What Engler missed 1 March 2011

So I’m at a conference on the future of energy, and John Engler, president of the Business Roundtable and former governor of Michigan, was talking. He was speaking about the need for better education and a better workforce when he said the following:

“Sometimes if you’re going to go from laboratory to commercial, who are the technical people who are going to work in that high tech environment with the proper controls–the right statistical and analytical ability to make sure this is not, uh, you know, reducing errors, this is zero error, zero tolerance for error, manufacturing has to get it right and that takes skilled people.”

Now, “technical people” with the right “statistical and analytical ability” would know that aiming for zero error in a manufacturing process is a very silly and costly thing to do. At some point, catching the marginal error is going to take more effort than it is worth, in time and money. It doesn’t take super-advanced training in probability theory to see this. Making a mistake like this in quite literally in the same breath as calling for better education I suppose proves his point, but not in the way Engler intended.