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news & opinion with no titillating non-news from the major non-news channels.


I am: progressive, not a wild-eyed Progressive; liberal, but shun liberals and Liberals; conservative, but some Conservatives worry me; absolutely NOT a libertarian. I am: an idealist, but no utopian; a pragmatist, but no Machiavellian. I am a realist who dreams.


I welcome all opinions.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

NYT:Union saves jobs:
   Automation loses

In the middle of yet another airline strike, one NYT
reporter bravely sacrifices credibility and comes
to the rescue to praise and laud the hard efforts
of people doing boring stupid jobs that machines
could do better and cheaper.

Ten years ago, the new Denver International Airport
marched boldly into the future with a computerized
baggage-handling system that immediately became
famous for its ability to mangle or misplace a good
portion of everything that wandered into its path.

"Automation always looks good on paper,"
said Veronica Stevenson, a lead baggage handler
for United Airlines and president of the union local
that represents United's 1,300 or so baggage
handlers in Denver.

"Sometimes you need real people."

That just burns my craw.


Blogger Jay Cline said...

As an automation analyst, righteous and indignant, I can tell you this article is not about automation, success or failure. Rather, it is a typical diatribe by a Luddite with a massive inferiority complex.

the brilliant machine that couldn't sort straight

befuddled computer

We're going back to the future

Sounds cute.

But it covers up, nay, completely disregards and ignores the fact that the people that this whole project needed is not the baggage handlers as the union claims, but people to properly plan, people to properly design, people to properly implement, people to properly operate the system.

And people to properly lead.

The plan obviously failed because of all the cost overruns. The article doesn't go beyond the gloat, but what drove the cost overruns?

Bad design?

Bad design that required re-engineering, like,

Sharp corners (that) were too much for the system to deal with. The whirring baggage carts, programmed to pick up and drop off bags in a perfectly coordinated ballet, often just tipped over and dumped their loads


the lizard tongue, formally known as a telescoping belt loader, which was designed to shoot out from the track system's maw directly to an airplane's luggage doors.

It, too, was a flop.,

Why? Why was it a flop?

And what about the leadership? We got a design company, BAE Automated Systems of Carrollton, Tex., which designed the system, has since been liquidated. Who selected them? What were the criteria? How did the selection process fail?

Our intrepid reporter doesn't go where he thinks no man should go.

In response to the union Luddite remark from lead baggage handler, Ms. Stevenson, I come back with two,

"Sometimes you need real competent people to build the automation" and "Sometimes you need real competent people to report the news" and "Sometimes you need real competent people in government to make competent decisions"


If the Wright Brothers had given up on their first attempts, we wouldn't need airports or airport baggage handlers.

I am not even going to go into the furry animal vs. scaly lizard debate that the reporter (and I use that moniker loosely) snidely alludes to, except to say, for those who know what I am saying, where is this LEM event that those little lemurs keep mewing about? Big Iron survived Gates, Big Iron survived Y2k. And IBM is starting to steal it all back.

This lemurish reporter trips himself up, though. In trumpeting praise on John Henrys like lead baggage handler Veronica Stevenson (union, of course), in praising decentralization and mobile technology over big-brained mainframe doing it all from command central, he extols with undulating adoration the success of companies like FedEx and their ability to,

with just a few clicks (learn) the whereabouts of an item in motion, a feature that was supposed to be a chief strength of the baggage system

Excuse me, but if automation is bad, or merely not good enough, how did such automated companies like FedEx and UPS rise so quickly and capture such a large market share in the air cargo industry handling essentially baggage?

Again, I make the point. Guns don't kill people; people do.

8/27/2005 12:00 PM  

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