Friday, October 12, 2007

Flexible SDM programs advance corporate strategies - SDM Pulse, Fall 2007

By John M. Grace, industry codirector of SDM

I fielded a series of questions about the flexibility of SDM’s various programs during the International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE) symposium held in San Diego in July 2007. In order to help companies get the most out of SDM, here is a quick look at how SDM’s offerings can be tailored to meet your specific strategic needs. Keep in mind that it takes teamwork between the company and SDM to capitalize on the program’s flexibility—we need to know your goals if we’re going to help you reach them.

SDM’s portfolio of programs consists of the following:

The SDM certificate program, with class sessions available at a distance or on campus, includes three courses from the SDM master’s curriculum, a capstone project, and two weeklong seminar sessions on the MIT campus. Graduates receive a certificate of graduate studies in systems engineering in one year.

The SDM master’s program is available as a part-time program at a distance or, in the local area, in a commuter and full-time on-campus format. This program consists of a 14-course curriculum with elective tracks and course options, a thesis requirement, and flexible on-campus requirements consisting of weeklong “business trips” to campus each semester and one semester on campus sometime during the program. Graduates receive an SM in engineering and management granted jointly by MIT’s School of Engineering and MIT Sloan School of Management.

The PhD program, offered through MIT’s Engineering Systems Division (ESD), focuses on developing cross-disciplinary knowledge from many of MIT’s departments and divisions. About 10 percent of SDM students typically continue to the PhD level. The ESD PhD leads to a doctorate in engineering systems, but will not be discussed further in this article. For more information, visit esd.mit.edu/phd/default.htm.

All of these programs have been developed by faculty from MIT’s School of Engineering, MIT Sloan School of Management, and industry.

The SDM certificate program
This one-year option provides seasoned engineers with the most current thinking on systems engineering, system architecture, and product design and development—at a very reasonable cost to their employers.

The certificate program is ideally suited to helping companies cascade systems thinking throughout their organizations. While students attend the same classes as SDM master’s students, they are typically also on the job—which means they can apply what they’ve learned directly and immediately. Capstone projects that apply SDM methods and techniques can also address specific company problems and involve a team of students from the same organization.

The SDM master’s program
The centerpiece of SDM, the master’s program helps companies develop future technical leaders, build a cadre of systems thinkers, and enhance technical and business competencies. The program also links companies into faculty and research networks and provides a valuable source of highly talented and trained individuals. The program consists of three core, seven foundation, and four elective courses. Corporations closely linked to SDM may help create unique program tracks for their students.

For all companies, the thesis requirement provides a range of strategic opportunities. Companies may mentor self-sponsored students, support self-sponsored students in areas of interest, support their own students in selected corporate research, or develop a portfolio of theses to examine critical problem areas. The thesis requirement can also help companies tap into current MIT research and technology.

Building networks

SDM establishes a network of students, faculty, and corporations that can become a continual resource for both individuals and companies. The excellence of SDM participants, the quality of students in closely associated programs within ESD, as well the extraordinary faculty and staff of MIT all ensure that corporations linked to SDM enjoy a wealth of beneficial associations.

Corporations wishing to maximize the benefits of SDM can also partner with the program to have an impact on content and program options, as well as to recruit students.

Without a doubt, SDM’s flexible family of programs is well suited to enhance a corporation’s strategic position, leadership cadre, and even product offerings. For further discussion on any or all of the above topics, contact John M. Grace, SDM industry codirector, at jmgrace@mit.edu or 617.253.2081.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Industry Faculty Research Forum slated - SDM Pulse, Fall 2007

On November 8, 2007, MIT’s System Design and Management and Leaders for Manufacturing programs will hold a daylong session for companies interested in establishing or deepening their involvement with SDM and LFM.

The purpose of the Industry Faculty Research Forum is to match up industry and faculty research interests as well as to develop structured internships for LFM students and thesis projects for SDM students.

Featured speakers will include Professor of the Practice Debbie Nightingale of aeronautics and astronautics (aero/astro) and engineering systems; research associate Eric Rebentisch of the Center for Technology, Policy and Industrial Development and the Lean Aerospace Initiative; Associate Professor Olivier de Weck of aero/astro and engineering systems; Professor Roy Welsch, director of the Center for Computational Research in Economics and Management Science; Stephen Graves, the Abraham Siegel professor of management; and Warren Seering, the Weber-Shaughness professor of mechanical engineering and engineering systems and the engineering codirector of SDM and LFM.

Breakout session topics will include call center operations optimization, global supply chain modeling, strategic sourcing, product platforms, and lean assessment process and tools.

The meeting will be held at the MIT Faculty Club, and lunch will be served.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Systems thinking may be the Rx for some of pharma's woes - SDM Pulse, Fall 2007

By Ragu Bharadwaj, SDM ’07

Editor’s note: This is the second article in a series following Ragu Bharadwaj’s progress through the System Design and Management Program. Bharadwaj, a computational chemist, previously discussed areas within the pharmaceutical industry that might be improved through systems thinking. In this article, Bharadwaj reveals what he’s learned from SDM so far.

Ragu Bharadwaj
SDM ’07

In just one SDM semester, I have been exposed to a mountain of ideas that I am still processing. Already I’m impressed by the ways in which systems thinking could transform and improve the pharmaceutical industry.

SDM looks at the big picture—what is a business’s ecosystem and why do companies fail? But it also goes to the root of problems that pharma and other industries confront every day—for example, what’s the best way to compare risks and benefits for optimal decision-making? Through it all, SDM maintains its focus on the people skills needed to make any business succeed.

SDM began with the month-long January program, affectionately known as SDM “boot camp,” which gave my leadership and management skills a workout. Students under take two design challenges while also attending lectures on ethics, leadership, public speaking, and negotiation. Lessons are immediately put to use on assigned teams, as tight deadlines and a heavy workload drive home the importance of using each person’s unique skills and experience.

The spring semester armed me with SDM tools: engineering risk benefit analysis (ERBA), marketing, and technology strategy. ERBA and decision analysis are of paramount import to the pharmaceutical industry because projects have such long lead times. Scientists often make decisions based on gut instinct when even a rudimentary risk-benefit analysis would help. I’ve been involved with several biotech startups where the risk of decisions was tacitly known but never quantified. What I’ve discovered through SDM is that even when there is great uncertainty, quantification stimulates the discussion of risk and inspires contingency planning.

The pharmaceutical industry could use SDM tools to improve laboratory design, high-throughput screening, company strategy, and disease-fighting strategy. In laboratory design, the mean time between failures and criticality can be used to make decisions on how much redundancy to allocate for equipment, employee resources, and suppliers.

High-throughput screening (HTS) involves screening available libraries of up to a million compounds for potentially active compounds (“leads”) to follow up for development. HTS yields good starting points but is expensive, and results depend on factors like assay quality and selection method. Quantifying the probability of missing leads because of errors should improve the usefulness of HTS.

On a larger scale, ERBA should help companies make better strategic decisions about which projects to pursue and which diseases to target. The tools taught in SDM could help answer key questions, such as:

•Given a fixed budget, would developing treatments against multiple mechanisms in a single disease area have a greater chance of success than developing treatments for different diseases via a single mechanism?

•For a single disease area, would attacking the same mechanism with different compound scaffolds be more successful than attacking different mechanisms?

These kinds of questions are vital to a company’s very survival—a point driven home in SDM’s technology strategy course. This is an absolute must for those interested in product strategy or business development in pharma. While such analyses are sometimes used in large pharmaceutical companies, they have yet to seep into biotech startups.

I know many a startup that could have been saved by this kind of analysis. I hope more industry errors can be avoided as SDM tools begin to spread throughout the industry.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

SDM invites industry partners to get involved - SDM Pulse, Fall 2007

SDM invites current and potential industry partners to the MIT Faculty Club on October 17, 2007, for a discussion of how best to satisfy their technical leadership needs and requirements via SDM’s educational and research offerings. The meeting is just one of the ways SDM stays tuned into the needs of industry.

