Designing for the Future

Design is considered the process for which intelligent thoughts provide the form and function of a product as specified by client objectives and falls within constraints. The design process is most important part of the production cycle of a good or service. It is where most of the investment within a product is spent. Within the automobile industry the design process is key to the creation of a quality vehicle. The design process is similar to the general design process with some specifics.

Design management is the role of management to create synergy between departments to enhance this design process. It allows for concurrent engineering which decreases time-to-production and therefore cuts costs. Along with management’s role in creating effective design, designers must follow the standards and regulations put forth by such organizations as the NHTSA or the ASME. These guidelines include many different regulations which are either lawfully enforced in the case of the NHTSA, or encouraged in the case of the ASME.

Four cases are discussed to show the difference between good design and bad design and the consequences that follow. The Ford Pinto and Yugo GV are two cases which exemplify bad or poor design, while the Volkswagen Bug/Beetle and IDEO are the two cases associated with good design techniques.

From the consequences affecting the product, company, and financials of the company, some conclusions are drawn. First quality design should be sought by all even at the possible expense of low cost. Within the design process, rapid prototyping and frequent testing should be two tenants considered paramount.

By following these recommendations, the automotive industry will better fulfill their customers’ needs and thus create more profit and flourish.

Building Character…With the Help of the Red, White, and Blue

If you go and talk to most Americans over the age of 65 and ask what is one flaw they see in the current generations, quite a few will the note the decay of the character and moral fiber of Americans. They will note the loss of self-pride and patriotism. A common problem people today lament about is the state of the economy. There is a division as to how to fix this economy. Democrats and most liberals believe in pumping the economy full of money as a jump-start while Republicans and conservatives believe in reducing the cost to the rich and cause  a trickle down of wealth. I will not say if either is right but a common solution is one which most people would argue with. That solution in my mind, which also can solve the problem of loss of American character, is mandatory military service. I would suggest a short period of mandatory military service for every American between the age of 18 and 30 for a period of roughly 12-18 months. Basic training and service only would suffice. This solution would pump money back into the economy through the salary paying of Americans, as well as increase military awareness and American patriotism. Every American would learn discipline few have the opportunity for and the military would also be able to teach every American at least one trade which they can use throughout their life. It would create a healthier, more aware generation. Perhaps the issue of gun control might even become moot due to every American being aware of the safety and upkeep of firearms and the consequences of owning such firearms. And when the nation comes under attack, we have an entire nation of semi-trained soldiers standing by. Think of the implications of having a nation with nearly 100 million persons receiving some type of military training. It would create a valid argument against attacking what is already considered the greatest army on Earth.  With the new-found discipline and patriotism, Americans would thrive in the global markets. So lets start the training.

Ethical Design: The Ford Pinto

In 1969, the Ford Motor Company was in a race with other U.S. automakers to provide sub-compact cars that could directly compete with and challenge foreign automakers. Specifically the Japanese and Volkswagen cars were targeted as the main competition. Ford decided it needed a subcompact which would sell for under $2,000 and would weigh no more than one ton or 2,000lbs. The answer came in the form of the Ford Pinto. The Pinto was designed and produced in a record-setting 22 months. The 1971 model had entry-level pricings at around $1,900 and weighed roughly 1,950lbs. Ford had reached its goals for the Pinto.

When originally made available, the Pinto was not mobbed by customers, but the model did exhibit strong sales. The Pinto became a success. Within the first year over 300,000 Pintos were produced. The model reached a peak production in 1974 at a rate of over 500,000 automobiles produced that year. The Pinto was especially successful in California where there was a strong tendency to buy foreign imports. The market share of foreign imports for sub-compacts dropped almost a full percentage point in 1971 alone.

Along with the story of success of the Ford Pinto came the tales of inadequacies and complaints. Due to the cost cuts in design, many of the components of the Pinto’s interior were made of cheap plastic. Customers complained quite often about the inside door handles breaking off in their hands. Dealerships started to fill shelves with replacement parts, and some customers even kept boxes of these handles within their automobile to keep it on the road. Still, most maintenance on the Pinto was simple to perform, and Ford even offered maintenance kits so that theoretically an owner never had to visit a dealership to fix their Pinto. In addition to these complaints stories were emerging about Pintos erupting into flames after relatively low-speed rear impacts.

