Ford vs. Mazda Transmissions: Why Does Quality Matter?

In the 1980’s Ford owned roughly 25% of Mazda (then known as Toyo Koygo). Ford had Mazda manufacture some automatic transmissions for cars sold in the United States. Both Ford and Mazda were building the same transmission off of the same specification and both had 100% specification conformance. However, the Ford transmissions were receiving more customer complaints about noise and were having higher warranty repair costs. This led Ford engineers to investigate and they found that the Ford manufactured transmissions utilized 70% of the available tolerance spread for manufactured parts, while Mazda used only 27% (AC 2012-4265: Promoting Awareness in Manufacturing Students of Key Concepts of Lean Design to Improve Manufacturing Quality). The Ford engineers began to realize that the Mazda transmissions were higher quality than the Ford manufactured ones. It turned out that Mazda was using a slightly more expensive grinding process than what Ford was using. This raised Mazda’s manufacturing costs, however the full lifetime costs were higher for the Ford manufactured transmissions.

This story is a prime example of why it is important to think about quality. Too often we tend to focus on other metrics and neglect quality, or we use a single metric to define quality. Ford experienced this by focusing on a “Zero Defect” policy, thinking that if there were zero defect in a transmission that would produce a quality transmission. Mazda expanded on this policy and took the whole lifecycle cost and experience into consideration as they developed their transmissions. With this holistic view, it is easy to see why engineers need to think about quality all across a program’s lifecycle.

Building Quality into The Lifecycle

If the goal of an organization is to deliver a quality product, engineers at all stages need to think about how they can add quality into the system. An easy way to think about how to add quality, is ask yourself: “What are the extra details, the extra effort, the extra care that can be put into the product?” When these extra efforts are applied to a properly defined system, the output is often a quality system. To a program manager all the extra effort sounds like a fair amount of extra cost. This is true, however it is important to weigh the short term cost increase against the potential long term costs savings. Below are two examples of how to add quality in the lifecycle.


One of the first steps of the design effort is requirement building and unfortunately having a requirement like “system shall be of a quality design” does not cut it. Never mind that this requirement violates nearly all the good requirement rules, it fails to take into account the characteristics of a quality system. Is it the “spare no expense” engineering efforts of high end audio systems or is it the good quality for the price factor of Japanese manufactured cars in the 1970s? It is important to identify how the customer and market defines quality. Having this understanding informs choices going forward and prevents a scenario where the market doesn’t value the added quality efforts.


The procurement/manufacturing phase of the lifecycle is where quality efforts are the most visible. As parts are being ordered it is important to be thinking about how the whole supply chain thinks about quality. This involves reviewing the supplier’s suppliers to verify that the parts being delivered do not have a poor design or a possible defect that could be hidden through integration. For internally manufactured parts, is extra effort being added to check that the solder on pins is clean and will not short other sections under heating? Extra thought and care should be given to the human interface of the system, as this normally plays a major role in determining the quality of a system. For software, do user interfaces make sense, do they flow, are they visually appealing? These are the kinds of questions that should be asked to help guild engineers to building a quality system.

 “Quality Is Our Top Priority”

All too often I find a Scott Adams’ Dilbert comic strip that highlights a common problem that engineers face. In the comic below we have a perfect example of Pointy-Haired Boss directing Dilbert, Alice, and Wally to focus on quality.


DILBERT from Sunday March 28, 2004


What Pointy-Haired Boss fails to realize is that quality and the rest of his priorities are not mutually exclusive and can be done concurrently. A quality system is one that is safe, that is law abiding, and is financially viable. Quality should also be added to these factors, making sure that the extra bit of design work is worthwhile. All of these factors when properly combined together with good design and engineering produce a quality system.

By Daniel Hettema. Reposted from the SPEC Innovations’ blog with permission.

Branching and Merging In Innoslate


Branching and Merging allows a team member to make large changes in the project without worrying about affecting the overall project.

If a team member wants to do a large change to the project, for example create a model or trace large amounts of artifacts together, then they should Branch out.

Branching and Merging Decision Tree
Branching and Merging Decision Tree

Branched project is a Mapped Copy of the original project. It enables merging which will take the changes the Team member made and integrate them back into the main project, called a trunk.

Branching Procedure
Branching Procedure

If the team member likes what they did and maybe had their changes reviewed then they can merge back into the original project.

Merging Procedures
Merging Procedures

If the team member creates a branched project and doesn’t like their changes, or fails review, then they can simply delete their branch and start over anew.

Delete Branch Project Procedure
Delete Branch Project Procedure




Document Trees in Innoslate

Different levels of documents result from decomposition of user needs to component-level specifications, as shown in the figure below.

Innoslate enables the user to create such trees as a Hierarchy chart, which uses the “decomposed by” relationship” to show the hierarchy. An example is shown below.

