I’ve just finished reading The Perfectionists, by the always-readable Simon Winchester. I’d previously read “The Professor and the Madman”, which I’d loved so much I’ve given at least half a dozen copies as gifts.
In The Perfectionists, Winchester traces the history of precision in many contexts: 17th century clockmakers and sextants, gunsmiths and camera lenses, aircraft engines, semiconductors and modern quartz watches. I was incredibly impressed by the telling of these remarkable people who shaped the world we live in now.
The final chapter, though, provoked a whole new set of thoughts. It’s a discussion of the very units of measure by which precision - in all those examples above – is measured. In 1799, the French devised a methodology to define a standard unit of length, using two points on the earth’s surface, and then somehow factoring in differences in elevation and curvature to get to a distance, and then dividing that by ten million…and that’s a metre (or meter, here in the U.S, but as the French came up with it, I’m going to use their spelling today).
I’m still stunned by the elegance of the metric system (though the French are, let’s face it, nothing if not elegant). Length, mass, and volume being so perfectly related with appropriate values – it’s hard to imagine a world before it.
Well, I was thinking about this in the context of PROS price optimization software. We have some stunning features around Units of Measure. We’re able to have multiple Units of Measure for a single sellable item – manage conversion factors, and price it differently in different selling situations. That’s a very common requirement in B2B selling organizations – whether selling widgets by the each, case, pallet and truckload, or selling a chemical by the litre, gallon, barrel and railcar. Give us a call if you want to talk about that. I’ll bring a gift of a copy of The Perfectionists to the first five meetings requested in response to this blog.
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