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Engineering word of the week: Benchmarking
Pawl Bearing posted on September 14, 2010 | | 7906 views
A few years ago, when you could still use the words 'frills' and 'engineering' in the same sentence, I was invited to a mass benchmark session. This involved 5 brand new competitors' vehicles of the same class that were sliced, drawn and quartered. The entrails were then displayed on tables for experts in the different commodities to compare and be inspired with. There was also another of each of the same 5 vehicles that was left intact for engineers to be able to assess performance. I miss those days.

Nowadays when we want to benchmark a system, we just rent the car we want. Then, we are let down by the airbox that is blocking the module we want to probe. So engineers do what they have to do and remove a few screws and with a little forceful persuasion and a mallet, out comes the airbox. Invariably, under the airbox there's a plastic panel that still blocks our access but we can't remove it unless we disconnect the air hose. OK so you get the point. By the time we get to the module, there's a pile of 15 components, 58 screws and 4 springs next to the rental car. The performance of the module is never as obvious as we'd originally thaught so we close shop for the day. After a night of reading a brief history of time, our memory of the sequence of disassembly is warped, so the next day Alex argues "Nope Pawl, the bracket goes in after the cowl." Pawl replies "I don't think so and why are you still holding the spring that goes in before the booster bolt?"
Luckily, in this round of benchmarking, we manage to get the car back together and I don't think those 2 remaining springs were needed anyway.