Always Twisted

{ Slightly Bizarre Ramblings Of A Front-End Developer }

Workflows and Tooling

Before I decided to venture out and become a full-time front-end developer my day job was quite different. I worked for a conference set and stage design company. I didn’t design the sets. I was in the warehouse making up the stock we had to fit the design in both size and colour variations.

The company had a large stock of ‘flats’ ready to be covered in a felt, pvc or kiss laminate of the clients choosing. It was a case of getting the flats required, cutting the fabric and bubble wrap for protection and then some stapling and tapin up ready for transport.

The company is about 18 years old now. When I left in 2012 there were a couple of flats that were as old as the company. From the first contract it got. If you look at those flats you can see the progression in tooling and workflow from those small beginnings to how the company works today.

So, let’s take a basic 8 foot by 4 foot flat. The face is a 5mm sheet of plywood which is glued and stapled on to a backing frame of 2 inch by 1 inch timbre. This makes the flat 8 foot by 4 foot by (about) 2 inches.

To cover a flat in fabric you would need to wrap your chosen fabric around so that the face and all sides are covered leaving the back sparse and bare (as the audience won’t be seeing that bit).

Going back to the these ‘antique’ flats that were kicking about. They were 8 foot by 4 foot. If you looked at the back you could see:

  • that when the company first started the fabric was stapled onto inside of the 2x1 timber. You can still see the staples from a hand stapler that tacked the fabric on
  • a second look reveals the time when the company invested in air tools and the hand stapler was replaced with an air gun that easily sped up production.
  • a third look shows that the fabric is now stapled onto the edge of the 2x1 timber saving time because it’s easier and just as effective but also allows creation of larger panels because the fabric has a little more play to stretch.

So, over the lifetime of the company, so far, they developed and adapted their workflow and tooling to help speed things up and create more possibilities. This in turn led to reduced company costs which were passed onto the clients and the profit margin.

Moving from a hand stapler which you have (pretty much) full control of to an air gun that’s pushing out staples with 100psi of pressure would be pretty daunting. You lose a bit of ‘the feel’ of control and if not used wisely you could end up stapling your thumb (which I did more than once).

When looking at modern workflows and tooling presented to us in web development it’s easy to quickly cast aspersions on things as we give a little bit of control away.

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