Since my post of February 11, the students in Professor Beach’s ME 314 course have done many things. They have read and discussed Chapters 8 and 9 of my book. The title of chapter 8 is "Symbolism and cultural Values: Who Are We?" The subtitles are Products, Symbolism, and Cultures, Products and National cultures, Products and subcultures, and Globalism and cultures. Chapter 9 is "Global Contraints: Does the Product Fit a Finite Earth and Its Inhabitants?" Subtitles are Big Problems, The Role of Industrially Produced Products, Why These Problems, Response to change, Revolutionary Approaches, The Iceberg, Regulation and Laws, and Now what?
The students have continued to put examples of good and bad products on the class blog (see Feb. 11 post), and student groups have continued to review them, report on their favorites, and bring up further questions for class discussion. Dave Beach has also begun showing some examples of the student’s story videos, which are extensions of the discovery videos made early in the quarter..
The class has also interacted with two more guest speakers, Peter Mondavi, the co-Proprietor of Charles Krug Winery, and Nancy Gioia, Director of Ford Motor Company’s Electrification Program, and also presently of the integration of information hardware and software into its vehicles. An article on Mondavi is here, and information on Gioia is here. Both of them have positions where product quality, both real and perceived, is of great importance. They have spent their careers worrying about issues of product quality in two areas where it has received a great deal of attention (wine and motor vehicles).
Gioia’s problem with integrating information equipment into vehicles is particularly difficult. The number one goal of vehicles has to remain safety. But the builders of automobiles are under tremendous pressure to include digital devices ranging from smart phones to increasingly complex navigation and television systems to internet access, and vehicle features ranging from increasing reporting on vehicle components to driving aids. The problem is that of both including these kind of features and not distracting the driver to the point where driving becomes more dangerous—a case where a perceived increase in the quality of vehicles could result in a dramatic increase in automotive accidents. Autonomous vehicles? Gioia guessed maybe iin 40 years.
There will be two more speakers from outside of Stanford, I will give a talk on achieving higher quality, and the last two and a half sessions will be devoted to student presentations on companies they have researched who do a particularly good job in producing high quality products. I will be writing two or three more posts recapping the remainder of the course. It is going very well. Should you want more details on the course than I have been able to put in these posts, you should contact Professor Dave Beach in the Stanford Engineering School. His e-mail address is email@example.com.