In my line of work, I come across people who are passionate about data. Particularly parts data. And especially part numbers.
Perhaps it’s the nature of people in the spare parts industry that they have attention to detail and an affinity with numbers. I know people who can identify a particular spare just from its part number or can tell you the number for certain popular parts.
People who don’t work with parts data on a daily basis might see this as odd or maybe even obsessive, but when you consider the complexities of the human brain, it’s not that strange.
I reckon that most people would be able to tell you the telephone number of their childhood home, or the licence plate number of their parents’ car when they were growing up. Things that are familiar tend to stick in the brain.
Now though, with the ready access to data through the power of technology, is there any need to remember things like phone numbers or even part numbers? Surely having mobile phones with built in phone books or parts identification systems has completely obviated the necessity for us to commit things to memory like we used to. We can Google from our phones to find out who won the football world cup in 1966 for instance. For the record, that was England.
Certainly, when information is unfamiliar to us, we do need assistance to get the right data. In the UK heating industry, for instance, there are thousands of appliances and hundreds of thousands of possible parts. Add different stockist codes into the mix and it is clear that even someone with an exceptional memory would struggle to remember everything. And that’s where having a good parts identification software tool really comes into its own. It gives every engineer the same opportunity to identify the right part, first time without having to rely on their memory.
But where would we be without memory? How many of us now have hundreds of songs on our mp3 players that we sing along to without a second thought? Think about the people you see very occasionally who you would still recognise from a distance just from the way they stand. People with a keen interest in cars can recognise a 1969 Corvette just from the shape of the windshield. Stamp collectors can recognise an 1840 British Penny Black because they had to be separated with scissors – there were no perforations in those days.
At the end of the day, are any of these examples of what people know really any stranger than knowing a part number for an often used replaceable item? Engineers who work frequently on a particular type of appliance will have that retained memory that means they are experts. And being experts gives us, the owner of the appliance, the confidence to know that they are going to do the job right.