Canadian Manufacturing

Applying practical know-how to the shop floor through intuitive engineering

Forces creative and fearless thinking, and can lead to new solutions for old problems



EDMONTON—If you want lessons on trial and error, there’s probably no better guy to talk to than Andrew Comrie-Picard.

A professional rally car racer, Hollywood stunt driver and build-it-and-drive-it television host, Comrie-Picard knows a thing or two about solving problems on the fly.

And while running a manufacturing operation may not be all that similar to driving down a winding tree-lined road at 150-km/h, there are some best practices you can take from the rally course and apply to your day-to-day operations.

It’s called intuitive engineering—the idea of applying on-the-floor know-how to problems that rear their ugly little heads from time to time—and according to Comrie-Picard, it can be a real difference-maker in your business.

“What you learn in the field is the challenge of having to innovate very quickly, or having to come up with a solution (on the spot),” Comrie-Picard said while in Edmonton for SME Canada’s 2013 Western Manufacturing Technology Show (WMTS).

“The advantage of that is it forces you to think intuitively, to think creatively, to get over the fear of doing it badly, and that allows you to maybe innovate in a way that you wouldn’t think of if you sit back in your desk and think about it too much.”

Comrie-Picard, an Edmonton-area native and keynote speaker at this year’s WMTS event, said working on the fly forces creative thinking and pushes one to break the barrier of fear of failure, as well as demanding intuition.

“The thing about intuition is that it’s so subtle,” he said. “It combines all of your previous experience (and) all of your thinking, and if you’re somebody who’s been in the field or somebody who’s had experience related to what you’re doing, you ignore those at your peril.”

This is all part of the practice of intuitive engineering, but that’s not to say your decisions when troubleshooting should strictly be based on your conscious being your guide.

“I think the ideal situation is to have a combination of both great technical thinking—great engineering—but also real field experience,” Comrie-Picard said.

According to Comrie-Picard, it’s also very important not to be afraid of a lack of resources or challenges that may impede you in your approach.

“If you’re facing a challenge, and let’s say that it’s the economy, if you think it’s going to beat you (then) it’s going to beat you,” he said about the borderline-philisophical approach.

“That’s one thing we learn in racing (is) that if you don’t go and sort of put your arms around the challenge and try to beat it then you’re going to get beaten.”

Comrie-Picard said it’s the individuals and companies that take on challenges and work hard who come up with innovations to overcome hurdles.

“In fact, bad economies and bad times should be a great time to come up with great solutions,” Comrie-Picard said.

CanadianManufacturing.com reporter Dan Ilika is in Edmonton June 4 to 6 covering the Western Manufacturing Technology Show.

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