Essays of an engineer

This essay is written as Chapter 3 of the textbook gAutomatic Transmission Design and Procedure Guideh by Yamada in 1992

gDesign Engineerfs Mindh @Yoji Yamada

This is an essay in which my daily thoughts are put into words.

1. Engineering
gThe purpose of engineering is to make peoplefs lives comfortable.h Professor Mori, who taught thermodynamics of mechanical engineering at my college, once said this during his lecture. I have been working for Honda Motors as a design engineer for over twenty years, but these words have always been the basis for my judgments.
I can hardly recall any other words that have had such a great influence on my life. The reason that these words made a great impression was perhaps because I admired Professor Mori. Professor Mori possessed a dignified presence and clear voice as if he had been an athlete. I vividly recall the energetic atmosphere of his lectures more than the theories of thermodynamics.
After I was assigned to the Design Department of Honda R + D Wako, the first group I joined was the Automatic Transmission (AT after this) Group.
The goal of the group was to promote an easy or comfortable drive through the transmission design. I was very fortunate to have had the opportunity to be involved in projects which shared my personal belief.
To find mechanical solutions relative to our objective, I have dedicated myself to the design of AT's for over twenty years. Though I had to overcome several problems, it has been the ultimate joy of an engineer to be engaged in the development of new technology with many people. However, recently I am increasingly interested in management.
I would like to make efforts to transfer the technologies to future generations, while creating comfortable situations in terms of management and environment.

2. Meetings
Recently I often feel that very few people know how to conduct meetings. I receive meeting notices frequently, as I am responsible for research and development as a chief engineer and also for attending various certification activities and review meetings as an expert on AT's. From the meeting notice, I can tell how prepared the organizer is, his or her attitude, priorities, what is expected of the attendees, the urgency and more.

There are many different reasons for meetings, including information exchange, discussions and decision-making. A meeting is conducted differently depending on its purpose. I always remind myself of the importance of preparation and the selection of attendees when conducting a meeting.

It is only fair for the organizer to ask attendees about their schedules, as they will be giving their precious time and contributing information or opinions. Distribution of handouts and meeting notices in advance is part of the etiquette.

It is my opinion that the key to a successful decision-making meeting includes the following steps: (1) gather the minimum number of members necessary who have constructive opinions (you must have the necessary people), (2) propose alternative ideas (2 ideas are the best, 3 are acceptable, more than 4 are not recomended), (3) have all attendees express their opinions, and (4) the organizer makes the decision. One of the qualifications of an excellent leader is to be able to conduct a meeting in a productively.

3. Drawing Inspection
I regard myself as a design artisan. I studied at a technical college, which was previously been Tokyo Technical School in Kuramae. Artisans are not willing to teach skills they have acquired from their own experiences. However, artisans working in a corporation cannot have such an attitude. Inspection of drawings prepared by others is one of the important responsibilities of the principal engineer and associate engineers.
It takes technique to be able to inspect a drawing quickly and accurately and make constructive suggestions for improvement. From my experience, there is no special magic about the technique. However, it is fair to say that a thorough knowledge of the part relative to other parts is the only technique.

You store information about the part in your head and create your own image of the part before you even look at the drawing. Then you evaluate the drawing in light of your image (This process may be called image scanning) to identify discrepancies. You point out the discrepancies as problems and suggest what is lacking. A quick and sure method is to follow its profile. When you observe people, animals or vehicles in which you are interested, you tend to perform this method naturally.

The best and only method of knowing parts well and staying imaginative is to maintain your interest in the creative work, which is the design. For those who want to be an expert in drawing inspection, consider the layout (concept and detailed basic design) as the lifeline of a successful inspection and put forth great effort.

4. 30% Change
gChanges must be within 30%,h is one of the risk avoidance methods that I learned from my experience.
The automatic transmission includes various mechanical elements. Although we are pursuing research and development for the purpose of improving the mechanism, I am afraid we are not designing parts based on a full understanding of all the elements. Assuming that we have a sufficient understanding, we are sometimes faced with unexpected factors that result in negative consequences.

Changes within 30% would keep the effects of negative factors within a manageable range. You may think this is a rather passive approach, but, it is quite logical. Some people say, gthe AT is too complicated to understand.h I often say, gthe AT is just associated with dynamics (*), so even I can understand it. Combustion or chemistry is too complicated for me to understand.h It is not very difficult to predict functional changes against the variation range of variables, as operating theories of many mechanisms are expressed in the form of linear function or quadratic function. A 30% modification in one development leads to effects of (1 + 0.3) n (n power) after n times. Therefore it is prudent not to take great risks.

gChanges within 30%,h is the wisdom of an engineer who has been engaged in the design and quality assurance of the critical part of automobiles, the AT. Physical volume that changes in the form of multiplication or progression is normally expressed in a logarithmic scale. A typical example is the N scale of the fatigue life curve of metal, or gS-N curve.h It is meaningless to discuss the 30% change in terms of durability life.
(*) classical dynamics

5. Costs
One of the important duties of a PL (project leader) of a model development team is cost management. The development of the 3AT (R theme B4S) in the late 1970s was when I worked on costs as a project leader for the first time. At that time, the demand for the AT was relatively lower than now and we were allowed to spend two years on this topic, during which time we tackled the cost thoroughly. We took the following approach in determining the cost AT.