Representatives from a variety of industries and the program staff will share their insights on creating high-value working relationships between a company and SDM’s students, faculty, and researchers. The agenda includes a review of all aspects of the SDM and certificate programs, including curriculum, thesis projects, the distance option, the intensive January program requirement, and business trips. A student and alumni panel will also provide direct feedback to company representatives on creating value from their perspective.

This meeting is designed to help SDM identify industry trends, issues, and requirements and continue to evolve its “product offerings” for the benefit of its partners.

A review of concepts developed by MIT SDM faculty for increasing the benefits of partnership to companies, as well as financial obligations of partnership will be included. For more information, contact John M. Grace, SDM industry codirector, at jmgrace@mit.edu or 617.253.2081.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Sheffi appointed director of MIT’s Engineering Systems Division - SDM Pulse, Fall 2007

Professor Yossi Sheffi
Professor Yossi Sheffi has been appointed director of the Engineering Systems Division (ESD), effective Nov. 15, Dean of Engineering Subra Suresh announced on September 24, 2007.

Sheffi received his B.Sc. from Technion in Israel in 1975, his S.M. from MIT in 1977, and his Ph.D. from MIT in 1978; he holds faculty appointments in ESD and the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. An expert in systems optimization, risk analysis, and supply chain management, Sheffi serves as director of the MIT Center for Transportation and Logistics, a position he will continue to hold as ESD director. Under his leadership, the center has experienced substantial growth, launching many educational, research, and industry/government outreach programs.

Sheffi is the author of numerous research articles and two books, including the bestseller The Resilient Enterprise: Overcoming Vulnerability for Competitive Advantage, published by the MIT Press in 2005. The Resilient Enterprise received rave reviews from the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Economist, as well as dozens of trade publications. The Financial Times chose it as one of the best business books of 2005; and it was named the 2005 Book of the Year in the category of Business and Economics by Forward Magazine.

Since 1998, Sheffi has served as director of MIT's Master of Engineering in Logistics program, which he founded. The program grew from 17 applications at its inception to hundreds of applications today, and has inspired the creation of dozens of similar programs worldwide.

In 2003, Sheffi founded and has since led the MIT-Zaragoza International Logistics Program, an global collaboration among academia, industry, and government. This program has led to substantial economic growth in Aragon, and in 2006, Sheffi received Aragon’s presidential award for “the most substantial contribution to the regional economy.”

In his announcement, Dean Suresh thanked Institute Professor Joel Moses, who has graciously served as ESD’s interim director since January 2006, and added that he is looking forward to working with Sheffi and colleagues in ESD.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

SDM course employs industry processes to nurture product development - SDM Pulse, Fall 2007

By Shawn Quinn
SDM ’05
By Shawn Quinn, SDM ’06

In Product Design and Development (PDD), a required foundation course in SDM, students create new products using actual processes common in industry today.

Within the first weeks, students form teams and propose a concept for a new product. About midway through the course, these teams present their concepts and compete for the opportunity to continue development. A $1,000 budget is provided to each selected team to design, fabricate, and demonstrate a working prototype. The course culminates in the PDD “trade show” where teams compete for cash prizes by presenting business cases and demonstrating products.

My teammates and I won the 2007 PDD design competition and $1,000 with a product that allows a standard 35 mm camera to take long-exposure wide-field images of stars. The product, which we called Star-Cam-Tracker (SCT), compensates for the rotation of the Earth so that a star field can be photographed without blurring. Our target market is amateur astronomers and adventure travelers.
Members of the winning Star-Cam Tracker team pose with
their prototype (attached to a tripod and camera) at the Product
Design and Development Trade Show held in the Tang
Center at MIT last spring. The are, from left, Rehan Asad,
Paul Gomez, Shawn Quinn, Andrew Gillespy, and Kamran
Shahroudi. Matthew Aquaro is not pictured.

Initially, the team considered creating an advanced toothbrush or a tire chain system for winter driving. We chose the SCT because we liked the idea and our preliminary research indicated a clear market and a lack of competitive products.

As is often the case in industry, we began by developing a vision statement and identifying customers’ needs. We had one lead user on our team and interviewed 19 potential users via email, telephone, newsgroups, and in person. Our questionnaire solicited opinions on demand, price, potential use, and technical requirements. We eventually identified 12 needs, including portability, accuracy, power, ease of setup, and price.

We categorized potential customers using the customer classifications in Geoffrey A. Moore’s book Crossing the Chasm: early adopter, early majority, late majority, and laggards. Based on our discussions with customers, we determined that there was a clear need in the amateur astronomy market for 1,000+ units per year, and we assumed most of these sales would fall into the early adopter category. We believed that if the product could also reach the adventure traveler market, sales could reach 10,000 units annually.
Designed to be attached to a tripod and camera,
the Star-Cam Tracker allows a standard 35 mm
camera to take long-exposure wide-field images
of stars.

A customer needs analysis led us to 16 technical specifications. We evaluated 13 designs using Pugh concept selection processes. We synthesized two more designs based on the best features of the original set and ultimately chose the tangential rocker with curved gear (electric) and wedge.

We presented our design concept and preliminary need assessment, and course faculty members selected our team to proceed to development. With the welcome addition of new team members culled from teams not selected to progress to the PDD trade show, we spent the next several weeks developing engineering drawings, reviewing the design with a metal fabricator, ordering parts, developing an SCT web page, and producing a business plan.

Each of these tasks was allocated to one or more members of the team: Matthew Aquaro, SDM ’06; Rehan Asad, SDM ’07; Andrew Gillespy, SDM ’06; Paul Gomez, SDM ’06; Shawn Quinn, SDM ’06; and Kamran Shahroudi, SDM ’06. Since our team members were geographically dispersed in Colorado, Michigan, Florida, and Massachusetts, we conducted meetings via telecon and made heavy use of Webex. Initially, we met weekly. As the deadline neared, we met two to three times a week.
A star field photographed without the assistance
of the Star-Cam Tracker shows star trails caused by the motion
of the Earth. The photograph at right was taken using the
Star-Cam Tracker, which compensates for the Earth’s
motion to show each star in focus.

Our winning business plan included our marketing approach, estimates for return on investment, competitor profiles, SCT competitive advantages, development strategies, and a financial model with sensitivities analysis. We examined various business strategies and recommended self-financing the initial manufacture of up to 500 units.

We worked closely with a fabricator in New Jersey to produce and assemble the prototype. This was very much an iterative process and required several updates to the original engineering drawings. The SCT team benefited greatly from the real-world fabrication expertise provided by the vendor.

In our busy final week, we completed the controller software, packaged the electronics, and field-tested the SCT. Finally, we were ready for the trade show, which consisted of a product demonstration and a presentation to mock investors.

SCT’s tough competition included iPod earphone holders, a high-tech ironing board, a removable tractor snow plow, and a new temperature-sensing coffee mug. In the end, the judges named the SCT team the winner of this year’s PDD design competition.

A critical component of the entire effort was teamwork. We established roles and responsibilities early and met often to ensure everyone was in sync. We also inserted schedule slack in the product development cycle as a risk mitigation strategy. We spent several late nights getting everything to work, but having a great team helped, and the excellent results of field tests made the effort worthwhile.

Perhaps more than any other single required SDM course, PDD captures all phases of real-world product development. As in industry, teams are linked into the voice of the customer, concept definition, initial product development work, business case considerations, prototype development, and testing. A successful launch in industry depends on all these activities, and this course places team members squarely in the driver seat.

For more photos, visit this story online at: sdm.mit.edu/sdmpdd.html.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Alumnae reflect on the benefits of their SDM education - SDM Pulse, Fall 2007

Lisa M. Cratty, SDM ’01
By Kathryn O’Neill, editor of the SDM Pulse

Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of articles spotlighting women in the SDM program.


The women who have completed MIT’s System Design and Management Program are a diverse group of highly skilled individuals who have learned to comprehend and to integrate whole systems for the benefit of their companies and their industries.

Three SDM graduates recently took the time to describe what they got out of the program for the SDM Pulse.

Lisa M. Cratty, SDM ’01, came to SDM as a program management analyst at Ford Motor Company and later worked as an engineering supervisor at Lear Corporation. She is now an engineering director at Evenflo Company.
Monica L. Giffin, SDM ’06

Monica L. Giffin, SDM ’06, was a radar systems engineer for Raytheon when she joined SDM, and she still is. Recently, she took on a new role as deputy lead for a project to incorporate advanced algorithms into existing systems.