In 1975, the Ford Pinto was suffering from some setbacks. The U.S. economy was still feeling the effects of the 1973-74 fuel and oil crisis, and the average citizen did not want to buy a gas-guzzling vehicle. The automobile industry was hit hard. Apart from the industry-wide effects, the Pinto and Ford itself had to increasingly deal with suits and torts from Pinto owners who had been in accidents where their vehicle had burst into flame. The Ford Pinto had a dangerous design flaw.

The Pinto design incorporated a fuel tank situated below and behind the rear axle giving a distance between the axle and tank of only 9 inches. On the axle itself were bolts which during rear impacts would cut into the fuel tank causing flammable fuel to spill forth. The filler neck of the tank itself was also too short a depth and when impacted would shear away causing more fluid to spill. These two key factors made rear impacts extremely dangerous.

One prominent instance of these explosive accidents occurred in 1972 when a woman named Lily Gray and her 13 year old neighbor Richard Grimshaw were driving a 1972 Pinto down the freeway when the car stalled due to carburetor complications and was hit from behind. The Pinto burst into flames causing the death of Lily Gray and serious burns to Richard Grimshaw. The resulting lawsuit cost Ford $560,000 in wrongful death damages, $2.5 million in compensatory damages, and $125 million in punitive damages which was later reduced to $3.5 million.

Near the same time as the Grimshaw lawsuit was under way; an article came out in a magazine known as Mother Jones describing the Ford Pinto design flaw. It also described how Ford was aware of this flaw during the design stage of the Pinto and went ahead with the production regardless. The article, written by Mark Dowie, also brought to light a memo that was found within the Ford company detailing a cost-benefit analysis of the recall and repair of the design flaw of the Pinto versus the compensation Ford would have to pay to victims if the flaw was not taken care of. Using a figure of $200,000 per life and $67,000 per injury, and assuming 180 injuries along with 180 deaths, the Ford Motor Company believed it less expensive to not recall the Pinto and just deal with the lawsuits. New evidence has been brought to light by the case study performed by Gary Schwartz. This evidence suggests that the infamous Ford Pinto Memo was truly a memo for the National Highway Transportation Safety Bureau (NHTSA) which displays the cost-benefit analysis for new roll-over safety measures for the entire automotive industry. The number of deaths and injuries resulting from all cars within the U.S. in regards to roll-over accidents. The life-value figures were actually those already created by the NHTSA in previous instances.

Ford did issue a recall in 1978 for the Pinto where a longer filler neck and shielding for the tank would be installed. Even though the NHTSA issued a statement saying that the Pinto needed no recall, as the design flaw that was inherent in the Pinto was not necessarily unique to the Pinto. Other sub-compact cars had similar fuel tank placements, some being arguably worse. The Pinto receives the most recognition due to its popularity, the Mother Jones article, and the publicity surrounding the law suits.

So Ford might not have done anything out of the ordinary in making a car which had flaws. They did not necessarily create a cost-benefit analysis valuing life at a mere $200,000. Many of the accusations and public knowledge of the Pinto case were skewed or misjudged. However, the facts of the case suggest that Ford did produce the Pinto after numerous crash tests showed the dangers of rear impacts to their design. They knowingly did not fix the design even though evidence shows they had various methods for doing so, some only costing roughly $5 per vehicle. This evidence in and of itself can be used to condemn Ford.

