Tag Archives: engineering

Steve Jobs Discussing Customer Focus at NeXT

Video from 1991 when Steve Jobs was at NeXT. Even with the customer focus however, NeXT failed. But this does show the difficulty in how to truly apply customer focus. You have to be creative. You have examine data. You have to really understand how your customers use your products or services (go to the gemba). You have to speculate about the future. The video is also great evidence of providing insight to all employees of the current thinking of executives.

Related: Sometimes Micro-managing Works (Jobs)Delighting CustomersWhat Job Does Your Product Do?

Factorial Designed Experiment Aim

Multivariate experiments are a very powerful management tool to learn and improve performance. Experiments in general, and designed factorial experiments in particular, are dramatically underused by managers. A question on LinkedIn asks?

When doing a DOE we select factors with levels to induce purposely changes in the response variable. Do we want the response variable to move within the specs of the customers? Or it doesn’t matter since we are learning about the process?

The aim needs to consider what you are trying to learn, costs and potential rewards. Weighing the various factors will determine if you want to aim to keep results within specification or can try options that are likely to return results that are outside of specs.

If the effort was looking for breakthrough improvement and costs of running experiments that might produce results outside of spec were low then specs wouldn’t matter much. If the costs of running experiments are very high (compared with expectations of results) then you may well want to try designed experiment values that you anticipate will still produce results within specs.

There are various ways costs come into play. Here I am mainly looking at the costs as (costs – revenue). For example the case where if the results are withing spec and can be used the costs (net costs, including revenue) of the experiment run are substantially lower.
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Statistical Engineering Links Statistical Thinking, Methods and Tools

In Closing the Gap Roger W. Hoerl and Ronald D. Snee lay out a sensible case for focusing on statistical engineering.

We’re not suggesting that society no longer needs research in new statistical techniques for improvement; it does. The balance needed at this time, however, is perhaps 80% for statistics as an engineering discipline and 20% for statistics as a pure science.

True, though I would put the balance more like 95% engineering, 5% science.

There is a good discussion on LinkedIn:

Davis Balestracci: Unfortunately, we snubbed our noses at the Six Sigma movement…and got our lunch eaten. Ron Snee has been developing this message for the last 20 years (I developed it in four years’ worth of monthly columns for Quality Digest from 2005-2008). BUT…as long as people have a computer, color printer, and a package that does trend lines, academic arguments won’t “convert” anybody.

Recently, we’ve lost our way and evolved into developing “better jackhammers to drive tacks”…and pining for the “good ol’ days” when people listened to us (which they were forced to do because they didn’t have computers, and statistical packages were clunky). Folks, we’d better watch it…or we’re moribund

Was there really a good old days when business listened to statisticians? Of course occasionally they did, but “good old days”? Here is a report from 1986 the theme of which seems to me to be basically how to get statisticians listened to by the people that make the important decisions: The Next 25 Years in Statistics, by Bill Hunter and William Hill. Maybe I do the report a disservice with my understanding of the basic message, but it seems to me to be how to make sure the important contributions of applied statisticians actually get applied in organizations. And it discusses how statisticians need to take action to drive adoption of the ideas because currently (1986) they are too marginalized (not listened to when they should be contributing) in most organizations.
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Net Neutrality, Policy, Economics and Intelligent Engineering

I believe net neutrality should be championed to prevent decay of the usability of the internet. It seems to me internet connectivity is a natural monopoly that economic theory says should be a regulated monopoly. Smart countries have invested in providing much better internet connectivity that the USA has at much lower prices. Now in the USA we have companies that seek to control internet connectivity and then use that monopolistic control to favor higher margin efforts. So force those that have resources available on the internet to pay or the ISP threatens to degrade the connectivity to their resources.

chart showing internet connectivity speed (USA 18th)

The investment in equipment and fiber that allows internet connectivity has to be paid for. If those regulated ISPs wanted to set bandwidth use pricing that is fine with me. If we decided it is best to have one low price say $30 a month for access at a similar perforance of 10 other countries (Japan, Germany, South Korea, Canada, United Kingdom…) and then charge extra for individuals those that use more than some amount fine. But I think it should not be tied to whether you use service that haven’t paid the ISP money to be favored. The USA is currently 18th and slowed down, while others continue to speed up.

The 2008 ITIF Broadband Rankings show the USA in 15th place, out of 30 OECD countries, for broadband adoption, speed and price. In 2001 the USA was in 4th place.