Shelley A. Hayes, SDM ’00, came to SDM with a background in software development and was part of an IT systems strategy group at a major document management company. She now works for the same firm as a line of business product manager. Her responsibilities include defining new products to bring to market and managing the achievement of the business results.

Q: What first attracted you to the SDM program?

LC: I was working on an MBA at a local university until I applied to SDM, but I felt that curriculum lacked a systematic, technical approach to solving the problems that present themselves in a product development environment. The “system” part of SDM is critical because although product development is a system in and of itself, it’s also affected by outside influences (purchasing, finance, engineering, manufacturing, logistics, the consumer, etc.). And each of those parties is also a system.
MG: I’ve always been interested in the way things work together—or don’t. SDM’s integrated approach to the curriculum really meshed with the way I think about problems: you can't engineer a product in isolation from political and cost considerations, and you can't manage a program without taking the technical issues into account.
SH: The SDM program dealt with the full value-chain of defining, developing, and managing a product. Upon graduating, I took a new position at my firm out of my area of expertise, and one of the first assignments my boss gave me was to lead a supply chain and manufacturing workshop. I was able to do it based on the competency I gained in SDM.

Shelley A. Hayes, SDM ’00
Q: What was your best SDM experience?
SH: It is hard to pick a best. It is impossible to be surrounded by such fabulously talented people and not have a great experience every day.
LC: I’d have to say meeting and having intense interactions with such an eclectic and interesting group of people. The depth and breadth of experience that SDM students bring into the program was as educational, on a certain level, as the course work. The automotive sector is such an established industry that the tendency has been to look inward to solve recurring problems. It was enlightening to find better, faster, and newer solutions by looking at seemingly disparate industries or companies.
MG: That’s a tough choice, but I think the winner was the behind-the-scenes tour of NASA's Kennedy Space Center. It really was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Editors note: To learn more about this tour, visit the SDM website at sdm.mit.edu/NasaVisit.html.

Q: What advice do you have for professionals currently going through the SDM program?
LC: Take this time to identify qualities you think you lack, or want to develop further, and use the time and your colleagues to help you do so. You will go back to your company with much more to offer.
MG: Start early on your thesis, and make sure it’s something you’re really truly interested in and that will offer value to industry. Your thesis is an opportunity to synthesize all of the information thrown at you in the different classes and treat a problem from a lot of different perspectives.
SH: During the program, go to everything you can on campus and email/talk to your cohort as much as possible. Move to a new, stretch position immediately after graduating in order to maximize your contributions to your employer and keep your SDM learnings fresh. And stay in touch with your classmates. They will be an invaluable resource, both professionally and personally.

Q: How has your SDM education enabled you to contribute in ways that are different from colleagues with an MBA or an MS in engineering?
MG: I work in an industry that is grappling daily with larger and more complex problems. The ability to step back and consider the big picture—and all of the different interactions—with knowledge of both the technical and managerial concerns is priceless.
SH: I am able to look at a decision or activity and frame the set of impacts it can have across the business as well as within engineering. These complex and sometimes emotional tradeoffs across organizations and functional silos are never easy. For example, we were recently working options for product packaging. The decision impacted everything from sales to supply chain. I literally added value because no one else could identify and structure a process to resolve all the assumptions that had to be managed around price, technology, supplier relationship futures, sales, and service.
LC: From my experience, the emphasis placed on the holistic, systems-based approach just isn't there with the other types of advanced degree programs. As a supplier working with Japanese auto manufacturers, I’ve learned that the most effective way to get work done is to act as a single point of contact with the customer. They don't want to interface with finance, purchasing, program management, engineering, and so on to get answers.

Q: How has your experience in the SDM program helped you to advance your career?
MG: I’m a lot more confident about approaching strategic questions as a result of my time in SDM, and that’s important when you’re dealing with technology development. My SDM degree definitely expanded the set of options available to me at my company.
LC: At my current employer, very few people have been afforded the opportunity to attend an institution as highly regarded as MIT. So, at a basic level, just having completed the SDM program helped advance my career because of the prestige associated with the school.
SH: The SDM program gave me an official and prestigious degree. SDM also provided such fabulous multidisciplinary training that I am able take on any assignment in the organization. I’ve had so many opportunities that have broadened my expertise and at a faster rate than I would have without the SDM base of learning.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Life-cycle approach improves product development process - SDM Pulse, Fall 2007

Harry H. Ayubi
SDM ’06
By Harry H. Ayubi, SDM ’06 and 787 wing integration project manager at The Boeing Company

There is more to product development than design, build, test, and deliver. Even after the product is sold, long-term issues such as maintenance and disposal costs can affect profitability. That is why MIT’s System Design and Management Program teaches a life-cycle approach to new product development—the same approach increasingly used by industry.

Many aspects of the early phases of development are well understood (e.g., concept selection, trade studies, requirements management), but those occurring later in the product life cycle often receive less attention than they deserve. A more complete product life-cycle approach means taking into consideration service, maintenance, decommissioning, and even dismantlement—at the design stage. This approach is consistent and commensurate with the systems viewpoint central to SDM.

Although this holistic approach is not a new idea, design teams have only recently learned how to address all of the related life-cycle needs during the early stages of product development, which is when the opportunity to satisfy these needs in the design still exists.

For example, a requirements-driven design process is necessary to ensure that all aspects of the product life cycle are considered and balanced as an appropriate design solution is selected. Service, maintenance, and
environmental impact issues need to be managed as requirements of the design solution, in much the same way that more traditional performance and manufacturing issues are handled.

The usefulness of life-cycle design can be seen in the development of new commercial airplanes. Consider the Boeing 787 commercial jetliner.

Officially launched in 2004, the 787 is the first all-new commercial airplane produced by Boeing in more than 20 years (the last was the Boeing 777, with a program launch in 1990 and the first airplane delivered in 1995). Affectionately referred to as the “Twenty-First-Century Jet,” the 777 offered innovative design features and set new standards in commercial airplane development. But much has changed in the world and in the commercial airline industry since the early 1990s, and while the 777 is still popular, airplane product development has had to adapt.

With increasing awareness of an airline’s total operating expenses, design teams are able to address such issues as maintenance cost by designing for serviceability and repair, as well as for performance (e.g., low weight, low aerodynamic drag) and manufacturability (e.g., fewer parts, ergonomic installations). For example, when considering the spatial constraints necessary to integrate structural components and systems during the design phase of the product, adding additional space for the installation and removal of components in the field improves product serviceability. And choosing materials that are less susceptible to corrosion, while perhaps not optimal for minimizing weight or manufacturing costs, might substantially reduce total maintenance costs over the life of the product. The life-cycle approach calls for a risk benefit analysis at every stage of development.

As an added benefit, there is often synergy between some of these considerations. For example, a product with fewer parts results in improved manufacturability, and fewer spares are needed for service and maintenance. Ergonomic considerations during the manufacturing process (i.e., making it easier for the mechanic to access assembly areas) can also help the service technician maintain the product in the field.

Attention to the impact of materials on the environment is another characteristic receiving increased consideration from today’s product development teams. For example, some metals and chemicals used to treat the surfaces of metal components are no longer used in new products because of the risks they pose to the environment—despite any short-term benefits they might have for the design.

Within SDM, this more complete life-cycle view of the product development process is seen in courses on system architecture, systems engineering, product design and development, technology strategy, and risk and cost benefit analysis. Those who would like to learn more about taking a life-cycle approach might be interested in SDM’s upcoming conference, Strategies for Balancing Risks and Opportunities in Global Product Delivery, to be held March 11–12, 2008, on the MIT campus.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Professor Seering named engineering codirector for SDM, LFM - SDM Pulse, Fall 2007

Professor Warren Seering
By Lois Slavin, communications director, MIT Engineering Systems Division

Professor Warren Seering has been named the new engineering codirector for the System Design and Management and Leaders for Manufacturing programs. Seering is stepping in for David Simchi-Levi, who is on sabbatical this year.

