Unique, redefined

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Engineering group at this manufacturing company comes up with a new quality-control initiative: Assign a unique identifier to each part, according to a database analyst pilot fish working there.

"Each part's serial number and identifier were to be sent via secure FTP to a site, and they wanted me to come up with a database table and a job to import the data," fish says.

"During the kickoff meeting, I asked if they wanted me to check for duplicates to insure their data was pure -- and was told, 'Duplicates won't happen.'"

Fish has worked in manufacturing IT for decades, and he knows there's always a chance for data to be duplicated. So he asks again, "But what if--?"

Head engineer gives fish a smirk and says, "Trust me, it won't happen."

Fish shrugs, and puts the system together exactly as requested.

Two months into the project, a meeting is suddenly called. Turns out that while checking the data, engineers discovered some duplicate records in the system.

In fact, there are more than 100,000 duplicated "unique" identifiers.

Fortunately, while fish left out his real-time duplicate checking routine, he did make sure the system tracked which file every serial number came from.

"I was able to prove to them the duplicates came from different files, and they were able to locate the problem on their end," says fish.

"However, the Engineering manager in charge of his group's process tried to blame me by saying I was 'not passionate enough in arguing that duplicate data could happen.'"

Sharky is passionate about true tales of IT life. So send me your story at sharky@computerworld.com. You can also comment on today's tale at Sharky's Google+ community, and read thousands of great old tales in the Sharkives.

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