“Why” Is The Most Interesting Question

Every day we ask and answer a multitude of questions.  They all have one of the W’s at their core (Who, What, Why, Where, and When).  My kids know which one of these is the most interesting and valuable.  WHY.  Why this?  Why that? Why? Why? Why?  As annoying as it is to answer a 10x string of “Why Daddy?” I understand the need to know. 

You can’t plan and organize your life if you don’t understand why things happen.  Why people react the way they do.  Why systems work and why they might fail.  In order to thrive and understand their world, kids need to know why things are the way they are.  We can translate this to ourselves personally and to the process industry.  Below are some of the important “Why” questions that I ask myself and the associated answers (as of today.  Always pending change.)  Maybe you will have different answers or better questions.  If you do, please add them to the comments. 

Why seek outside council?

I fancy myself a Jack of All Trades – Master of Some.  We are all good at some things and not others.  There is no way to become proficient at absolutely every skill and well versed in every discipline.  If you can learn to accept that your time is better spent on the things you are truly good at or truly enjoy, you will come to the conclusion that delegating that expertise to others is a good thing.  That way everyone can be as productive as possible and things run smoothly.  When designing a plant or process, seek the help of those who work on the component systems regularly and ask them for advice.  For that matter, ask your operators and maintenance people how they would like to interact and maintain the systems before implementing changes.  An operator that has been running a portion of the plant for 20 years is an expert on running the plant.  Even if changes are necessary, their input is valuable and will help avoid pitfalls later. 

Why work to optimize a process?

Sometimes good enough is good enough.  Sometimes it is not.  It takes time to examine a system and determine how efficient it is.  Once you know where you are currently, you can evaluate whether or not you could improve.  If you can improve, how much time and money will it take to get where you want?  If your time and money investment will pay for itself and more, then go for it!  Improve that process!

Why is this not working?

This is one of my favorites.  Whether debugging code, fixing the car, or figuring out why my process can no longer maintain it’s temperature setpoint identifying a problem and taking the steps to troubleshoot is so much fun.  Being able to logically step through a process and get the answer is very gratifying.  Getting the answer to this “Why” is the best.

Why did this fail?

This one is similar to the above, but I see this as a root cause analysis rather than a system fix.  You may fix the problem over and over, but it keeps breaking.  That is a waste of time and resources.  Why not determine the root cause of the failure and fix that and prevent the failures from reoccurring?  The answers to these “Whys” can have massive paybacks.

Why ask why?

I can’t help myself.

Why call me?

Call us because we can help.  We love process control.  We are experts in instrumentation, valves, analytical, and heat trace.  You’re good at running your plant and we’re good at specifying and designing instrument and control systems.  Leave a comment below if you made it this far.