The Challenge of Communication

rotary_phoneRecently I attended the Collaboration & Interoperability Congress in Colorado Springs. The annual event attracts those interested in discussing things like LOTAR, MBD, MBE, PMI and the state of industry standards. Whether you recognize those acronyms or not the common connection is one of “communication”. What is desired is a way to communicate so that both sides, really all sides, understand exactly, unequivocally, what the other side is telling them. Nothing should be open to interpretation or the results could range from re-work to disastrous. While the communication problem seems straightforward, the solution is not. Just like when we communicate between spoken languages through a translator, we get the words right, but the cultural meaning is lost. I recently told a French colleague to sum up an issue in a “nutshell”. He was happy to learn, after googling “in a nutshell”, he did not have to find an actual nutshell.

Another challenge is to be able to hold that information in a way that can be accessible and understandable at any time, now and in the future – maybe even 100+ years from now if you are an aircraft manufacturer under regulatory requirements. Imagine what words or phrases we know of today that will be meaningless in 100 years. Do your kids know what it really means to “dial a phone”, “play a record”, “white that out”, “roll the windows down” or “pass the clicker?”
In the world of manufacturing, as technology moves from drilling, milling and turning to additive manufacturing, will the terms we use today to describe manufacturing operations and processes be understandable or useful in the future?

Well, I am not going to pretend to have the answers. However, as we know, one way to improve communication, understanding and the longevity of information is to rely more on visual communication, rather than written communication. Regardless of changes in language, culture differences or manufacturing technology, an interactive 3D animation with links to supplemental data for, say, assembling a laptop computer, will be well understood for a long time to come. The laptop, however, due to new technologies and inevitable obsolescence, may not.

So, can you think of other obsolete phrases that we still use but confound our kids?


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