Seering, who took office July 1, is the Weber-Shaughness professor of mechanical engineering and engineering systems. He has been actively involved with LFM since its inception and served as LFM research codirector during the early 1990s.

In 1997, Seering helped design the product development track for the System Design and Management Program. He also helped start programs based on SDM at several other universities. Over the years, he has been an active supervisor of thesis projects for students in both the LFM and the SDM programs.

The former codirector of the MIT Center for Innovation in Product Development, Seering is a founding director of the Nissan Cambridge Basic Research Laboratory. He serves on the Board of Management of the International Design Society and recently received the Frank E. Perkins Award for Excellence in Graduate Advising.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

SDM to cosponsor major conference on life-cycle approach to risk management - SDM Pulse, Fall 2007

By Lois Slavin, communications director, MIT Engineering Systems Division

With the risks of launching new products and services greater than ever, companies are discovering that a life-cycle approach—one that incorporates all aspects of product design, development, manufacture, distribution, service, and end-of-life—is essential to success. Although this “systems” approach is being applied across industries around the globe, the complexities of cultural hurdles, safety, and ever-changing technologies make this life-cycle approach increasingly critical, yet unquestionably challenging to adopt.

On March 11-12, 2008, leading MIT researchers will join top industry experts to address the practical question of how to use a life-cycle approach to maximize opportunity while minimizing the risks of conducting business today. Strategies for Balancing Risks and Opportunities in Global Product Delivery will take place on the MIT campus in Cambridge, Mass.

The symposium will feature strategies and tactics drawn from organizations that are consistently achieving ever-greater levels of performance and prosperity in both new and existing markets. Keynote speakers include Nick Donofrio, executive vice president of innovation and technology at IBM, and Joan Cullinane, president of Velcro, USA. Senior executives from a wide range of industries will also share their companies’ best practices and lessons learned.

MIT experts will highlight important research findings and provide insights into how companies can minimize risks using systems thinking, product design, network modeling, information technology, procurement/inventory strategies, and the flexible supply chain. Scheduled speakers include safety specialist Nancy Leveson, professor of aeronautics and astronautics and engineering systems; systems architecture expert Ed Crawley, professor of aeronautics and astronautics and engineering systems; and supply chain expert David Simchi-Levi, professor of civil and environmental engineering and engineering systems.

In addition, Wallace Hopp, the Herrick professor of manufacturing and a professor of operations and management science at the University of Michigan will be speaking. Additional speakers will be announced on the SDM website, sdm.mit.edu, as they are confirmed.

The conference is cosponsored by MIT's System Design and Management Program, Leaders for Manufacturing Program, Forum for Supply Chain Innovation, and Industrial Liaison Program. Several hundred senior executives from major corporations across a range of industries are expected to attend.

For further information, contact John M. Grace, industry codirector of SDM, jmgrace@mit.edu, 617.253.2081.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

The core of SDM: Inside system and project management - SDM Pulse, Fall 2007

Mark J. Davis
SDM ’07
By Mark J. Davis, SDM ’07

Editor’s note: The core courses for the MIT System Design and Management Program are:
•System architecture, which focuses on artifacts themselves and includes concept, form, function, and decomposition
•Systems engineering, which targets the processes that enable successful implementation of the architecture, and includes QFD, Pugh Concept Selection, and Robust Design
•System and project management, which involves managing tasks to best utilize resources and employs tools such as CPM, DSM, and System Dynamics

This article, the second in a series on the SDM core, introduces system and project management. The author, Mark J. Davis, is a major in the Air Force, an SDM student and a teaching assistant for the course.


SDM’s required course in system and project management (SPM) focuses on the management principles, methods, and tools needed to plan and implement successful development projects. Always highly rated by SDM students, this popular course is led by Professor Olivier de Weck, who is refreshingly smart and down to earth (when he isn’t working on space systems). Taking into account the extensive project management experience that is typical of the SDM cohort, the course builds on SDM students’ understanding of the tensions among technical scope and performance, cost, schedule, and risk, and offers instruction in how to manage these tensions to meet customer expectations.

As outlined in the course syllabus, the objective of SPM is to:

“...introduce advanced principles, methods, and tools for project management in a realistic context, such that they can be taken back to the workplace to improve your ability to manage complex product and system development projects.”

Classic techniques such as critical path method (CPM) and program evaluation and review technique (PERT) scheduling tools are reviewed, but the central tools this course focuses on are critical chain, design structure matrix (DSM), stochastic project simulation, and system dynamics. Case studies, both successful and unsuccessful, show project management tools and methods in use on complex real-world projects. The topics are broken into six modules.

The first module covers critical chain and DSM. Critical chain is primarily a schedule management technique that allows managers to actively control and manage the overall project schedule with buffers instead of just responding to problems as they arise. Design structure matrix helps managers to visualize and manage the interaction and interfaces among the tasks and components of a project, ultimately ordering tasks more efficiently.

The second module, taught by visiting lecturer James Lyneis of the Engineering Systems Division, presents system dynamics methods and techniques within the context of project management. Students work with models to explore such project dynamics as the rework cycle, employee burnout, and the effects of project management policies.

Interspersed throughout the term, based on presenter availability, the third module centers on case studies from actual members of the teams that participated in the projects from which the studies were developed. Students learn a lot from this module, which demonstrates how SPM tools and methods are being applied in such fields as automotive, aerospace, oil and gas exploration, and software development.

The fourth module focuses on how to monitor cost, scheduling, and technical progress. Risk management concepts are explored and the earned value management system (EVMS) is taught. Uncertainty is introduced as a key concept in making projections in order to make more informed project management decisions. Further, the concept of real options in project management is explored. Real options is a method that allows project managers to quantitatively evaluate the potential risks and rewards for different decisions that are being considered.

Students are introduced to the “softer” aspects of project management during the fifth module, which addresses organizational structures, international and geographically dispersed projects, and the human aspects of project management.

The final module summarizes the available organizational and web resources for project managers. The class concludes with presentations of team projects that apply one or more tools and methods learned in class to a real-world problem. The project gives SDM students a great opportunity to apply new knowledge, to learn from fellow students, and to acquire cutting-edge skills that they can bring to their employers.

Examples of past class projects
• DSM and Analysis of Technology Development Process at UTC Power
•Analysis of the Oracle E-Business Suite 11i Project
•Project Management in Open Solaris: Analysis of Tools and Processes
•DSM for Multi-Core Microprocessor Case: Intel
•Multi-Industry Survey of Project Management Tools and Techniques
•DSM in Design Studio Processes at Ford
•Apache Tomcat Open Source Software Project
•Modeling the System Dynamics of a Government Development Project
•Wireless Mesh Deployment Using System Dynamics Optimization of DNA Sequencing at the Broad Institute
•Joint Strike Fighter Concept Demonstrator Engine Development
•Internal Competition During Product Development
•The Theory of Constraints in a Critical Path World
•Efficient Production Management of an Oil Field
•Managing U.S. Navy Shipyard Programs: A Survey of Tools and Methods
•Survey of Methods and Tools at the Federal Emergency Management Agency
•Big Dig Success and Failures: Stakeholders’ Views
•Project Management of SpaceShipOne: The Quest for the X-Prize

Monday, October 1, 2007

SDM approach sheds light on how culture affects consumers - SDM Pulse, Fall 2007

Vinay Deshmukh, SDM ’06, far right, poses with his
teammates on the All Nippon Airlines project. They
are, from left, Daniela Reichert, program director for
the MIT International Science and Technology
Initiatives–Japan (MISTI–Japan); Patricia
Gercik, managing director of MISTI–Japan;
Sharmila C. Chatterjee, visiting professor at
MIT Sloan; Zachary Smith, LFM ’08; and
Olivier Ceberio, MBA ’08.
By Vinay Deshmukh, SDM ’06

Last spring, All Nippon Airlines (ANA), a leading Japanese airline and the 2007 winner of Air Transport World’s Airline of the Year award, piloted an interdisciplinary project to investigate how culture influences U.S. consumers’ perceptions and behavior. The effort, intended to inform ANA’s plans to expand in the United States, was initiated by Patricia Gercik, managing director of the MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives–Japan (MISTI–Japan).