If ISPs don’t want to be in the business they should be in – providing internet connectivity. Fine, get out of that business and go into the business they want to be in. But don’t try to take control of a natural monopoly and then use that control to extort money from those that rely on the natural monopoly.

Google accused of YouTube ‘free ride’

Some of Europe’s leading telecoms groups are squaring up for a fight with Google over what they claim is the free ride enjoyed by the technology company’s YouTube video-sharing service. Telefónica, France Telecom and Deutsche Telekom all said Google should start paying them for carrying bandwidth-hungry content such as YouTube video over their networks.

I can understand why they would think that way. But isn’t it equally valid to say hey those that pay you for internet connectivity really want to use YouTube. If you need to make more investments in your infrastructure to support your customers use, then do so and raise the prices. I completely disagree with the ISP negotiating what content users can see. But if that were to happen why couldn’t Google instead of paying say, hey your customers really want YouTube – if you don’t pay us we won’t let you deliver it to your customers?

Net Neutrality: This is serious by Tim Berners-Lee

When I invented the Web, I didn’t have to ask anyone’s permission. Now, hundreds of millions of people are using it freely. I am worried that that is going end in the USA.

Yes, regulation to keep the Internet open is regulation. And mostly, the Internet thrives on lack of regulation. But some basic values have to be preserved. For example, the market system depends on the rule that you can’t photocopy money. Democracy depends on freedom of speech. Freedom of connection, with any application, to any party, is the fundamental social basis of the Internet, and, now, the society based on it.

Let’s see whether the United States is capable as acting according to its important values, or whether it is, as so many people are saying, run by the misguided short-term interested of large corporations.

I hope that Congress can protect net neutrality, so I can continue to innovate in the internet space. I want to see the explosion of innovations happening out there on the Web, so diverse and so exciting, continue unabated.

Google’s Traffic Is Giant, Which Is Why It Should be Your ISP
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Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi: Creativity, Fulfillment and Flow

“After a certain basic point, which translates, more or less, to just a few thousand dollars above the minimum poverty level, increases in material well being don’t see to affect how happy people are.”

The speech includes, the first purpose of incorporation at Sony:

To establish a place of work where engineers can feel the joy of technological innovation, be aware of their mission to society, and work to their heart’s content.

Excellent books by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi:
Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, 1991. People enter a flow state when they are fully absorbed in activity during which they lose their sense of time and have feelings of great satisfaction.
Good Business: Leadership, Flow, and the Making of Meaning.
Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, 1997. Drawing on hundreds of interviews with exceptional people, from biologists and physicists to politicians and business leaders to poets and artists, the author uses his famous “flow” theory to explain the creative process.

Related: Extrinsic Incentives Kill Creativityposts on psychology Interviews with InnovatorsInnovation StrategyThe Purpose of an OrganizationFlow

Computer Network Operations Center Failures

Obviously many businesses are now dependent on computer Network Operations Centers (NOC). Some of these data centers can cause millions of dollars in lost sales each minute if they fail. So sound engineering, including off-site redundancy is critical. Authorize.net is a recent example of such a failure, Authorize.net Goes Down, E-Commerce Vendors Left Hanging

Payment gateway service provider Authorize.net has been down and out for several hours… That has big implications: since the service is used by tens of thousands of e-commerce vendors to accept credit card and electronic checks payments on their websites, it likely means millions are being lost during its downtime. PayPal and Google Checkout are still up and running.

A fire in Fisher Plaza, Seattle has cause a massive power outage causing leading IP-based payment gateway solution Authorize.Net to go down around approximately 11:15pm PST (last night). A traffic reporter for KOMO News that operates out of Fisher Plaza tweeted that a fire set off the sprinkler system which fried the generators.

From what I can piece together it seems within about 5 hours services were back up, at least partially. NOC failures are not uncommon (either due to fire, power failure [including backup systems], government raids, software glitches [not exactly the same as a NOC failure but some can have the affect of essentially knocking off a NOC from providing the specific service desired]). Evaluating these risks must be part of management systems with significant NOC dependencies.

Authorize.net set up a Twitter account and within hours has 2,500 followers. I am not a huge fan of Twitter, it is nice but seems pretty limited to me. But this is an example of using it effectively. You can follow me on Twitter @curiouscat_com.