First, we came up with the concept of ghow to evaluate the value of the ATh and from that concept, we identified what the total cost should be. The result was 60,000 yen. The next step was to distribute the total cost into individual component parts. Without a model to refer to, we had to make arbitrary decisions concerning the costs of some 400 parts. The degree of difficulty varied greatly. Mr. Tsuchiya, an engineer (at that time) of EGiHonda Engineering Corpj, provided us with tremendous support.
Due to the small production volume, the early AT did not contribute to the profits of parts manufacturers. However, many of our principal parts manufacturers who support our current AT, helped us achieve such unreasonable (?) target costs. We continued our exhaustive efforts to make more dependable parts in a more efficient manner and created many new structures. The first cost base of Hondafs AT was the 3AT (PA9) for the 80 model Accord, which has been applied to the 4AT (PC9) and so on.

We often hear g80% of the cost of a part is determined by its design.h I believe this is true. There is another saying relative to this expression, gAn excellent mechanism is simple.h I, as a designer, stress both policies. I redo a design three times. This eliminates unnecessary items, and the only important and essential ones remain. This is as if crystal were separated from muddy liquid. In this process, it is important to exercise the idea of simplification, which functions as a filter for the filtration process. We can list specific items of simplification, including integration of basic specifications, commonality of part, simplification of shapes, integration of coordinates, commonality of production lines, size standardization of basic elements, and others.

In designing and drafting parts, the most important thing is to know the function and manufacturing method of the part (or similar part) well. You may not be able to know these overnight. The knowledge stems from your relationship with the part and experience in production. Unlike in the past, the current R&D building is situated away from the manufacturing facilities. I encourage you to visit the assembly plants and parts manufacturers as often as possible to gain knowledge. When I inspect a drawing, I can easily tell whether or not the drawing was prepared based on manufacturing knowledge. Designing parts without understanding costs is similar to going abroad without knowing the language. You can still create drawings, but you may not experience the joy of design.

6. Design Change Notice
Being engaged in development, there are quite a few opportunities to write design change notices, which has not changed. The format of the notice has stayed the same, and includes (1) motive, purpose, (2) contents, and (3) review results (status) following the subject. When I first started working, my supervisor often made me re-do the design change notices. gA Design Change Notice is the instruction ordered by the designer to the whole company. Designers are the only people who have the authority to issue the notice. Such high authority comes with great responsibility. You must take this very seriously and write in simple and clear expressions using available space effectively, so that your intention will be communicated without misunderstanding.h
This also applies to the drawings. gAs noted in our companyfs mission statement, R&Dfs product is drawings. No matter how minor it may be, if a mistake in the drawing causes a problem, that drawing is regarded as defective.h Based on this training, I have regarded design change notices as an opportunity to summarize my thoughts and express my intention effectively. With the help of a computer aided drawing machine (CADAM: Computer Aided Drawing & Analysis Machine), it is now possible to create drawings efficiently. However, it is critical that the drawings reflect technical information that has been thoroughly reviewed and is easy to understand. It is never a waste of your time to work hard to properly express the contents within the limited 10 lines of the notice. This practice will help you in preparing all kinds of documents.

A significantly wide range of electronic control technologies have been applied to recent automobiles, including AT control. One type of control computer, ECU (Electronic Control Unit) uses ROM (read-only memory) for memory function. Normally there are two types of ROMs, one of which is EPROM (erasable and programmable read-only memory) and the other is MASK ROM that cannot be erased or reprogrammed. I think the human brain is like EPROM with an extremely high capacity. Because of my job, I need to record or memorize various information. I have developed an efficient way of remembering information as follows.
(1) It is important to sort information before input.
(2) You only accept important information. At this time, you remember the location of recording or storage of the information without trying to remember the content completely.
(3) For information that you want to retrieve whenever necessary, you should use all kinds of ideas to memorize it instead of simply recording.
Sometimes, the fact that information is readily available is more important than the contents of the information. Documents that are not readily available are similar to treasure buried somewhere without a map. Both are useless. Your efforts in selectively remembering important information stimulates your mind, which I believe is the key to staying young in your mind.

8. One Sheet Best
gOne sheet best,h means it is most efficient to summarize everything in one sheet. I had tried to practice this policy even before the Paperwork Rationalization Promotion Committee (so-called circle J committee) promoted this. I can honestly understand the concept and encourage other people to practice this. Here are some of the benefits that I can recognize from the practice.

(1) If nothing else, it is easy to see and understand. The purpose of most documents is to communicate the originatorfs intentions and policies to other people. It is best if a person who sees (not reads) it can understand quickly. That is why one sheet with a summary of carefully selected information is best.