After submitting a marketing write-up and going through an interview process, three students were selected for the project—Zachary Smith LFM ’08, Olivier Ceberio MBA ’08, and myself.

We were asked to:
•Determine consumers’ attitudes toward Japanese products and services versus U.S. products and services
•Perform a comparative analysis of these attitudes
•Assess what effect, if any, country of origin has on consumer perceptions and willingness to buy
•Assess what cultural influences, if any, affect consumer perceptions and willingness to buy
•Assess what factors are most important to consumer decision-making when choosing an airline, hotel or automobile

Taking a systems approach, the team laid out a general path diagram for the project. Marketing scales for measuring constructs of interest were compiled from research papers as well as from the American Marketing Association’s Marketing Scales Handbook and SAGE Publications’ Handbook of Marketing Scales. We used many SDM tools throughout the project.
Figure 1. Survey structure and path diagram

To ensure that acculturation effects were taken into account, we used a three-dimensional model to rate customer preference for Japanese versus U.S goods and services. This enabled us to plot the preferences of a consumer with dual loyalties—for instance, someone of French origin who had lived in the United States for a long time and feels a high degree of association with both French and American cultures. Such a customer would be plotted in a 3-D space somewhere between “wholly associated with French” and “wholly associated with American” culture, with the third factor being “cosmopolitanism,” the degree of association with global culture.

We anticipated that if culture played a significant role in a consumer’s decision, then there would be an inverse relationship between cultural distance and preference for products and services from that culture. Thus, the greater the distance of a consumer from the Japanese culture, the lower the likelihood of this consumer preferring Japanese products and services and vice versa.

We designed the survey to measure both dependent variables, such as willingness to buy a product or a service and preference for Japanese goods and services, as well as independent variables, such as product and service attributes and cultural identification.

The survey was designed with extreme care. We obtained approval from the Committee on the Use of Humans as Experimental Subjects (COUHES), followed sampling guidelines, assessed scale reliability and validity, and used simple, crisp, and unambiguous language.

About 170 people completed the survey. After data cleaning, we had 134 respondents. Five were living in
Japan, 129 in the United States. There were 81 U.S. citizens and 53 noncitizens.

After taking steps to assess construct reliability and validity, we conducted a regression analysis to identify statistically significant factors. Key findings were that Japanese products and services were generally perceived to excel U.S. products and services in all dimensions (although there are market segments that favor American products). In addition, attributes such as price, performance, and safety were found to be the key drivers of buying decisions (see Figure 2).

Our findings indicate that although Japanese products and services are considered slightly more expensive, they are also perceived to be better. Deeper analyses showed that perceptions vary by demographics.

Our team concluded that price, performance, and safety influence the initial decision to buy a product or service. However, once the decision to buy has been made, cultural effects come into play, dominating wherever there is a high “human touch.” Culture matters more in the airline and the hotel industries, for example, than in the automobile industry. Cosmopolitanism is a key element; the greater the degree of association with global culture, the greater the likelihood that a consumer will favor Japanese products and services.

Combining our analysis with informed judgment, our team recommended a strategy that capitalizes on the perceived strengths of Japanese products and services while addressing the needs of the global world. We recommended a primary focus on the “must have” attributes of price, performance, and safety with a secondary focus on “the more the better” attributes such as congruence with U.S. culture (an order winner for the American consumer).

Our team presented its results using systems engineering tools such as radar plots, Kano analysis, and multivariate graphs. Sharmila C. Chatterjee, visiting professor of marketing at MIT Sloan School of Management, served as our project advisor. Daniela Reichert, director of intern placements for MISTI Japan, supported the team operationally. We presented our findings at a workshop at the ANA headquarters in Tokyo. The workshop was attended by senior executives of the ANA strategic institute, managers, and several other employees. Overall, I am pleased to report that SDM tools and methods were useful at every phase of this project.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

SDM fuels engineer’s move to technical management

By William Taylor, chief engineer for engine integration at Eaton Corporation and SDM alumnus

I graduated from MIT’s System Design and Management Program in 2002. Since that time, my career has taken me to Eaton Corporation in Southfield, Michigan, where I'm chief engineer for engine integration in Eaton's truck division. Although my job and responsibilities have changed a lot over the years, I still use lessons from the SDM program every day.

Before SDM, I was working as an engineer in the Advanced Technologies Group at ArvinMeritor, performing CFD and FEA simulations for advanced products. At that time I was a capable engineer, but I had never been a manager of people. When I returned to the company after the SDM program, I was given oversight of a new R&D program with six to seven engineers.

After a couple years, I moved up to become a director of R&D at ArvinMeritor’s emissions technology group, overseeing the work of around 20 people in our controls group. That was a challenging role, navigating the development of new technologies under the pressure of product deadlines. It really required me to put my MIT education into practice.

In research and development, sometimes the best ideas are hiding in the shadows. There were two engineers with a great product idea—a concept for an emission-control system that they had developed on the side. It was given the green light by top management, and my team was charged with making it into a product.

At first, the two originators were involved in every aspect of the design—it was their baby. But as the team grew, it became clear that these two people couldn't make every decision. I had to increase the team, to 10-15 engineers. And I had to transfer decision-making away from the original two-man team and into a structured teamwide process.

I decomposed the full system down into four key subsystems, using the DSM tool as taught in SDM. Because the system was so new, it required many judgment calls about which components to lump together into subsystems. Here, I relied heavily on principles from MIT's System Architecture course. In the end, the system was broken down into four key subsystems: combustor, air subsystem, fuel subsystem and controls.

Each subsystem had an owner, and each owner had design authority over his piece. With this structure in place, the experts called the shots, and my job became focused on integration. For example, conflicts would arise between the air systems team (who wanted a small, inexpensive air source) and the combustor team (who wanted more air for more complete combustion). My job was to help them work together—and sometimes, to force them to work together.

My SDM experience ultimately taught me how to manage the people and the technology successfully. We were able to create a viable product from the technology, and systems thinking made it happen.

Engineering R&D isn’t the only part of my job that I do better thanks to the SDM program. Tools from SDM also help me interact with customers during the product design process. In my current role at Eaton, we take a strategic view of product design. This means developing a deeper understanding of our customer and tuning our value proposition precisely to their needs.

Ultimately, what's most important is for our engineers to make decisions that drive value for our customers. When my team members understand the customer, they can design and develop products accordingly; I get involved only where necessary. MIT gave me the insights and education to lead a systems-oriented team.

Systems approach helps team win Soldier Design prize

By Arthur Mak, SDM ’07

Over the past several months, I have found my SDM learnings invaluable for navigating the complex technical and managerial challenges of designing a new product: a portable mission planner that allows individual soldiers to rehearse missions in a virtual environment.

SDM fellow Arthur Mak, second from left, poses with his prize-winning team. They are (from left) Aseem Kishore, Jeremy Richardson, SDM fellow Nathan Minami, Jason Vuu, Brian Wong and Albert Park.
Photo by Forrest Liau

This work was done for MIT’s Soldier Design Competition (SDC), whose goal is to generate new products and systems that will enhance soldier survivability and combat effectiveness. Sponsored by MIT’s Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies, the competition is open to teams from MIT and from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

Two talented undergrads, Brian Wong and Albert Park, generated the core idea—a spherical, surrounding computer environment to replace computer monitors, which are so limited in scope. They presented the concept for this complex system of integrated hardware and software to SDC judges, and the Atmosphere Systems team advanced to the finals.

With only five months to take the project from concept to working prototype, Wong and Park needed more resources. They asked Major Nathan Minami, a 14-year Army veteran and SDM ’06 student, to be the team’s mentor and lead user. Undergrads Jeremy Richardson, Aseem Kishore and Jason Vuu were recruited to develop hardware and software components. I was brought onboard to help with overall technology and IP development, using my system design background.

The key ingredient of the display system is its carefully conceived system architecture, which is built around the core display technology. The architecture allows the system to be portable, affordable, communication capable and quick to assemble and disassemble.