Related: Information Technology and Business Process SupportAmazon S3 Failure AnalysisInformation Technology and ManagementIT Operations as a Competitive AdvantageUndersea Cables Cut Again, Reducing India’s Capacity by 65%

Statistics for Experimenters in Spanish

book cover of Estadística para Investigadores

Statistics for Experimenters, second edition, by George E. P. Box, J. Stuart Hunter and William G. Hunter (my father) is now available in Spanish.

Read a bit more can find a bit more on the Spanish edition, in Spanish. Estadística para Investigadores Diseño, innovación y descubrimiento Segunda edición.

Statistics for Experimenters – Second Edition:

Catalyzing innovation, problem solving, and discovery, the Second Edition provides experimenters with the scientific and statistical tools needed to maximize the knowledge gained from research data, illustrating how these tools may best be utilized during all stages of the investigative process. The authors’ practical approach starts with a problem that needs to be solved and then examines the appropriate statistical methods of design and analysis.

* Graphical Analysis of Variance
* Computer Analysis of Complex Designs
* Simplification by transformation
* Hands-on experimentation using Response Service Methods
* Further development of robust product and process design using split plot arrangements and minimization of error transmission
* Introduction to Process Control, Forecasting and Time Series

Book available via Editorial Reverte

Related: Statistics for Experimenters ReviewCorrelation is Not CausationStatistics for Experimenters Dataposts on design of experiments

Honda has Never had Layoffs and has been Profitable Every Year

Engineers Rule, 2006

Longtime auto analyst John Casesa, who now runs a consulting company, says, “There’s not a company on earth that better understands the culture of engineering.” The strategy has worked thus far. Honda has never had an unprofitable year. It has never had to lay off employees.

The lean and compact Fukui, like all of his predecessors, is an engineer who started in R&D and later ran the subsidiary. While other auto chief-executives-to-be were punching keyboards in an accounting office, Fukui ran the company’s motorcycle racing operations. He’s still racing. He hikes the stairs to his tenth-floor desk–tenth floor so he’s in the middle of things at Honda’s 16-story Tokyo headquarters and a desk because executives at Honda don’t have offices. Honda doesn’t disclose executive pay in detail, but the sum of salaries and bonuses that Fukui shares with 36 board members, $13 million, is just about enough for the boss at a big American company.

I checked and Honda was also profitable in 2007 and 2008 fiscal year (ending in September) and no I see no evidence of any layoffs this year (when I look online).

Related: Honda EngineeringBack to School for Honda Workers, 1993The Google Way: Give Engineers RoomGoogle’s Ten Golden RulesToyota as HomebuilderCurious Cat Science and Engineering BlogToyota’s CEO pay under $1 million

Of all the bizarre subsidiaries that big companies can find themselves with, Harmony Agricultural Products, founded and owned by Honda Motor, is one of the strangest. This small company near Marysville, Ohio produces soybeans for tofu. Soybeans? Honda couldn’t brook the sight of the shipping containers that brought parts from Japan to its nearby auto factories returning empty. So Harmony now ships 33,000 pounds of soybeans to Japan. An inveterate tinkerer, Honda also set up a center nearby to develop better soybean varieties and improve agricultural processes.

ASQ William Hunter Award 2008: Ronald Does

The recipient of the 2008 William G. Hunter Award is Ronald Does. The Statistics Division of the American Society for Quality (ASQ) uses the attributes that characterize Bill Hunter’s (my father – John Hunter) career – consultant, educator for practitioners, communicator, and integrator of statistical thinking into other disciplines to decide the recipient. In his acceptance speech Ronald Does said:

The first advice I received from my new colleagues was to read the book by Box, Hunter and Hunter. The reason was clear. Because I was not familiar with industrial statistics I had to learn this from the authors who were really practicing statisticians. It took them years to write this landmark book.

For the past 15 years I have been the managing director of the Institute for Business and Industrial Statistics. This is a consultancy firm owned by the University of Amsterdam. The interaction between scientific research and the application of quality technology via our consultancy work is the core operating principle of the institute. This is reflected in the type of people that work for the institute, all of whom are young professionals having strong ambitions in both the academic world and in business and industry.

The kickoff conference attracted approximately 80 statisticians and statistical practitioners from all over Europe. ENBIS was officially founded in June 2001 as “an autonomous Society having as its objective the development and improvement of statistical methods, and their application, throughout Europe, all this in the widest sense of the words” Since the first meeting membership has grown to about 1300 from nearly all European countries.

Related: 2007 William G. Hunter AwardThe Importance of Management ImprovementResources on using statistical thinking to improve management