Five Things They Don’t Teach You at Automation School: Rule 3

One of my early jobs as a freelancing automation operator was to look after an orchestra of robots.  It had been made by an inverter drive manufacturer to perform at their trade shows.  The whole orchestra was controlled via MIDI signals from a computer.  Once an hour, a madcap conductor would come to the front of the stage, tap the space bar on the keyboard and away these robots would go, playing their music.

One of my jobs was to make sure the correct song was lined up ready for the top of the hour and also to keep everything clean and tidy.  Cleaning the keyboard without setting off the orchestra was tricky so I would unplug the MIDI cable to prevent any music starting by accident.  When I was finished I would then reset the song and it was ready to go.

That is until one fateful show where I must have got distracted and I forgot to re-plug the MIDI cable.  Up came the conductor in front of a big crowd, milked the audience for all he could, tapped the space bar and nothing.  What seemed like a very long pause ensued, I could see on the computer screen that the software was playing the music but no sound was coming out, then suddenly I realised what I had done.  I ran on stage, re-plugged the MIDI cable and the music started half-way through the song as I had forgotten to reset it to the beginning.

So learn from my mistake and remember Automation Rule #3. Use a Checklist!

If you have mission critical tasks and checks you need to do before each show, then write them down and use the that list every time.  Remember, if it’s good enough for pilots with decades of flying experience to use then it’s good enough for you or me.