Tag Archives: Design

Book Review: “The Toyota Product Development System”

The Toyota Product Development SystemWriters and readers are in a relationship. Each has responsibilities. The writer is responsible for the structural quality of his writing such as spelling, grammar, punctuation, and vocabulary. (The language should be invisible in high quality writing so that the reader can focus on the content i.e. the writer’s message.) The reader is responsible for being fluent in the language to understand high quality writing.

This book should never have been published just for its atrocious quality of writing. It is filled with spelling mistakes, terrible grammar, and horrid punctuation. These issues, in addition to needless Japanese jargon, car jargon, and undefined acronyms, interrupted reading so often that I had to put the book away every few pages. This is especially frustrating as the book is fundamentally about building quality in into a product! There is no indication that this was done in the production of this book.

I am deeply interested in the product development process. Experience with several companies has shown me that their respective product development process, if it exists as such, is poorly designed, poorly defined, and not effective in operation. So I have been studying—I’ve read Stuart Pugh’s “Total Design”[1], Don Clausing’s “Total Quality Development”[2], and Ulrich/Eppinger’s “Product Design and Development”[3], among other books and papers. Given that Toyota excels at bringing great products to market quickly, I really wanted to learn and understand its approach. So it was with this intent, and Jeffrey Liker’s reputation, that I picked up “The Toyota Product Development System”[4].

The book does not deliver what its title promises. The authors do not provide a model of the product development process, instead discussing the sociotechnical system (STS) at Toyota, the V-Comm communication system, and PDVSM—product development value stream mapping to improve the product development process. This is already superbly detailed in Jeffrey Liker’s “The Toyota Way”[5]. We get it—the product development process at Toyota is grounded in its world leading STS, but what is the process specifically? The authors don’t detail the product development process as I’ve come to expect from reading Pugh, Clausing, Ulrich/Eppinger. Perhaps that is a failure on my part.

How are design inputs collected and/or developed? How are those inputs converted into engineering terminology? If Toyota doesn’t use the House of Quality, what does it use? How are engineering requirements converted into sets of concepts? There is no usable explanation of set-based concurrent engineering. For crying out loud, Jeffrey Liker wrote several papers on this! What is the method for vetting various concepts? How does detailed engineering happen i.e. converting requirements into drawings? How are those concepts verified and/or validated? What type of testing is performed or skipped? When is it done? None of the things that would help a design and development engineer to understand the design and development process at Toyota is covered in any useful way.

When these questions are touched upon, they are done so piecemeal and superficially; disconnected from one another. The authors make the reader work very hard to extract nuggets from their writing. The discussion often happens in the context of an example, but the examples require you to know car terminology! So if you don’t have experience in the automobile industry, good luck trying to figure out what the authors are trying to communicate. (Thank you Google & Wikipedia for helping me see what is meant.) The matter is made worse by the fact that an example doesn’t carry through between discussion of topics.

One final note, there is a ridiculous amount of adoration of Toyota’s results that borders on worship. I didn’t care for that, especially when what I was looking for—the description of process—was missing. I didn’t buy the book for the authors to tell me how good Toyota is and how bad everybody else is. I already know this. It is unfortunate that several masters in lean wrote rave reviews for the book. I wonder if they bothered to actually read it. I am now less inclined to be guided by their reviews and recommendations. My suggestion to you is you skip this book. It isn’t worth anyone’s time.

[1] Pugh, Stuart. Total Design. Addison-Wesley Publishers Ltd. 1991. ISBN 0-201-41639-5

[2] Clausing, Don. Total Quality Development. ASME Press: New York, NY. 1993. ISBN 0-7918-0035-0

[3] Ulrich, Karl T., and Steven D. Eppinger. Product Design and Development. New York, NY: McGraw Hill Education. 2012. Print. ISBN 978-93-5260-185-1

[4] Morgan, Kames M., and Jeffrey K. Liker. The Toyota Product Development System. New York, NY: Productivity Press. 2006. Print. ISBN 1-56327-282-2

[5] Liker, Jeffrey K. The Toyota Way. New York, NY: McGraw Hill. 2004. Print. ISBN 0-07-139231-9


Coffee Shop Epiphanies: Influences of Design on Behavior

Coffee shops provide a great opportunity to observe the flow of product from customer order and collection of cash to the delivery of the order and order pickup by the customer.