Utilitarianism is often the school of ethics most closely associated with the Ford Pinto case. All the talk of cost-benefit analyses and recalls seems to suggest a strong link between Ford’s thought processes and Utilitarianism. Problems and dilemmas come down to the bottom line; will the ends justify the means? Ford believed that creating an exciting new product in record time was more important than creating one that was thoroughly tested, designed, and inspected. The ends for Ford were new sub-compact cars which could compete with foreign imports. The means were limited design time and reducing costs. By cutting costs, Ford knowingly created a product which could prove dangerous and fatal to its consumers. Does Ford’s ends justify its means? Ford did create a sub-compact that sold extremely well and competed fiercely with foreign imports. The goal of the Ford Pinto was met. The costs of this win were substantial however. The money that Ford tried to save by not recalling the vehicle was spent when Ford recalled the Pinto, and extra was spent in compensatory and punitive damages in lawsuits. So the costs that Ford tried to avoid were incurred anyway along with extra. The damage to the Ford reputation was also substantial. Saying such as Ford stands for “Found On Roadside Dead” became commonplace. Determining whether Ford made a profit from the Pinto is hard to determine. The costs from the lawsuits and recall are easily calculated, but a cost due to damaged reputation is quite difficult to analyze. Also it is impossible to say whether the Pinto would have met the goals of Ford had a longer and more thorough design period been emplaced. Some profit would have been lost due to longer production time, however many of the costs incurred from Ford’s decision would have never been. In light of the damaged reputation, I believe that even under the Utilitarianism school of ethics, Ford was in the wrong. Their ends did not justify their means.

A similar ethical concept to Utilitarianism is that of Rawl’s Theory of Justice. Within his theories he states that for something to be both ethical and just it must not infringe on the basic rights and liberties of a person, nor give advantage to any one group but to all with positions and offers available to all equally. In reference to the Ford Pinto, the second statement is upheld. The Pinto being a relatively cheap car which was often a starter vehicle, and as long as a person had the funds and a driver’s license, they could own the vehicle. So the design process general design itself was both fair and ethical to Rawls when regarding the second of his two theories of justice. The first theory can be up to interpretation. The only rights or liberties that might have been infringed upon are those of safety and life. Due to the design decisions of Ford, a customer’s life and safety could be considered in danger when driving the Ford Pinto. However it is interesting to think how Rawls would have interpreted this. Does the consumer take the responsibility of the lack of safety when driving; as driving itself is inherently unsafe in the long term when looking at straight probability.  Or does Ford take the blame for this lack of safety? Ford Pintos constituted 1.9% of the vehicles driven in America, they were responsible for 4.1% of the rear-end impact accident deaths. Therefore, the Pinto was statistically more unsafe than its competitors making it likely that Rawls would rule the Ford design decisions as unjust and unethical.

The Ford Pinto was a revolutionary vehicle. It was made from near-scratch with little design taken from other vehicles. It had a concept-to-production life of a record-setting 22 months. The Ford Motor Company knew during the design of flaws in the placement and design of the fuel tank. The flaws resulted in fires from rear impacts and the deaths of 27 persons as recorded by the NHTSA. Even though these deaths were not substantially higher than the Pinto’s competitors, the blatant disregard for fixing the problem and delaying the recall until 7 years after the issues arose make the decisions by the Ford Motor Company unethical. Two different views of ethics confirm this. The Pinto was a revolutionary vehicle but also a flammable one.

3rd Times the Charm

This past weekend was my 3rd House Party experience on this campus. I was unable to attend my sophomore year due to athletics. Each year has been a relatively different experience. My freshman year seemed the more common House Party in that I visited the fraternity houses, watched some bands, obtained the free food given out by faculty, and in general had a great time. I did not overdo it, and many of my friends and fellow students seemed to follow that. Last year’s House Party was different, there was a lot more “uptightness”; it was nearly impossible to get into the fraternities after 8pm, and I mostly just walked around with friends and hung out. No hardcore partying seemed to occur for me. It was not necessarily less fun, but the nature of the weekend had changed. It seemed, to me at least, less about having a fun,carefree time and more like someone watching over your shoulder to make sure you didn’t overdo things. There seemed less trust. I expected little to change for this year’s celebrations and therefore decided to forgo the buying the the wristwrap that would allow me access to fraternities and their activities. I stayed downhill the entire weekend. I hung out with friends, mostly in my gateway. I didn’t go nuts as some might have, but neither was I abstaining from the celebrations. I was a lot less stressed this year and the trust issue became moot. This seemed the best way for me personally to enjoy House Party. It is a weekend of great excitement and energy. I especially enjoyed the mini carnival held with the games and free food.

