We all talk about quality but sometimes find it hard to define. It was that difficulty that drove Robert M. Pirsig over the edge of sanity in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Elusive though the definition may be, quality is a concrete goal for engineers who need to base their designs on quantifiable data.
In a media release, Ford Motor Co. expressed the challenge as follows: “The sense of touch and intuitive understanding of quality are innately human characteristics, but how do you measure them?” Ironically, it finds the answer for the ultimate measure of human-machine interaction not in a human being but in another machine.
RUTH assesses the texture, feel, and reach built into the design of a car’s interior to improve quality. RUTH doesn’t look like what many of us picture as a robot, because it is essentially just an arm with detachable fingers. The arm’s function is to poke, turn, and push at the knobs and buttons, interacting with the car as a human driver would, to come up with what drivers want and expect.
The way it works begins with data already obtained. Ford engineers program in what humans prefer. RUTH then refers to that data when taking measurements to analyze which aspects are too hard, too soft, too hot, too cold, or just right for Ford customers. The data-driven assessment eliminates subjective predispositions, though that doesn’t mean that you get robotically objective data either. Ford said it takes into account human expectations of what something should feel like. For example, as people expect what looks like metal to have a cooler feel than plastic or wood-like materials, it must adjust the temperature accordingly.
Mark Spingler, Ford technical expert for vehicle interior technologies, reported the results of RUTH’s readings as very impressive. Normally Ford would expect something in the neighborhood of 80 percent accuracy but got 92 percent on its recommendations for steering wheel preferences, for example. Getting these things right depends not only on having the right size and shape but also on the right feel. Spingler explained: “When measuring friction the challenge was to model human skin, so we developed a friction finger with an underlay to monitor the feel of softness and the friction of the surface.”
In the media report, Luke Robinson, Ford metrologist and RUTH technician, explained, “Before RUTH, many engineers had access only to hand-held measuring tools, and no means to test the interiors” other than approximate trial and error. In contrast, putting RUTH in a car can give engineers the data they need clearly and quickly. Watch RUTH in action for yourself:
Ford has had this technology in an advanced research center in Europe since 2009. This summer marks RUTH's arrival in North America, where the technology is applying its data advantages to the 2013 Fusion models. In the media item, Eileen Franko, Ford craftsmanship supervisor, said data from RUTH gives Ford the ability to provide a level of comfort in the Fusion that's comparable to that of a high-end luxury car. “I might be biased, but RUTH isn’t,” she said. And that assures that the standards for the car “are the best in the world.”
Well, even the best may not please all of the people all of the time, but if Ford gets a satisfaction rate of 92 percent, it's done really well in applying data toward achieving quality.
The idea behind providing data faster and more objectively than the standard auto tester is great quality effort from all aspects. Being able to test the interiors in a manner that resembled in-vehicle scenarios is very forward driven move from Ford.
@Noreen I guess you're easy to please. Actually, if you calculate the difference in price, you'd probably cover quite a few of the "free" drinks. Perhaps airlines should run analytics about what component tempts people to pay more for their trips.
@kicheko Yes, so long as it's the feel rather than the look that one is after. I've heard people say they never wanted to fly coach after flying first-class because it was so much more comfortable. So from that standpoint, if they were offered coach seats that were equally comfortable, they may go for them, so long as they are not interested in any snob appeal associated with first-class.
Ariella, - You have a point there illusion may be the negative word.....at the end of the day its the comfort though. If the level is good then one who is not able to buy a luxury car will still be happy.
@kicheko I'm not sure I would go so far as calling it an illusion. If you're objective in buying a luxury car is not the status symbol but the extra level of comfort you get, then you get a better value in a lower cost car that delivers a comparable level of comfort. However, most luxury car buyers are very status-conscious, something that is associated with higher end brands than Ford.
It about the illusion i guess...they'd want to give the feel of equal comfort. Its the concept of offering someone something cheap without making them feel cheap. In the end though the difference is felt once you step into the high-end car, but in the mean time the illusion of being just as good keeps every man happy.
@Data Diva First off, I have to compliment you on your choice of profile pic.
What you suggest is an idea that would be applicable to any industry that finds regional differences that would warrant making specialized adjustments. I get the impression that Ford has the data on its customers in general. Another thing they would have to adjust for regional customization is anticipation of how many cars each region would demand before they produce them. They probably already do have data on that, but in the case of customization, they would have to bank a lot more on getting those numbers right for each area rather than just producing the total number of cars they expect to sell.
2014 VA Interactive Roadshow -- AtlantaThe 2014 VA Interactive Roadshow will feature SAS® Data Management and SAS® Visual Analytics experts covering topics like prepping data for VA and VA integration with SAS® Office Analytics. This year's events will keep presentations at a minimum and focus on giving attendees hands-on exposure to the latest version of VA.