(2) It is very useful in organizing information.
There are various types of information in documents. Sometimes it is not easy to cover everything in one sheet. As you refine the expressions, the information is fully examined and the document will become complete without missing important information.

(3) Independent document
To transfer information accurately in an organization, there should be a means of communication that is initiated by the person who is directly involved and sent to other related parties. A well-written document can serve this purpose on its own without causing misunderstanding, no matter how far it reaches. The word gmissionh or ambassador applies to the documents. A well-written document serves as an ambassador of information transfer.
note:We transmission division menbers called us missionists

9. Internationalization
It is almost a miracle how Japan recovered from its exhausted condition after World War II and how the country managed to have remarkable economic growth. People often say that what is needed the most now is internationalization.

Immediately after the war, our automobile industry was dependent on foreign technologies. We now possess the world's leading technologies in product and production engineering as well as production capacity. However, some issues remain.

Most Japanese automakers have located their plants in the U.S. and in Europe as a solution for exporting surpluses. Honda had a policy of localization even before the trade issue, and some say that we are the most advanced company in terms of internationalization. In the future, localization of research and development will be the priority, and the needs for internationalization will continue to increase. I would like to think of ginternationalization on an individual levelh instead of a corporate level. My image of internationalization is as follows.
gInternationalization is to appreciate diverse values and learn to think, make judgments, and take actions on onefs own.h Without being a corporate citizen, it is very difficult to gain this capability. Experience abroad and foreign language skills are helpful, but they are not the essence of what is sought. I believe the most effective thing is to make an effort and create opportunities to understand the people, the cultures and other aspects of the country you interact with as much as possible. I do not recommend a business trip abroad where you come back as soon as the business is done.

10. Languages
I would like to write about my feelings toward foreign languages from my experience. First is the Russian language. I chose this language as my second language in college because then the Soviet Union was more advanced than the United States in technologies such as the artificial satellite. I thought this language had potential and scarcity value. However, I did not learn much as it was very difficult. All I can remember are the expressions equivalent to gI love you,h and ggood-bye,h and approximately 10 other words.

Next is French. To conduct interactions, exchanges and industrial missions with an industrial college in France, I studied French at LfInstitut Franco-Japonais de Tokyo for one year from an instructor sent by the French government. The only material used was slides (with taped conversation) shown in the classroom. However, it was very effective for the training of glistening and speakingh which is the starting point of learning any language. My greading and writingh skill is poor, but listening and speaking are more practical.

In the Japanese education system, English is taught from junior high school with a strong emphasis on reading and writing. However, it is rather difficult to learn communication skills as there is not much opportunity to use the language on a daily basis. I learned the communication skills to some extent through the exchange of frequent emergency facsimile correspondence and business trips when we had numerous problems with the AT in the joint project with ARG. I thought it the best method would be to repeat what British people said to learn the language and I actually practiced it.
I did not learn the expression, gNo problem,h in school.

Finally German. Many people choose this language as their second language, but I was not interested in the language at all, therefore I do not even know its alphabets. When I arrived at Frankfurt airport the other day and listened to the radio in a car that picked me up, I really thought gI am in a foreign country.h If you ask me the key to success in learning communication skills in foreign languages, I would say you should practice writing and speaking correct Japanese on a daily basis. More specifically, you should make it a habit to make the subject and the predicate clear in Japanese, so that the sentence can easily be translated into foreign languages.

11. New Associate Training
Recently I have had very little opportunity to be directly involved in the training of new associates. I would like to write about the training I received when I was a rookie and also my personal policy in giving training that I have long practiced.

People often say, gThe first time is very critical to everything.h New associate training is not an exception. Many of the rookies are graduates of mechanical engineering and precision engineering, but few seem to be good at design and drawing. I mainly used on-the-job training with an emphasis on the following points.

(1) In the beginning for a while, you should thoroughly check a prepared drawing based on the reference drawing to learn the correct ways to prepare drawings. Pay special attention to every item, including the darkness of lines, letters, numbers, various symbols, the arrangement of the drawing. Now that we have CADAM, many items are standardized and made easy.

(2) Drawings must be prepared while looking at similar parts. The actual parts give you clear indications of material, finish, accuracy, color, weight and other elements that may not be understood from the layout drawing.

(3) Write other documents besides drawings in dark print. A document written in dark print gives me a stronger impression and I believe it is more appealing to people. I sometimes ask originators to re-do documents or reports written in light print.

(4) Once associates have acquired basic skills in creating drawings, I have them assemble a transmission and follow up on the tests, so that they can learn about the functions of each component part. I have only new associates follow up on the assembly of new development models. Of course, they work under the supervision of experienced associates. By following up on assembly problems, the new associates can develop human contacts with various departments in the company. It is also a very effective method for learning company procedures.

Knowing how to make parts is extremely important in design. Once the new associates have gained a basic knowledge of parts functions, they should visit manufacturing sites. Regarding the AT, many parts suppliers are conveniently located near our mother plant, Hamamatsu Plant.

Thank you very much for reading so long essay of a senior engineer.

Chicago Sears Tower 103F View Terrace(left)and Strasbourg(right)