I would admit that some cannot contain their excitement and wish to celebrate and release their stresses and tend to over-do it a little. But overall I believe the number of these cases might be a little over-exaggerated. Yes there are the select few who take things to a physically dangerous level, and they are held accountable. Personally, I think that with more restrictions on how persons can access the fraternities the more of these extreme cases there are. Most of them I would bet come from persons imbibing in their own dorm rooms. At a fraternity the ability for a person to reach such dangerous levels of intoxication is limited due to others being able to simply stop serving them. So perhaps the best way to eradicate such dangerous behavior is actually to persuade everyone to go out to the fraternities instead of staying in. Perhaps my thinking is flawed, but students will still find a way to drink even if House Party is eradicated, just channel that to safer places.

As to the rest of the 2011 report, I have noticed a definite increase in the amount of non-Greek activities and intellectual talks in the last two years. Diversity is still a problem on campus but I believe it can be overcome. Making persons feel comfortable on campus is a task I feel the students themselves need to uptake. Such activities such as the canoe battleship need to occur more often. Activities that are fun, open to non-Greeks, and incorporate the entire campus are sorely needed. Everyone I know loves BU After Dark. It might have lost its luster over the years, but I still go. maybe it’s time to revamp it, have it more often. Again the mini-carnival was a blast, have that again. Things like this could occur more often and many people attend. I saw dozens of non-Greeks at the Kenan Thompson show. There was smores and soup, and it was a fun time. It would be interesting to see that data about when are the weekends with the most hospitalizations, and what activities the campus has that weekend. Perhaps to cut down on the alcohol abuse we simply need more wholesome distractions.

Blog Prompt 7- Conspiracies: Do They Exist?

Nicolas Cage

Conspiracy theories pervade today’s society. Every time a notable event occurs in society there is sure to be a conspiracy theory trailing right behind. These theories include everything from the US government destroying the World Trade Center themselves to the band members of Led Zeppelin selling their souls to the devil. For this week’s blog you get to choose one of the three prompts below:

1) Create your own conspiracy theory.  For example, perhaps you have a theory as to where the socks all go from the dryer, why sequels are usually so bad, why the banks were bailed out, or why the dinosaurs _really_went extinct.  Feel free to be as serious or light-hearted as you like.

2) Share one you find interesting with your views on its authenticity (or why it is so widespread).

3) Discuss conspiracy theories in general.  Why are they popular?  What makes for an effective conspiracy theory?  You should include in this topic some small amount of research into “why” they exist.

For inspiration take a look at Alex’s blog post from last week: KEN LAY IS ALIVE.

Contest- who can get the most views?

This week there will be a special award for whoever gets the most views.  A view is when someone clicks on to your actual post.  For example, if you click on our blog stats, you can see “top authors” and “top posts.”  The”top” there is measuring views.  As of today, the top posts of last seven days are (minus the “home” page):

Would You Buy a Paper? 23
Blog Council 6- Great Writing and Our Reach 15
“The Narrative Doesn’t End:” Mike Daisey, Truth, Art, and a Phone Call 11
Blog 6 Prompt: Where are they now? 9
Managing the Madness of a 20-year-old Overnight Millionaire 8
Gamesmanship vs. Sportsmanship, the Ethics of Sports 8
Mascot Revenge 7
Social Ethics vs Business Ethics 7

Your goal is to be in the #1 slot for this week.

Reward: one week off of blogging or +2 points on your final grade, whichever you prefer (they are roughly equivalent.)

Tips: promote your post on all social media, by email, use tags, use the “zemanta” extra content to link to other posts.

Social Ethics vs Business Ethics

So here is a news article about a bartender from Ohio who was fired for calling the police on a customer who was intoxicated and driving home. The owner stated that it was “bad for business” for a bartender to call the cops on its drunk customers. Here’s the link:. I thought this article was very relevant to our class. It clearly demonstrates the boundaries placed between businesses and society when it comes to certain issues. A bar is in the business of serving alcohol. Society has a very rigid opinions on drinking and driving, with good reason. So did the bartender deserve to be fired? Is the reasoning legitimate? Personally, I believe that she was morally obligated to stop the customer from driving away. Perhaps calling a taxi service and taking away the customer’s keys should have been attempted first before allowing the customer to just waltz out and being forced to call the authorities. Firing her may have been a little extreme. Her past actions should have played some role in the decision. I doubt she has a habit of calling the cops on her customers. Please add comments as your thoughts on the whole issue.