The initial design called for an 8-foot-diameter spherical screen to provide a 360-degree panoramic experience. In order to create a truly realistic battlefield environment, we used a computer with high performance graphics cards and relied on projectors to display the large imagery on the curved screen. Multiple projectors were required, so we needed to split the imagery signal from the computer into each projector to form one coherent image.

As the core of our technology offering, the display medium went through more than 10 physical iterations in terms of shape, size, material and support structure. Its form varied from an eggshell-like plaster constructed using an 8-foot inflatable balloon to an inflatable parachute. The final form is a cylindrical display built of metal frames and translucent plastic sheets, which can be assembled and disassembled within minutes.

On the software side, Minami’s advice ensured that our application met the military customer’s needs. We created a simple yet powerful set of mission coordination tools and used a 3D interactive device to allow users to "fly" through a realistic battlefield scenario to coordinate missions.

Unfortunately, when we integrated the system, interfaces became problematic—the short distance between the projector and the curved screen created distortions. We chose to fix this through optical and physical adjustments to the focus and concentrate the computer processor on generating high-resolution graphics.

Our most daunting challenges involved developing the system’s core technology in just a few months. We had to create complicated applications in an unfamiliar military domain and integrate the system components to generate a virtual application. I frequently found myself relying on my SDM education. Learnings from the Product Design Process class helped our team understand and utilize the lead user process. The System Architecture course formed the backbone of our system innovation and helped us to file a strong patent application. Coursework in Technology Strategy guided us in making rational choices throughout the development of our technology.

We also benefited from a core value of the program, the willingness of SDM students (like Minami, who patiently educated us about his military experience) to share their unique skills.

We learned many important systems engineering lessons during the process. The human operator, for example, is often a system’s most neglected component. In our case, safety concerns about air ventilation inside the display system forced us to open up the enclosed sphere design and use a cylinder instead.

On April 10, we exhibited our display to almost 30 Army judges at the SDC Final. Our team placed third, winning the $3,000 Lockheed Martin Award. The monetary prize is not nearly as important to us as the Army experts’ stamp of approval on our product feasibility.

Subsequently, we exhibited our first commercial prototype during MIT’s Science Showcase on April 28. Team Atmosphere is continuing to develop its virtual mission planner and had plans to incorporate in June.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

SDM thesis asks: Starbucks cup—trash or treasure? - SDM Pulse Summer 2011

By  Ellen Czaika, SDM ’08

Editor’s note: Ellen Czaika received a master of science degree in engineering and management from MIT in 2010. She is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in MIT’s Engineering Systems Division.

Ellen Czaika
SDM ’08

What do you do when 80 percent of your cups walk out of your store, yet you want to create a system to recycle them? Engage the whole value chain. At least that is what Starbucks has been doing for more than two years.

The situation is not as simple as the cup itself, though the cup is a good artifact on which to focus. Cups are made of paper fiber with a coating, and often have a plastic lid and a cardboard sleeve. Recycling the cup is not as easy as dropping it in a recycling bin. Though, that certainly is a first step. From the recycling bins, cups then travel to facilities that bale and sell recyclable materials, and finally the cups are made into new products. Several questions still exist: Can the cups get baled with an existing grade of paper, or should they be separated into a class of their own? If they are separated, is it possible to create a market for bales of used cup material?
In her SDM research, Ellen Czaika
worked on creating a system to increase
the useful end-of-life options for used
hot beverage cups, such as the ones
used by Starbucks.

This complex multi-stakeholder system is precisely the type of system we study in MIT’s System Design and Management Program (SDM). I got my first opportunity to work on this project through Leadership Lab (L-Lab), a course I took as an SDM student. I continued working on the project for my SDM thesis.

To get started, my L-Lab student team and I spent three weeks at Starbucks’ Support Center in Seattle, WA. We visited a materials reclamation facility, a composting facility, and many departments within Starbucks, including the cup purchasing department, the storefront design group, and the global responsibility division. In addition to the contextualized learning, we conducted numerous interviews with stakeholder representatives throughout the value chain and within Starbucks.

Creating a system to recycle post-consumer paper coffee cups requires meeting the needs and interests of its many stakeholders, such as:

•    Recyclers. Recyclers often run materials reclamation facilities, which are an elaborate interweaving of conveyor belts, magnets, and gears that sort materials from a single stream of recyclable goods into various materials to create bales for sale. Recyclers sell these bales to other entities, who use the materials in other products.

•    Customers. Typically, customers drop cups into bins without pulling off the lid, taking off the sleeve, or washing out the coffee residue. More participation may be needed to separate cup materials before disposal—but customers, united only momentarily by purchasing coffee to go, are a diffuse and hard-to-represent group. Furthermore, not all customers place the same value on non-landfill end-of-life options for used coffee cups.

•    Companies that make paper cups. These businesses earn revenue by volume of cups sold, and they want to update their business models to anticipate the growing customer trend toward less waste and less environmental impact.

•    Coffee retailers. Starbucks and other retailers decide which cups to purchase. But, their primary focus is sourcing, roasting, and preparing the coffee that goes into the cups.

•    Municipal governments. Governments typically enter into contracts for hauling waste, and they enact city ordinances and other regulations. They also earn tax revenue from coffee sales.

•    Haulers. Haulers operate collection trucks, which they typically drive along established collection routes, contracted by municipalities (though the nature of this contracting potentially differs by region). Adding more specialized collections for separate materials would increase their operation and maintenance costs. They prefer to streamline their collection routes and minimize the number of drop-off locations.

•    Environmental nongovernmental organizations. The mission of these organizations is to protect the environment; they can exert a great force within the system.

The stakeholder list above can vary by location. Because waste removal and processing facilities differ from region to region, the stakeholders also differ. For example, in areas with existing composting facilities, composters become a viable competitor for the used cup material. So, any system designed to recycle/compost must be able to accommodate local differences.

At the same time, many of the organizations involved operate on the national and/or global scale, so any approach taken also needs to be sufficiently coherent to allow these organizations to benefit from economies of scale. Furthermore, US governmental regulations and the regulations of other nations are pertinent in some cases. Therefore, the system to recycle/compost used beverage cups must be viable at local, national, and global levels of scale.

The tools and methods taught in SDM are ideal to address the inherent complexity, nuances at different levels of scale, technical constraints, critical infrastructure issues, and diverse stakeholder interests of a system such as this cup system. Classes including System Architecture, System Dynamics, Product Design and Development, Negotiation and Dispute Resolution in the Public Sector, and Power and Negotiations have all been instrumental in my engagement with this project.

Toward the end of the three weeks in Seattle, my L-Lab team and I facilitated a workshop that assembled stakeholder representatives at the Starbucks Support Center in Seattle for a day focused on addressing the end-of-life options for hot beverage cups. We used facilitated systems thinking methods we had been learning in L-Lab and other SDM courses to help stakeholders better understand the system as it currently exists and to design means of achieving their goals of no cups in landfills.

The “MIT Workshop,” as Starbucks called it, began in medias res, in the middle of things, between two larger and professionally facilitated “cup summits.” The first summit was held in May 2009 in Seattle and the second was held April 22-23, 2010, at MIT.

Dr. Peter Senge of MIT and the Society of Organizational Learning facilitated both summits. I worked with Senge and the Starbucks steering team in designing the agenda for the Cup Summit 2, I led a participant activity in the summit itself, and I helped coordinate logistics.

The cup initiative is a “systems problem”—one having technical, management/organizational, and socio-political components—for several reasons: the performance requirements for the cup itself necessitate a combination of materials; infrastructures differ by location and are not easily or inexpensively changed; not all of Starbucks’ customers place the same value on non-landfill end-of-life options for the cup; and local governments are experimenting with regulation for food container end-of-life options. Creating a system that incorporates the most important interests of all its stakeholders is essential to the system’s success.

In my SDM thesis, I explored the role that facilitated systems thinking has played in this cup initiative. Using the MIT workshop we conducted as a pilot study to evaluate the methodology, I found evidence that facilitated systems thinking increased stakeholders’ awareness of other value chain members’ interests and of their own responsibilities and leverage points within the system.

