national dismissed my efforts to improve the agility of a group of software projects: “No defects at all? You’re living in a dreamland!” Paradise Mill, anyone?

major incident store

A couple of weeks ago we had to take Rose into the Accident & Emergency unit of the local hospital, with a broken leg. After a very efficient consultation process we had to leave Rose overnight in the Children’s Ward, which is just down the corridor behind A&E. On our way, we passed a room with Major Incident Store on the door. I wonder what it contains! Train wrecks? Burning buildings? Tornadoes? …

silkmen vs bears

The first pre-season friendly this year was a rain-soaked affair, and saw a very strong Macc side put five past a depleted and tiring Congleton team. The new Silkmen set-up looks impressive, particularly with the surprise inclusion of Johnny Miles as a midfielder. (I have to admit that I suspected this before the game. The Silkmen have been doing a fair amount of training this summer at the Macclesfield athletics track, which means I can watch them from my office. Last Wednesday I watched an 11-a-side practice game in which Miles was tried in midfield and Danny Whit played at right wing-back.)

With the strong new signings (Tony Barras was excellent yesterday), and with Brian Horton in charge and bringing his wealth of experience, we’re very optimistic for the coming season. We talked with chairman Rob Bickerton just before yesterday’s game and he also seems excited with the changes made at the Moss in the last few months.

I’m really looking forward to our family holiday in Scotland during August, but it does mean we’ll miss the first two games of the season… :(