Saturday, September 17, 2016

THE PROBLEMS OF FAILING TO STANDARDISE




The classic joke of any DIY assembly is that at the end of the job one usually has some parts left over. IKEA suffers this jibe frequently, along with the one about impossibly awkward ‘creative’ outcomes of ‘flat-pack’ efforts. One studiously reads instructions and counts pieces, panels and parts to ensure the process of assembly is being adhered to with some degree of precision. When, after such a carefully considered rigorous process, one is left with some remaining screws, nuts or washers - dare one suggest a panel? - one thinks of the joke, hoping that this is indeed confirmation of the cynical humour rather than the chance that something has really been missed out or forgotten. One should really not want to worry too much about these things.



Following the recent installation of a television wall bracket, (not IKEA), that meant finding studs and drilling into the bland plaster with fingers crossed - got it! - then screwing the frame to the wall and the supports to the television set - hung! - it was with some alarm that one discovered nearly a full bag of bits and pieces of hardware remaining. It was simply astonishing; hardly a joke. Could this be real? One had over a quarter of a kilogram of bolts, washers, spacers and inserts left over.


On looking further into this issue and checking the instructions, it became obvious that the manufacturer was simply providing everything that could possibly be conceived of for the installation, supplying fittings and fixtures for any television set to be fixed to any wall by whoever might purchase the product. This strategy meant that there would be no concerns about any circumstance that might arise, however quirky or highly unusual it might be; or about the involvement of any similar individual. One had bolts and inserts for masonry and timber walls; there were bolts and spacers for all sizes, shapes and weights of television sets - for sets with a straight back, and for ones with a slight curve, and others with a bolder moulding. You name it and it would be there. All of these pieces and parts came with appropriate washers for the various specific bolt combinations. One was left with nearly a full plastic bag of unused parts.

The unused items

This little bundle of fixings is apparently sold with each bracket package. The waste is incredulous, just because of a lack of standardisation. One can appreciate that the manufacturer has probably chosen this path after getting so many complaints about the bracket not fitting a certain model of television set, or onto a certain type of wall. The coach bolts provided for fixing the frame were 65mm long, an astonishing length for such a light bracket; but once again, the manufacturer has probably been caught out when shorter bolts were provided. Of course, it could be a ‘fail-safe’ length for poor DIY workmanship fixing the frame into who knows what; or an attempt at accommodating poor DIY guesses trying to estimate the size and weight of the unit to be supported!



As for the various bolts for the fixing of the hooks on to the rear of the television set, the manufacturer makes a clear statement about not taking responsibility for any damage that might be caused by screwing the wrong bolts into the set, bolts that might be longer than needed. This problem is caused by the manufacturer providing bolts of all sizes and lengths for all sets. One could easily put a screw into the working parts of the screen. Nothing is simple or straightforward. The ordinary joy is that the television set is now wall-mounted and working, out of the way, giving us more space on the furniture for other items. It used four coach bolts and washers, and four screws and washers.



All that has to be worked out now is what is to be done with the leftover hardware. It seems such a waste for it to be binned, but one instinctively knows that if it is put aside to be ‘maybe’ used on another occasion, it never will be! Such is life in our multi-various world that shirks standardisation in favour of MY bespoke design: my ‘selfie’ identity. What else do we waste because of this self-centred belligerence?

The unreliable gadget

One is also left with a miniature spirit level/stud finder that came with the bracket. It was an instrument that I could not get to confirm anything twice - studs or levels! After trying repeatedly to establish the location of the studs as per the instructions, I gave up and looked for the nails fixing the external cladding. Once these were found, the location was measured and transferred to the interior. This strategy worked far better than the cheap ‘free’ instrument, as did my larger level. No matter how many times I checked the level with the tiny gadget supplied with the bracket, the reading was always different. Why does the world bother to make such cheap, near-useless tools usually sold at ‘dollar’ shops? Is it merely a sales gimmick? The message on the box impresses; the outcome doesn’t.


If only things could be standardised and made to a reasonable quality, we would not have to discard such quantities of hardware, end up with tiny gadgets that don’t work, and get confused with dimensions, weights and mounting details. At least one could be sure that the studs were at 18 inch centres in this 1950’s building. Things were standard then!


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