I am continuing this work at the doctorate level, in the Engineering System Division doctoral program. I anticipate that facilitated systems thinking and/or consensus building principles will become a very useful addition to the system architecture and design processes because they will give architects and designers more information about stakeholders’ wants and needs and, ideally, involve stakeholders more directly in designing their own systems. This may be especially beneficial for systems that span organizational and industry boundaries and where technical expertise and knowledge about stakeholder interests are dispersed.

So, what do you do with the paper cup you just enjoyed coffee in? Follow the signs on the bins in your local area, and as you are placing the cup in the bin, design options to remake used cup material into other products. Your idea could be the next big thing.



Friday, June 8, 2007

Systems approach helps team win Soldier Design prize - SDM Pulse, Summer 2007

By Arthur Mak, SDM ’07

Over the past several months, I have found my SDM learnings invaluable for navigating the complex technical and managerial challenges of designing a new product: a portable mission planner that allows individual soldiers to rehearse missions in a virtual environment.
SDM fellow Arthur Mak, second from left, poses with his
prize-winning team. They are (from left) Aseem Kishore,
Jeremy Richardson, SDM fellow Nathan Minami,
Jason Vuu, Brian Wong and Albert Park.
Photo by Forrest Liau

This work was done for MIT’s Soldier Design Competition (SDC), whose goal is to generate new products and systems that will enhance soldier survivability and combat effectiveness. Sponsored by MIT’s Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies, the competition is open to teams from MIT and from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

Two talented undergrads, Brian Wong and Albert Park, generated the core idea—a spherical, surrounding computer environment to replace computer monitors, which are so limited in scope. They presented the concept for this complex system of integrated hardware and software to SDC judges, and the Atmosphere Systems team advanced to the finals.

With only five months to take the project from concept to working prototype, Wong and Park needed more resources. They asked Major Nathan Minami, a 14-year Army veteran and SDM ’06 student, to be the team’s mentor and lead user. Undergrads Jeremy Richardson, Aseem Kishore and Jason Vuu were recruited to develop hardware and software components. I was brought onboard to help with overall technology and IP development, using my system design background.

The key ingredient of the display system is its carefully conceived system architecture, which is built around the core display technology. The architecture allows the system to be portable, affordable, communication capable and quick to assemble and disassemble.

The initial design called for an 8-foot-diameter spherical screen to provide a 360-degree panoramic experience. In order to create a truly realistic battlefield environment, we used a computer with high performance graphics cards and relied on projectors to display the large imagery on the curved screen. Multiple projectors were required, so we needed to split the imagery signal from the computer into each projector to form one coherent image.

As the core of our technology offering, the display medium went through more than 10 physical iterations in terms of shape, size, material and support structure. Its form varied from an eggshell-like plaster constructed using an 8-foot inflatable balloon to an inflatable parachute. The final form is a cylindrical display built of metal frames and translucent plastic sheets, which can be assembled and disassembled within minutes.

On the software side, Minami’s advice ensured that our application met the military customer’s needs. We created a simple yet powerful set of mission coordination tools and used a 3D interactive device to allow users to “fly” through a realistic battlefield scenario to coordinate missions.

Unfortunately, when we integrated the system, interfaces became problematic—the short distance between the projector and the curved screen created distortions. We chose to fix this through optical and physical adjustments to the focus and concentrate the computer processor on generating high-resolution graphics.

Our most daunting challenges involved developing the system’s core technology in just a few months. We had to create complicated applications in an unfamiliar military domain and integrate the system components to generate a virtual application. I frequently found myself relying on my SDM education. Learnings from the Product Design Process class helped our team understand and utilize the lead user process. The System Architecture course formed the backbone of our system innovation and helped us to file a strong patent application. Coursework in Technology Strategy guided us in making rational choices throughout the development of our technology.

We also benefited from a core value of the program, the willingness of SDM students (like Minami, who patiently educated us about his military experience) to share their unique skills.

We learned many important systems engineering lessons during the process. The human operator, for example, is often a system’s most neglected component. In our case, safety concerns about air ventilation inside the display system forced us to open up the enclosed sphere design and use a cylinder instead.

On April 10, we exhibited our display to almost 30 Army judges at the SDC Final. Our team placed third, winning the $3,000 Lockheed Martin Award. The monetary prize is not nearly as important to us as the Army experts’ stamp of approval on our product feasibility.

Subsequently, we exhibited our first commercial prototype during MIT’s Science Showcase on April 28. Team Atmosphere is continuing to develop its virtual mission planner and had plans to incorporate in June.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

SDM fuels engineer’s move to technical management - SDM Pulse, Summer 2007

By William Taylor, chief engineer for engine integration at Eaton Corporation and SDM alumnus
William Taylor

I graduated from MIT’s System Design and Management Program in 2002. Since that time, my career has taken me to Eaton Corporation in Southfield, Michigan, where I'm chief engineer for engine integration in Eaton's truck division. Although my job and responsibilities have changed a lot over the years, I still use lessons from the SDM program every day.

Before SDM, I was working as an engineer in the Advanced Technologies Group at ArvinMeritor, performing CFD and FEA simulations for advanced products. At that time I was a capable engineer, but I had never been a manager of people. When I returned to the company after the SDM program, I was given oversight of a new R&D program with six to seven engineers.

After a couple years, I moved up to become a director of R&D at ArvinMeritor’s emissions technology group, overseeing the work of around 20 people in our controls group. That was a challenging role, navigating the development of new technologies under the pressure of product deadlines. It really required me to put my MIT education into practice.

In research and development, sometimes the best ideas are hiding in the shadows. There were two engineers with a great product idea—a concept for an emission-control system that they had developed on the side. It was given the green light by top management, and my team was charged with making it into a product.

At first, the two originators were involved in every aspect of the design—it was their baby. But as the team grew, it became clear that these two people couldn't make every decision. I had to increase the team, to 10-15 engineers. And I had to transfer decision-making away from the original two-man team and into a structured teamwide process.

I decomposed the full system down into four key subsystems, using the DSM tool as taught in SDM. Because the system was so new, it required many judgment calls about which components to lump together into subsystems. Here, I relied heavily on principles from MIT's System Architecture course. In the end, the system was broken down into four key subsystems: combustor, air subsystem, fuel subsystem and controls.

Each subsystem had an owner, and each owner had design authority over his piece. With this structure in place, the experts called the shots, and my job became focused on integration. For example, conflicts would arise between the air systems team (who wanted a small, inexpensive air source) and the combustor team (who wanted more air for more complete combustion). My job was to help them work together—and sometimes, to force them to work together.

My SDM experience ultimately taught me how to manage the people and the technology successfully. We were able to create a viable product from the technology, and systems thinking made it happen.

Engineering R&D isn’t the only part of my job that I do better thanks to the SDM program. Tools from SDM also help me interact with customers during the product design process. In my current role at Eaton, we take a strategic view of product design. This means developing a deeper understanding of our customer and tuning our value proposition precisely to their needs.

Ultimately, what's most important is for our engineers to make decisions that drive value for our customers. When my team members understand the customer, they can design and develop products accordingly; I get involved only where necessary. MIT gave me the insights and education to lead a systems-oriented team.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

SDM women offer perspectives on the program - SDM Pulse, Summer 2007

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of articles spotlighting women in the SDM program.

The women of the System Design and Management Program are a diverse group of highly skilled individuals united by their interest in stretching beyond technical competence to understand and integrate whole systems for the benefit of their companies and their industries.

Three women currently enrolled in the program recently took the time to describe their experiences in the program for the SDM Pulse@MIT.

Aparna Chennapragada SDM ’06 works for Akamai Technologies as a software architect. She received her master’s in computer science from the University of Texas-Austin and her bachelor’s in computer science from the Indian Institute of Technology-Madras.

Linda Nguyen SDM ’07 comes to MIT from Procter and Gamble, where she is a senior product engineer. She received her S.B. in mechanical engineering from MIT.

Kelly Yedinak SDM ’07 is a deputy program manager at Northrop Grumman. She received her B.S. in electrical engineering from the University of Washington.

Q: Why is SDM the right program for you?

KY: In large corporations it is very difficult for engineers to get exposure to different aspects of an entire system. Most positions are not highly interactive but rather require a lot of individual time spent in front of a computer. I decided that I wanted more out of my career than a computer screen.