The coffee shop I sit at has the entrance for its order queue close to the entrance to the store. So, when customers walk into the store they immediately find themselves in queue to place their order. The customers place their order at one of two cash registers that are set side by side along the path of the flow. They then walk further to the end of the line where their order is delivered. In a relative measure, the exit of the queue is much farther from the store entrance than the entrance of the queue.

Recently I made a couple of observations:

1. Some customers order specialty coffee products (e.g. espressos, lattes, etc.), while others order brewed coffee. Specialty coffee products takes time to make while brewed coffee is ready to serve on demand.

Customers who order specialty coffee products move to the end of line and wait there for their order. Almost all of them wait right at exit of the queue. During a surge a cluster of people forms there essentially blocking the exit.

Customers who order brewed coffee have their coffee delivered to them right at the cash registers. Their order is not delivered at the end of line. So these customers, almost exclusively, exit the queue through the entrance of the queue instead of taking their order and following the line and exiting at its end. I suspect two contributing factors: the exit to the store is closer to the entrance of the queue, and the exit of the queue is blocked by the cluster of people waiting to pick up their order.

2. Many customers after picking up their order from the end of line still do not exit from there. They instead move back through the queue and exit through the queue entrance and then on through the store exit. I suspect that is because there is no direct way to exit the store from the exit of the queue. The customer has to navigate through the seating area.

As I made my observations on how people were behaving, I found myself getting irritated. Why couldn’t these customers, who had a brain and the ability to sense their environment, follow the line from the queue entrance to the queue exit and then out of the store? It’s not hard! Stop creating back-flows! How inconsiderate! So selfish! So oblivious! Ugh! I’m sure my disgust was plainly apparent on my face. I recall my many sanctimonious conversations with friends and colleagues on the thoughtless behavior of people.

Then I experienced an epiphany. My mind, without my conscious awareness, flipped its perspective and answered the question, “What is it about the design of the space that led people to use it in the way they were?” It shifted from blaming the human to accepting human behavior as an uncontrollable factor and addressing the inadequacy of the design of the space that enabled humans to behave in an undesirable way. That released my mind from being stuck and frustrated to feeling creative. With that one realization, my mind started working on redesigning the space.

Still, I wanted to continue observing the activity to understand it a little more deeply. But what happened caught me by surprise. Even though I had had the epiphany that the design of the space was the problem, and that people were responding to the design, I still found myself getting irritated with them for what I ascribed to them as their conscious decisions. That triggered my second epiphany, that unless I consciously focused on the first epiphany, my mind will naturally shift to blaming people for their behavior instead of the design of the space that enables it.

Postscript: Our brain evolved in an environment to notice activity that signaled potential danger: movement, sound, smell, etc. So it is biased to see this foreground. So much so that most times it doesn’t even see the background; the relatively unchanging environment. People and their behavior are always in the foreground. The context for their behavior, the design of the space, is in the background. When we are faced with behavior problems, our mind instinctively focuses on the human, rather than his environment. It takes conscious awareness to not do that.

Retraining Can’t Fix This

In the course of an average workday we make hundreds of decisions. Some of those decisions require engaging our conscious awareness. In my previous post I described how the quality of those decisions deteriorate as that awareness or willpower fatigues with use.

However, there are decisions where human error occurs with certainty even if our attention is totally focused on the task. Consider the Muller-Lyer[1] illusion below:

The two vertical lines are of the same length. Even after knowing this, we all continue to perceive the line on the left to be longer than the line on the right. The “fact” that the two lines are of different lengths is simply obvious to us. Because of its obviousness we don’t stop to check our judgment before acting on it. Such actions, based on erroneous perception, are likely to produce faulty outcomes.

This error in our human perception/cognition system is hard-wired into our brains. No amount of retraining or conscious effort will correct it. So corrective actions that identify retraining as the way to prevent recurrence of this type of error won’t be effective. It will only serve to demoralize the worker. What, then, is an effective corrective action for such errors?

We can develop and use tools and methods that circumvent the brain’s perception/cognition system, for example with an overlay (red lines in the figure below), or actually measuring each line and comparing those values to one another. This does add a step to the evaluation process; an after-the-fact fix to a faulty design. Ideally, though, we would want our designs to take into account human limitations and avoid creating such illusions in the first place.

[1] Muller-Lyer illusion https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muller-Lyer_illusion Retrieved 2017-06-22