Friday, 3 April 2009

Forged Iron Product Process

The diagram above presents a generic model for creating products. It's the same as pretty much any process diagram, in that it has inputs, processes, outputs (product) and a feedback loop. When looking at the overall household system, we can break each input to the household down into one of these models. The products of one model will form the inputs for another model and so on down the chain.

It's useful to consider things at this degree of detail for a couple of reasons. First and foremost it allows us to consider just how much hidden activity goes on out in the wider economy to supply what seem like simple goods into our households.

Below is a more complex diagram that details the major components of a model for any forged item. This covers a kitchen knife, a fork, spoon, fire poker, coat hook, gate latch etc. items commonly seen in our households.

As you can see there are a number of inputs, two of which could be considered "consumables", one other material item, "other tools" which covers things like hammers, anvil, tongs, swages etc. Then there is labour and skill. I have distinguished these two items because feedback has an important effect on them in particular.

As we undertake the process of forging, and examine and use the finished items, you provide yourself with feedback that goes toward the development of your skill. More skill equates to more productive and economical use of your labour. Feedback also affects the other items, both via the conduit of skill and directly. You may use less inputs next time around, or slightly different inputs, perhaps your charcoal wasn't as well made as it should have been, so your feedback from this process actually affects the production model for charcoal.

Labour and skill we provide from ourselves, but what of the other elements. The other tools might be forged or cast items in their own right. Of course they could be purchased, but we are considering the systems in totality, examining just how much we would need to do if we were to supply everything ourselves. Metal certainly deserves a more detailed analysis, but for this post we will simply accept that it can be either recycled or extracted via mining.

The final diagram for today is the product model for charcoal.

In it we can see that the basic process takes wood and a pyrolysis unit and produces charcoal and sundry other outputs. In a more detailed examination it would be worth considering what those other outputs are, as they would certainly be useful, but for today we only want to know that they exist. We're most interested in the charcoal.

This diagram differs from the previous ones, in that it includes two other product models within it. You have most likely already noticed that I've used the bluish colour to represent the entire model. So we see that wood is a product of a forestry or wood production process. The pyrolysis unit also is the product of another complete process. You can probably guess that both of these processes will contain a wide range of inputs, which are themselves the product of other processes. We now begin to see the depth of the systems that operate to provide us with the knife and fork I will soon be using to eat our evening meal.

In the next post following this theme I hope to draw some common processes out from the much larger mass that goes into the household system. These common processes will be selected due to the fact that they lie at a root level, or are fundamental to a large number of other production processes. Besides the sheer joy of the insights, this will also allow us to get a grasp of the fundamental skills and resources we need within a community in order to maximise resilience.

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