Save a little paper, waste a lot of time

There are small issues to handle all over this manufacturing plant when an IT pilot fish there gets email from a user on the plant floor -- and this time the problem looks more challenging.

"This was a user that I've had minimal contact with before," says fish. "The email read, 'We are having issues with the database had a unit that was imputed Olympic R 27183 that would not print certain part numbers but would show when looking at in gigs and shortages please check and get back with me thanks.'

"If IT people speak Greek then this must be Klingon."

Fish sends a quick email reply to try to get clarification. Five hours later -- well into the afternoon -- she gets a response, along with a scanned copy of the report that shows the problem.

The report is one page long, and lists the parts unavailable for the assembly of the unit in question. There's also a handwritten list of parts that aren't on the first page, but are also needed for the unit.

The email explains (in plain English this time) that on the entry screen the user can see all the parts, but they're not all showing on the report.

"I investigated to see if the missing parts were somehow different from the other parts, confirmed they were not marked as corrected and determined that they were present in the item table of the database," fish says. "Everything looked exactly the way it should to show up on the report."

Fish scratches her head and logs into the system the user sees to pulls up the report. Page 1 looks like the one that was scanned and sent to fish by the user, but that isn't the only page. Page 2 appears to be blank. But on page 3, the remaining parts are all listed.

Then fish notices the line at the bottom of each page that reads Page X of 4. That's been cut off in the copy the user sent to fish, but it's clearly there on the screen.

Fish calls the user and explains what she's found. User's response: "We only ever print page 1 because we know it's a waste of paper to print the whole report."

Sighs fish, "I held back what I wanted to say: 'Then you need to build units with fewer missing parts.' Instead I said, 'You might want to check for more pages next time. I will see about getting that report modified to eliminate the blank pages.'"

Save paper with Sharky: Send me your true tale of IT life by email at sharky@computerworld.com. You'll score a sharp Shark shirt if I use it. Add your comments below, and read some great old tales in the Sharkives.

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