Common problems of automation

Common Problems of Automation

A few days ago I read remarkable news about the Large Hadron Collider: 'Large Hadron Collider: Weasel causes shutdown'. It reminded me a great story that happened 10 years ago when I was rolling out an automation system in a retail store.

I and another engineer installed the software, set up a retail equipment including label printers, barcode scanners, terminals, etc. We spent a day and everything worked perfectly in the evening. We left the wires lying right on the floor as our responsibility was just the software - but we told the store owner that he had better hide the wires into a duct.

Next day we got a call and the owner declared that the software was not working anymore. We asked a few questions but eventually failed to detect the issue by phone. So, we spent two hours to get to the store and see the problem personally.

You guessed it, didn’t you?

The wires were destroyed by mice.

Later, when I came to this retail store to install some upgrades of the automation software, I could hear the mice running around behind the racks and tasting potato chips.

We met a new employee at the store. The store owner had hired a cat, but the cat was interested in the saleable stuff more than in mice.

I do not know how they eventually resolved that problem. But here is a good lesson which shows that business automation goes far beyond the scope of software development and faces the real life in many ways. Before launching the software, get rid of mice. They can destroy any automation no matter how amazing it is.