Each of these Artifacts contain requirements at the different levels. Those requirements may be related to one another using the “relates from/relates to” relationship if they are peer-to-peer (i.e. at the same level of decomposition) or using the decomposed by relationship to indicate that they were derived from the higher-level requirement.

This approach allows you to reuse, rather than recreate requirements from a higher-level document. An example is shown in Requirements View below.


In this example, the top-level Enterprise Requirements were repurposed for the Mission Needs document (MN.1.1 and MN.1.2) and the System Requirements Document (SRD.5). If you prefer to keep the original numbers, you only have to Auto Number the ERD document using that button on the menu bar and the objects would show up with the ERD prefix in the lower documents. Note that in either case, the uploaded original document would retain the original numbers, in case you wanted to reference them that way. Also, each entity has a Universal Unique Identifier (UUID) that the requirement retains, if you prefer to use that as a reference.

This approach discussed above is only one way to accomplish the development of a document tree. Innoslate enables other approaches, such as using a new relationship (i.e. derived from/derives). Try it the way above and see if it meets your needs. If not, adjust as you like.

What is a PLM Tool?

Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) software integrates cost effective solutions to manage the useful life of a product.

PLM software tools allow you to:

  • Keep aligned with customer’s requirements
  • Optimize cost and resources through simulated risk analysis
  • Reduce complexity with a single interconnecting database
  • Improve and maintain quality of a product throughout the lifecycle

The areas of PLM include: five primary areas:

  1. Systems engineering
  2. Product and portfolio m² (PPM)
  3. Product design (CAx)
  4. Manufacturing process management (MPM)
  5. Product data management (PDM)

Let’s look at each area in more detail.

Systems Engineering

A PLM tool should  support the system engineer throughout the lifecycle by integrating requirements analysis and management (Requirements View and checker), with functional analysis and allocation (all the SysML diagrams, along with LML, IDEF0, N2, and others), with solution synthesis (SysML, LML, Layer Diagram, Physical I/O, etc.), test and evaluation (Test Plans, Test Center), and simulation (discrete event and Monte Carlo). Many PLM tools lack the combination of all these capabilities in this area. Innoslate® was made by systems engineers for systems engineers and is designed for the modern cloud environment that enables massive scalability and collaboration. No other PLM tool has Innoslate’s combination of capabilities in this area.

Product and Portfolio Management

PPM includes pipeline, resource, financial, and risk management, as well as change control. Innoslate® provides all these capabilities and a simple easy to use modeling diagram to capture the business processes, resource and cost load them, and then produce Gantt charts for the timeline. The Monte Carlo simulation also enables the exploration of the schedule and cost risks due to the variation of timing, costs, and resources. This approach is called Model-Based Program Management (MBPM); consider it an important adjunct to the systems engineering work.

Innoslate® also captures risks, decisions, and other program management data completely within the tool using Risk Matrices, and other diagrams. Change control is provided through the baselining of documents, the branching/forking capability, and the object-level history files.

Innoslate® provides a means to develop a program plan that can be linked to the diagrams and other information within the database This feature enables you to keep all your information and documents together in one place.

Product Design

The Product Design area focuses on the capability to capture and visualize product design information from analysis to concept to synthesis. The Asset Diagram enables the addition of pictures to the standard boxes and lines diagrams. This capability enables the development of the high-level concept pictures that everyone needs. Innoslate’s CAD viewer feature allows you to not only view the STL and OBJ files it can create the equivalent Asset Diagram entities through the OBJ file, but this feature also makes the integration between the two tools more seamless. Other physical views, such as the layer diagram and physical I/O help view the physical model in ways that usually required a separate drawing tool.

Manufacturing Process Management

Innoslate provides great process planning and resource planning capabilities using the Action Diagram and other features discussed above. Direct interface from Innoslate® to other tools can be accomplished using the software development kit (SDK) application programmer interfaces (APIs). If the MPM tools have Internet access, you can use the Zapier Integration capability, which provides an interface to over 750 tools, ranging from GitHub to PayPal to SAP Jam Collaboration. In addition, Innoslate is routinely used for Failure Modes and Effects Analyses (FMEA), which is critical to MPM.

Product Data Management

Capturing all the product data, such as the part number, part description, supplier/vendor, vendor part number and description, unit of measure, cost/price, schematic or CAD drawing, and material data sheets, can easily be accomplished using Innoslate. Most of the entities and attributes have already been defined in the baseline schema, but you can easily add more using the Schema Editor. You can develop a complete library of product drawings and data sheets by uploading electronic files can be uploaded as part of the “Artifacts” capture in the tool. Construction of a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) and Bill of Materials (BOM) is also simply a standard report from the tool.

As a systems engineer, it’s important to allow information to drive your decisions. This can only be obtained through detailed functional analysis and an underlying scalable database. And is best accomplished with a PLM software tool that  encompasses all 5 areas illustrated above. Innoslate meets or excels in every area, so you are better equipped to face high-risk decisions.