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Common Purposes

What are the Common Purposes? I've dwelt on that question since first reading my alma mater's founding principle "for the purposes of instructing persons, who may choose to apply themselves, in the application of science to the common purposes of life". The question, more than any answer I may ever offer, has guided me through many personal and professional endeavors. And, if I have learned anything it is that I have derived my greatest joy when I, as part of a team, have made a lasting difference to improve the lives of others. Should the thoughts I share here and the ensuing discussion lead others to ask the same question, to seek their own answers and to experience the same joy as I, then I shall consider this effort of value.

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Tools, Systems and Analytics in Engineering Programs

Posted February 19, 2008 2:34 PM by MillMatt

I recently attended a presentation where the speaker discussed the importance of "Tools, Systems and Analytics" as they relate to business efficiency, productivity and, ultimately, organizational success. It may seem such a simple statement and yet it struck me as profound.

Yes, we do have tools (desktop computers, machine shops, etc.) to get our jobs done; and, yes, most businesses have some sort of systems (intentional or evolutionary) or procedures to develop, test and commercialize products and services. But, analytics (or means to measure performance) are often lacking. In my experience analytical efforts are frequently left to the finance and marketing departments; and I should mention that many sales departments have an analytic called sales commissions.

From an engineering perspective, I am well aware of metrics based upon throughputs, efficiencies, defect rates and more. But, these metrics are operational measures that have more to do with the effectiveness of internal systems. And, so it is that I am pondering the analytical measures that we use or are even available to us as a measure from the marketplace (i.e. our customers, or end-users) back to our designs, construction methodology and product performance.

For example, I find that much of my so-called 'free' time is spent having a car serviced because a "Check Engine Light" is blazing away, repairing home appliances that have failed or re-booting computers that have frozen for no apparent reason. And, as I think of the need for these tasks, I wonder whether the engineers responsible for these products ever receive feedback from the marketplace as to the strengths and shortcomings of their work.

I have been involved in many discussions about the need for better tools (the latest and the greatest that we always believe our competitors have!), and what organization has not hired consultants to implement ISO, Six Sigma or similar systems. But, I rarely hear much discussion or demand for analytic measures based upon customer experience that directly impacts engineering priorities.

Tomorrow, I will share some of my experiences as a consumer that I would like the engineers at certain companies to address. For today, does anyone have experience with marketplace analytics and customer feedback?

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#1

Re: Tools, Systems and Analytics in Engineering Programs

02/19/2008 3:34 PM

this article is rather profound.

The tools and such that we use that make us more efficient, does it really? workload remains the same (if not more) as well as the added responsibility.

Thinking back, some of these tools that were going to make us a paperless society. But with the "efficiency" that was created. we burn through more trees, making more test plots and prints for designs and reports than ever before.

phoenix911

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#2

Re: Tools, Systems and Analytics in Engineering Programs

02/19/2008 4:55 PM

As to "the analytical measures that we use or are even available to us as a measure from the marketplace (i.e. our customers, or end-users)..."

There are many available, but how well do we use them. Most of them involve listening to your customers directly, although that doesn't always provide the best information. Aside from actively soliciting their opinions (forming focus groups, assembling groups of power users, providing voluntary surveys, etc.), you can track purchase data and more importantly return data. Often the best information comes from users who are disgruntled, if you are willing to actually listen to what they say; and of course assuming they are willing to use constructive criticism instead of just saying "xxxx company sucks".

Often though, the people who really need to hear this information (the engineers) don't really get it uncut. The folks who receive the complaints are less technical and generally more interested in simply appeasing the voice on the end of the phone as quickly as possible instead of trying to expose the root of the problem. Often, even if they want to, they don't understand the technical side of the issue.

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#3

Re: Tools, Systems and Analytics in Engineering Programs

02/19/2008 10:41 PM

How many times have you offered feedback to a company for a product that worked well and met your expectations?

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#4

Re: Tools, Systems and Analytics in Engineering Programs

02/20/2008 7:01 AM

I worked for Indo German company as Marketing Manager.We used to conduct Feed Back studies from the feild service engineer's reports and customer complaints received by us. We had developed a simple computer programme to catagorise the complaints productwise, nature wise etc.Each month the summary was made and circulated to Managing Director, Works Manager, Quality Control Manager, Design Manager. Every quater we all used to meet except M.D and hold "Customer Complaints Meeting" under Quality Circle Programme which was part of ISO9001. Repeated complaints were discussed in detail and design dept was asked to redesign the component so as to avoid such complaints. This had helped us in reducing our customer complaints and we had many satisfied customers who placed repeated orders on us. Finaly we became leader in the feild of our products.

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#6
In reply to #4

Re: Tools, Systems and Analytics in Engineering Programs

04/14/2010 10:31 AM

This is regarding the end note- creation of Jobs.

Dr W Edwards Deming, Quality Guru also exhorted engineers to create more jobs.

Creation of Job is like providing a mass of live fish some water. It gives them a FULL lease of Life.

Priyavrat Thareja

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#7
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Re: Tools, Systems and Analytics in Engineering Programs

04/15/2010 6:48 AM

Dear Mr.PThareja,

Thanks for your comments.

Regards,

Suresh Sharma

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#5

Re: Tools, Systems and Analytics in Engineering Programs

02/20/2008 10:17 AM

A good example of a proper feedback system is the ancient Hewlett Packard (not the present incarnation of that company). Back in the old days, when they were an instrument company, one had access to technical support by telephone 24 hours a day, and if a problem could not be solved over the telephone, an engineer would travel to your site to help troubleshoot the problem. They learned a great deal about how their equipment was being used, and watching the evolution of the original products (similar to what Agilent now offers), one got the feeling that one's input was taken to heart. One paid a premium for HP products, but the support was well worth it (today, I won't touch an HP product- reliability problems).

It is rather obvious to me that most software developers are way out of touch with how people use their products, and what is important to the end user. Compare the difference between Open Source and commercial products- commercial products generally rely on gee-whiz graphics, while Open Source (well, maybe Linux excluded) seems more likely to focus on functionality- actually doing something useful with the software.

IBM built an empire through "partnering" with their clients...

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