NRF Retail's Big Show 2015The flagship industry event of the National Retail Federation, Retail's Big Show is an annual event held over four days in New York City. As the world's leading retail event, the Big Show brings together 30,000 retail professionals and vendors from more than 86 countries, and features more than 100 education sessions, 270 speakers and 550 exhibitors. The conference connects retail solution providers with retail executives searching for the most effective solutions, tools and technologies.
LEADERS FROM THE BUSINESS AND IT COMMUNITIES DUEL OVER CRITICAL TECHNOLOGY ISSUES
The Current Discussion
Visual Analytics: Who Carries the Onus? The Issue: Data visualization is an up-and-coming technology for businesses that want to deliver analytical results in a visual way, enabling analysts the ability to spot patterns more easily and business users to absorb the insight at a glance and better understand what questions to ask of the data. But does it make more sense to train everybody to handle the visualization mandate or bring on visualization expertise? Our experts are divided on the question. The Speakers: Hyoun Park, Principal Analyst, Nucleus Research; Jonathan Schwabish, US Economist & Data Visualizer
The hospitality industry gathers massive amounts of customer data, and mining that data effectively can yield tremendous results in terms of improved CRM, better-targeted marketing spend, and more efficient back-end processes. Roger Ares, vice president of analytics at Hyatt Corp., discusses the ways he and his staff use big data.
Charged with keeping track of travel assets, including employees, iJET International relies on data management best-practices and advanced analytics to keep its clients in the know on current and potential world events affecting travel, Rich Murnane, Director of Enterprise Data Operations & Data Architect, told All Analytics in an interview from the 2014 SAS Global Forum Executive Conference.
Jason Dorsey, chief strategy officer for the Center for Generational Kinetics and keynote speaker at last month's SAS Global Forum 2014, describes how Gen Y professionals are enhancing the makeup of multigenerational analytics organizations.
From analytics talent development to the power of visual analytics, All Analytics found a variety of common themes circulating throughout the exhibition floor and session discussions at the 2014 SAS Global Forum and SAS Global Forum Executive Conference events held last month in Washington, DC.
Talking with All Analytics live from the 2014 SAS Global Forum Executive Conference, Eric Helmer, senior manager of campaign design and execution for T-Mobile, discussed the importance of customer data -- starting internally -- in devising the mobile operator's marketing plans.
The big-data analytics market can be a confusing place. Among the vendors vying for your dollars are traditional database management providers, Hadoop startup services, and IT giants. In this video, All Analytics editors Beth Schultz and Michael Steinhart sit down in a Google+ Hangout on Air with Doug Henschen, executive editor of InformationWeek. Henschen discusses use cases for big-data analytics, purchase considerations, and his recent roundup of the top 16 big-data analytics platforms.
At the National Retail Federation BIG Show last month, All Analytics executive editor Michael Steinhart noted a host of solutions for tracking and analyzing customer activity in retail stores. From Bluetooth beacons to RFID tags to NFC connections to video analytics, retailers must find the right combination of tools to help optimize the shopper experience, streamline operations, and boost revenues.
The days when historical shipment trends and gut feelings were enough to forecast retail demand accurately are long over. SAS chief industry consultant Charles Chase outlines the benefits of pulling real-time sales information from point-of-sale and product scanner systems, then flowing that data into dynamic forecasting tools from SAS.
With today's advanced visual analytics tools, you can stream data into memory for real-time processing, provide users the ability to explore and manipulate the data, and bring your data to life for the business.
Dynamic data visualizations let analysts and business users interact with the data, changing variables or drilling down into data points, and see results in a flash. Advance your use of data visualization with tools that support features like auto-charting, explanatory pop-ups, and mobile sharing.
No doubt your enterprise is amassing loads of data for fact-based decision-making. Hand in hand with all that data comes big computational requirements. Can traditional IT infrastructure handle the increasing number and complexity of your analytical work? Probably not, which is why you need a backend rethink. Big data calls for a high-performance analytics infrastructure, as Fern Halper, a partner at the IT consulting and research firm, Hurwitz & Associates, discusses here.
Redbox's bright-red DVD kiosks are all but ubiquitous these days, located in more than 28,000 spots across the country. Jayson Tipp, Redbox VP of Analytics and CRM, provides an insider's look at how the company has accomplished its phenomenal nine-year growth.
InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), a seven-brand global hotelier, has woven analytics into the fabric of its operations. David Schmitt, director of performance strategy and planning, shares IHG's analytics story and his lessons learned.