Capacity and Priorities

Back when I was taking one of my Manufacturing Operations classes as an undergrad (which was long enough ago that even I am starting to feel downright old), we discussed an interesting concept. We were doing simulations of a factory, incorporating some complexities like maintenance downtime, variability, setup/changeover times, etc. The interesting thing that the closer you try to run a manufacturing facility to “100%” of its capacity, the more rapidly things get completely bogged down. There’s some tipping point where actual throughput drops off rapidly, and the interesting thing is that it is often quite a bit below the supposed full capacity of the shop.

I was reminded of this phenomenon on our way home from Space Access. We were driving into San Bernardino, when all the sudden traffic slowed down to a near crawl for several miles. I figured that maybe there was an accident or some construction or something going on causing the delay. But all of the sudden traffic just started moving again. Dave pointed out that such behavior is predicted by chaos theory. At some point you just get enough cars on a given stretch of road, that with people needing to change lanes, merge in and out, etc that all of the sudden everything starts slowing down–even without an accident or some other choke-point.

I kind of feel that way right now, and for the last several weeks. Which is why I haven’t been blogging so much. I got so many things going simultaneously on my plate that almost nothing was getting done. I’d want to blog, but I’d be so fried that I’d just sit there an play dippy Windows games like solitaire for an hour or so. Which gets depressing really fast.

Space Access helped a bunch. My spirits were up after getting to spend some time with the rest of my friends in the community. Space Access really is like a “Zone Conference” for rocket nerds. For those 99.9% of the people who read my blog who aren’t LDS, a zone is a division of a church mission that typically contains 2-3 districts, for a total of 16-30 missionaries. Once every month and a half we’d have a big conference with 2-3 zones put together, or about 1/4 of the mission. There would be talks and training, but mostly it was a chance to catch up with old friends, check in on how people you cared about in previous areas were doing, swap stories, and generally recharge. I think that without Zone Conferences, most missionaries would go stark raving mad relatively quickly. I know I would’ve.

But even with Space Access, I was still feeling stretched way too thin.

This weekend, our church held its semi-annual General Conference. One of the concepts that really struck home to me was the importance of unencumbering our lives. Basically, the speaker was telling me something that had already been weighing on my mind for a while–that I’ve got too many commitments going on, and I need to prioritize, and pare back on some things.

As I was looking at priorities, I can think of four key priorities right now that are very important: my family, my job, my church calling (as a Cub Scout Den Leader), and my thesis. After that, I’ve got blogging, reading other peoples’ blogs, and trying to change the alt.space world. But unfortunately it’s pretty obvious that those have to be secondary priorities, not primary ones. Once I get my thesis done, I’ll probably be able to move a new priority into its place, but for now, those four are what I have the most time for.

Now, this doesn’t mean I’m going to quit blogging entirely. Quite frankly I spend a lot more time reading other peoples’ blogs, forums, and newsgroups than I do actually blogging here. I’m going to try cutting back first on that and on trying to take too active of a non-blogging role in the alt.space world. Which might even mean that I get to blog more often, but we’ll see.

What that does mean, is that you’ll probably see less posts commenting on other people’s blogposts, or ripping on ESAS, or talking about current space events, and more of a focus on original ideas, musings, etc…

So what I think I might be saying is: “The blog is dead…long live the blog!”

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Jonathan Goff

Jonathan Goff

President/CEO at Altius Space Machines
Jonathan Goff is a space technologist, inventor, and serial space entrepreneur who created the Selenian Boondocks blog. Jon was a co-founder of Masten Space Systems, and is the founder and CEO of Altius Space Machines, a space robotics startup in Broomfield, CO. His family includes his wife, Tiffany, and five boys: Jarom (deceased), Jonathan, James, Peter, and Andrew. Jon has a BS in Manufacturing Engineering (1999) and an MS in Mechanical Engineering (2007) from Brigham Young University, and served an LDS proselytizing mission in Olongapo, Philippines from 2000-2002.
Jonathan Goff

About Jonathan Goff

Jonathan Goff is a space technologist, inventor, and serial space entrepreneur who created the Selenian Boondocks blog. Jon was a co-founder of Masten Space Systems, and is the founder and CEO of Altius Space Machines, a space robotics startup in Broomfield, CO. His family includes his wife, Tiffany, and five boys: Jarom (deceased), Jonathan, James, Peter, and Andrew. Jon has a BS in Manufacturing Engineering (1999) and an MS in Mechanical Engineering (2007) from Brigham Young University, and served an LDS proselytizing mission in Olongapo, Philippines from 2000-2002.
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4 Responses to Capacity and Priorities

  1. tonemcd says:

    S’ok, take a break, chill out, spend time with your family – we’ll still be here 😉

  2. murphydyne says:

    I know how you feel, Jon. This ISDC is eating my shorts right now. Still, I’m already thinking about the projects to follow…

  3. Anonymous says:

    I don’t think chaos theory predicts this. Catastrophe theory, perhaps.

  4. Monte Davis says:

    Re scheduling, you don’t have to look farther than JetBlue’s woes during the Feb. 14 snowstorm. It’s expensive to keep spare capacity idle, and we’ve all embraced the niftiness of just-in-time logistics — but spare capacity is often the only way to stop the cascade you describe.

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