AC: I wanted to combine my interest and experience in technology with relevant business foundation and management skills. I considered regular MBA programs but preferred a curriculum more rooted in technology. I was also attracted to the "D" in SDM, because I have observed the increasing importance of design and holistic thinking.

LN: SDM is a great balance between the two worlds. A technical leader needs to understand the business side and be able to communicate in business terms. SDM provides a means to evolve existing engineering skills into systems thinking as well as develop the business mental models that engineers with traditional academic backgrounds often lack.

Q: What strengths (technical or business) do you bring to the SDM cohort or the teams on which you participate? What strengths have you seen that others bring that impress you?

LN: I bring more than eight years of product development and manufacturing experience, as well as team management and organizational skills. Maintaining balance is a critical part of my life, so I like to work hard but play hard as well; I try to share this philosophy with my teams to encourage having fun while grinding away under the workload.

AC:
My background in Internet infrastructure services and experience in a start-up environment helps me bring my unique point of view to classroom discussions and projects, particularly in technology strategy and innovation. Working with people from a variety of industries has helped me understand the commonalities and differences among different industry structures. From a commander who served in Iraq to an aspiring entrepreneur building solar generators in Africa, the SDM cohort is full of diverse individuals who have enriched my learning.

KY:
I am always thinking of all of the pieces of the system, rather than of any single one. Often I find myself being more aggressive than ever before in challenging other people's ideas. But, I always listen closely to people's answers and try to help them develop their thoughts and concepts. Knowing how you get the answer is just as important as knowing what the answer is.

Q: Tell us about your best SDM experience so far.

LN: As grueling as it was, the monthlong January “boot camp” was extraordinary. Because most of us have been out of school for quite some time, the immersion was critical to getting us back into student/learning mentality. I had forgotten how much fun—and how much work—being a student could be! Nothing beats playing with Legos!

KY: I think some of my best experiences have come during “crunch time,” when I'm working with a group and must get things done quickly. I remember knocking out most of a 10-page paper only hours before it was due, and having a yelling (but good-spirited) debate on an important section of the paper with one of my teammates five minutes before turning it in. The fun part was not so much the yelling but that we each improved our own thinking and knowledge by challenging the other. This openness will help me help my colleagues at work.

AC: One of my best SDM experiences was the January boot camp. The team-building workshops and the design challenge competitions helped me forge a strong bond with my classmates.
Another learning experience for me was my entrepreneurship course. I worked with bright and motivated students across campus to develop a business plan to commercialize research from an MIT lab. This helped me learn about technology risks, market opportunity and raising capital. And, our business plan won an MIT $1K Award in the run-up to the annual MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition.

Q: What have you found within the SDM program that you would like to share with others?

AC: Professor David Simchi-Levi's class on operations management was very stimulating and helped me understand the complex interaction between design, manufacturing, logistics and distribution. And, Professor Tom Allen's class exposed me to some fascinating research on how organizational structure and architecture can affect innovation.

LN: The diversity of our cohort has impressed me the most: backgrounds, country of origin, as well as industries. I have learned so much from my classmates, in and out of the classroom. SDM is truly a global environment.

KY: I wish everyone could take courses that teach, as SDM does, the value of looking forward. I want my company's attitude, and the attitude of those around me, to always be thinking about the future and how to be better, rather than how to be just good enough.

Q: How do you anticipate the SDM program will help you meet the challenges you will face in your career?

LN: I have always been a systems person at heart, needing to see the bigger picture to put context around the engineering details. SDM will develop my systems mind, providing me with the skills and mental frameworks to manage more and more complex projects throughout my career. The networking and relationships established from SDM will be invaluable as well.

AC: Going forward, I see three major trends. One, the role of technology in almost every industry is increasingly central. This will require future leaders to apply business skills not in a vacuum but within the context of technology. Two, the complexity of systems is only going to grow. It’s critical that we apply holistic thinking and understand all the factors (regulatory, environmental, cultural, technological and business) to solve problems. Finally, organizations are increasingly global. We as future leaders need to be able to build strong teams and collaborate effectively across countries, cultures and companies. The SDM program and my experience at MIT helped me hone my skills along all these dimensions and I look forward to applying this in my career!

KY: In the future I think the lessons learned in SDM will allow me to stay one step ahead of the competition, and keep the company that I work with at the forefront of technology. System design refers not just to a physical system, but also to technology ecosystems, organizational structure, technology evolution and much more. Having a thorough knowledge of how to analyze a system will allow me to lead a company to develop systems that are often first to market, but more importantly will dominate their market.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

6 The Core of SDM: Systems engineering at work at Cummin - SDM Pulse, Summer 2007

Editor’s note: The core courses for the MIT System Design and Management Program are:
>System architecture, which focuses on artifacts themselves and includes concept, form, function and decomposition
>Systems engineering, which targets the processes that enable successful implementation of the architecture, and includes QFD, Pugh Concept Selection and Robust Design
>System and project management, which involves managing tasks to best utilize resources and employs tools such as CPM, DSM and System Dynamics

This article, the first in a series on the SDM core, introduces one aspect of the systems engineering 2007 summer course: industry case studies. These studies are chosen to show the applications of system engineering principles discussed in class. The Cummins Inc. case outlined below shows the type of creative and integrative system thinking that these studies highlight.


The challenge
Cummins Inc. is a global power leader comprising complementary business units that design, manufacture, distribute and service engines and related technologies, including fuel systems, controls, air handling, filtration, emission solutions and electrical power generation systems.

In this case, Cummins was challenged to develop a new turbocharged diesel engine for the heavy-duty Dodge Ram pickup truck. The engine had to be capable of meeting strict 2010 emissions standards in all 50 states. And, they had to work within the context of maintaining and building the Ram’s excellent reputation among Dodge’s diesel customers.

Improvements in power, torque, low levels of audible noise and imperceptible catalyst regeneration were also specified. These goals were to be attained while providing the same or better fuel economy as its current diesels while cutting emissions of nitrogen oxide (NOx) and particulate matter dramatically.

The approach
Cummins not only built on its longstanding expertise but also introduced a systems perspective into its development concepts.

The engineering team relied on Cummins’ intense interaction with the customer throughout the project to define and refine system requirements.

The team also developed a framework and architecture for the entire engine system. This allowed the engineers to develop the engine system concept and to identify significant suppliers for critical subsystem development.

To meet the 2007 emissions regulations, Cummins employed the following engine subsystems: cooled exhaust gas recirculation (used for the first time in a pickup); new air handling concepts, including a Cummins Variable Geometry Turbocharger; and a diesel oxidation catalyst, diesel particulate filter and a NOx trap for emissions control.

Understanding the interdependence of the various systems and subsystems, Cummins engineers worked hand in hand with the catalyst experts at supplier JMI to specify the wash coat for the catalyst and the NOx trap.

In addition, Cummins developed all of the algorithms and software needed to control the complex subsystems and their interfaces. This feature of their system development program led to a significant competitive advantage, which will be emphasized in the case study discussion.

The results
The new 6.7L turbo diesel system for the Dodge Ram pickup has enhanced combustion performance designed through simulation and modeling of combustion kinetics and injection pulse profiles. And, it utilizes a third-generation, high-pressure, 1,800 bar (26,000 psi) common rail fuel system from Bosch. This subsystem is capable of up to five injection pulses during a single combustion cycle in a cylinder.

Ultimately, Cummins was able to build a diesel engine considered the strongest, cleanest, quietest and best in class. The new Dodge Ram pickup engine is the first to satisfy the strict environmental requirements not only of 2007, but of 2010—three years ahead of its time.

Conclusion
As the Cummins case study shows, significant technical understanding is critical to the development of complex systems. Software development is also becoming an ever more important component of complex system design. In the end, deep technical understanding combined with evolving systems engineering competence has led to a product with significant competitive advantages.

This case study and others will be presented in full during this summer’s SDM course in systems engineering. If you would like to sample the course, please contact John M. Grace, SDM industry codirector, jmgrace@mit.edu, 617.253.2081. The course meets Tuesdays and Thursdays, 8:30-10:30 a.m. from June 12 to August 21, 2007.