06 May 2012

Gemba visits illuminate good design

On our way home from dinner last night, our street was blocked by a street lamp that had toppled just 10 minutes before. The pole had literally sheered at the base. Last fall, all our street lamps had their lighting elements replaced with solid state LED units – same metal pole but with a new and larger head.

The firemen who arrived to move it were surprised there wasn't a car that struck it because they had never seen this happen on its own before. One thought that maybe the weight and length of the lighting head were too great for a metal utility pole designed for a mercury vapor lamp.

This is what QFD's customer gemba visit is designed to capture. The city utility company may never has specified that the new LED lamp assemblies have the weight, length, aerodynamic shape, and other characteristics that would work with the existing metal utility poles. But I think had designers of the lamp assembly been on site and see the existing poles to be retrofitted, the physical properties might have been different. Instead, a safety hazard was created.

Customers don't know always specify their requirements completely. Engineers that see the application and its environment (or use case) can discover these unspoken needs and design a significantly better product. 

02 May 2012

Blink Blink QFD

In his May 1 2012 New York Times article "BlackBerry 10 Prototype Is Given to Developers," Ian Austen quotes Michael Gartenberg, an analyst at Gartner, [who] "said he was particularly impressed with BlackBerry 10s camera software. It captures extra frames when a photo is taken, allowing users to go backward or forward to a certain moment in time to find a better picture. “

This shows people how they can use devices, how it’s not just speeds and mega pixels, and it’s more like, ‘How do I get the right shot when I’m standing in Disneyland and one of the kids blinks? ”

This is what QFD is all about. Even if the customer talks about speed and mega pixels, their real need is to get a good shot of the kids at Disneyland with their eyes open.

Once we get engineers to understand what outcome the customer demands, then they can focus their technical skills on delivering that outcome.

Even as I write this blog, I am thinking, "Wow, take 3 shots at the same time and pick the best one. But wait, what if one kid is blinking in one shot and another kid in the other shot. Can't the camera "photshop" the three frames and combine them into one with all eyes open? " Let's give 3 cheers to RIM.