The Easy Way or the Hard Way

Both as a company and as an individual, we are often confronted with a choice – develop a program the easy way or the hard way. Occasionally, the easy way is the right way – think of Leonardo da Vinci’s quote “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” However, it is more often the case that the right way is harder, requires more time to develop, and can be more complicated.

In my line of work, we have to endeavor to create software the right way, while staying in budget, on time, and satisfying requirements that may be changing and yet unforgiving. Coupled with the fact that we are delivering to customers who are relentless in demanding bulletproof solutions that can hold up under the demands of 24/7 manufacturing, the pressure can be intense to say the least.

It is in this environment that choosing the right way is not really a choice, but a way of doing business. This will keep our customers coming back because we provide a solution that just works.

The latest example of this comes over three years after installing a high-volume production functional test. When we started this project, we had a choice of network architecture, and we chose the hard but more reliable way that removed the Windows PC as a critical link in production, and put a National Instruments CompactRIO at the heart of a completely headless functional test system. This allowed the production line to continue running if the PC is down. A few weeks ago, this architecture was put to the test when the PC hard drive failed prematurely and the PC crashed. It took around 24 hours for IT to get a new drive, re-image the PC, and bring it back online. During that time, the cRIO ran as normal, buffering up data to be downloaded. Once online, the PC re-linked, synchronized, and downloaded the day’s worth of data.

Because we chose to develop this application the right way, production didn’t miss a beat – and in this business, that is everything.