Manufacturing is interesting

Philip Morgan

Manufacturing is interesting because, well, it just is, but also because it is the source of so many software development concepts. Things like Lean, for example, borrow lots of concepts from the world of physical manufacturing.

BTW, this article on how to design software teams is super interesting: This is also a great example of “point of view content”. You could strongly agree/disagree with it, which makes it polarizing. Polarizing doesn’t mean ranting and foaming at the mouth like Alex Jones. It means having a perspective with which folks could strongly agree/disagree, and having done the thinking or research or testing necessary to support your perspective.

Tile-making—which might make you think of subway tiles in a bathroom but if that’s all you think of my god are you thinking small compared to what this industry can do with porcelain!—is a continuous manufacturing operation (vs. discrete manufacturing, ie: assembling components into a system or finished product) that begins with a drum as long as a semi trailer that turns mined clay into a fine powder, then into a slurry, and then it gets stamped into plates with this press as big as a cement mixer turned upright that then get further processed into tiles, slabs, and sheets of extremely hard, extremely durable, extremely beautiful building material.



A 19mm thick porcelain flooring tile can support something like 2,500 lbs. As Elwood Blues would say… strong stuff!

Like the steel industry in America, technology has changed things in the tile-making industry in Spain. A 2-stage firing process used to be standard.

Products would make two passes through these huge long electric kilns. One pass, then a lengthy cooling time, then another pass, followed by another lengthy final cooling period.

Naturally, those that figured out how to compress this into a single stage gained several kinds of advantages.

Oh, and this is fun: the kiln throws off all kinds of waste heat, which the more efficiency-minded factories harvest and use to run a steam turbine that powers factory lighting, etc. The one we toured produces enough electricity that way that they sometimes feed a portion back into the grid.

Not to make this about me, but you can tell: I find technology in all its manifestations fascinating. In positioning terms, that’s a horizontal “position”. But I focus on the audience of software developers (a “vertical” in positioning terms) because your industry is so powerful, immature, fast-moving, and has such incredible potential for good.

This kind of interest and enthusiasm are powerful. That can be powerful enough to overcome limitations in access or credibility.

Normally when specializing, you’ll want to find an advantage—a head start of some kind—in terms of expertise, access, or credibility.

But if you lack those things, then an advantage in terms of interest or enthusiasm are your next best options for leading you towards a specialization. Of course you’ll have to put in more work, but if you’re operating in close alignment with your interest and enthusiasm, it’ll be enjoyable work.

The first workshop in Specialization School is a simple, systematic process for finding your personal advantage and helping you decide to focus there so you can build on that advantage.

More info: /specialization-school/part-1-decision-making-workshop/

The next group begins October 10. Seems like forever away, but it isn’t. I bet you—like me—have stuff you planned to get done in 2018 that’s still on a TODO list somewhere.

Don’t let deciding to focus your business and gain an advantage be something that lingers on a TODO list for another year.