A couple of weeks back I was in conversation with a friend who is a Researcher at the head office of Microsoft in Seattle.
During the course of our chat, I learned that the current research at Microsoft was aimed at Smart Cities and Smart Cars. Now this was a wake-up call!
My friend wished to understand how “quality controls” can be built into the digital processes that supported Smart Cities and Smart Cars. I know close to nothing about digital processes, Smart Cities and Smart Cars.
What I do know is what I learned at college in the late 1960s. My professor for Reliability Engineering, from General Motors head office, clarified the difference between Quality and Reliability. Apart from classroom sessions, he had arranged for a visit to Ford’s Mustang plant. It was a state-of-the art factory. My first exposure to Just-In-Time. Further, I had done my summer training as an industrial engineer at Chrysler, Highland Park. This too was very useful.
This exposure had helped me as a consultant in India, particularly at Cummins and Caterpillar. What did I facilitate? Building quality into the design. In other words, Reliability on the field…for diesel engines and earth moving equipment.
Can this be the answer for Smart Cars?
On the one hand, a Smart Car has very few moving parts compared to a diesel engine or any earth moving equipment… Perfect.
On the other, customer expectations for performance of a Smart Car are similar to that for a Smart Phone… OMG.
Smart Cars will be successful only if their Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF) is extraordinarily long, and their Mean Time To Repair (MTTR) is of micro duration. So we are going to need much simulation, under fatigue conditions, to map out the failure rates. Thereafter, to use appropriate logarithmic charts to predict field failures. Field failures, sporadic or chronic, will require speedy re-design, and intense customer empathy.
My friend listened intently. We parted after an hour.
On reflection, my concern is that when (not if) Smart Cars become the preferred choice, there will be a negative cascading impact on the oil, metals and manufacturing sectors. Are these sectors ready for the disruption?
If this is where we are headed, performance excellence models -such as the Baldrige or IMC Ramkrishna Bajaj – will need a major overhaul. Therefore, I believe, the core competencies of an organizations will need to be:
- Understanding Customer Needs
- Product Design
- Process Design
Do you have any additional ideas?
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