Friday Fun Links 5-5-2017

Happy Cinco de Mayo!  This week’s insignificant ramblings follow:

What I’m (re)reading:  David M. Andersen’s “Design for Manufacturability“.  I need to brush up on my DFM chops for a couple projects and this is a great summary of ideas…

What I’m listening to:  “Wait for the Moment” from Vulfpeck

Most popular Instagram post:  This one on the receipt of my new CANable USB-CAN adapter

Want to ponder your place in the universe?  Check out this image from NASA showing the Abell 370 galaxy cluster, and imagine just how many strange and wonderful places there are to explore.

Considering a 3D printer?  We’ve been looking around and the Prusa i3 Mk2 seems to be the top contender so far.  Email us with any advice you might have!

Friday Fun Links 4-28-2017

Happy Friday!  We’re back with another week of random musings:

Books I’m reading:  Andrew “bunnie” Huang’s excellent book “The Hardware Hacker” belongs on every engineer’s shelf.  If you’re interested in hardware design, want to learn about manufacturing, or geek out on how zipper pulls are made (truly fascinating cultural/process model) this book is for you.

Regardless of religious affiliation, Pope Francis’ recent Ted Talk is a great reminder of our responsibility as human beings on this little blue marble we call Earth.

I think I’ve found my favorite new sport in Beer Yoga.  Apparently it’s an actual thing.  No, seriously.

In case you’re in need of a USB to CAN adapter to, say, hack your motorcycle’s onboard network, the CANable is a dainty little tool to get you going.

What I’m listening to this week:  In a bit of a Hawaiian slack key guitar mood, so this tune has been adding a little aloha when stuck in traffic.


Friday Fun Links 4-7-2017

Enjoy this week’s random musings:

Check out the history of OBDII automotive on-board diagnostics in this article from Hackaday

What I’m reading:  This week the bookmark is resident in the paperback copy of Erik Larson’s excellent historical novel “Dead Wake”, following the story of the Lusitania.

I’m terrible at layout (if this website wasn’t evidence enough), but the team over at Canva make presentations and infographics ridiculously easy to create.

The Utah Supreme Court ruled this week that the state’s regulators can prevent manufacturers from owning business interest in its dealers, striking another blow against Tesla’s dealer-direct business model there.

Huge congratulations to our friends at Iconiq for successfully funding their Kickstarter campaign for the new Qore stackable container!

Friday Fun Links 3-31-2017

In the spirit of Tim Ferriss’ Five Bullet Friday, enjoy this week’s random musings:

Favorite Software Tool:  Pipedrive is a Sales CRM system for small businesses that’s been rapidly gaining in popularity.  If you’re in need of a simple and effective sales tool, enjoy a free 60-day free trial with this link.

In case you’ve been hiding under a rock, you may not have heard that the US House of Representatives has just approved the sale of your private internet browsing history by your ISP.  Have a look at this article by Wired if you’re interested in setting up your own VPN, and make it a little harder for the boogeyman to snoop on you.

Need some white noise while you work?  This website lets you customize your own personal soundscape.  You can choose everything from a Japanese garden to a laundromat.  So sit back, plug in the headphones and feel your blood pressure drop…

Need an app to keep track of your sheep herd’s lineage?   Well, neither do we (at this point in time at least…) but we met the team at HerdBoss this week and learned all sorts of fun facts about livestock management, sheep breeding and the IOT’s place in it all.

Finally a shameless plug this week for our friends over at KoraVera Organics.  KoraVera creates organic, ultra-clean sleepwear for kids.  Check out their site and the amazing business they’ve put together to protect kids’ health.

Friday Fun Links 3-24-2017

In the spirit of Tim Ferriss’ Five Bullet Friday, enjoy the following random tidbits from this week’s wanderings:

For those ever considering learning Japanese, the Meguro Language Center is a fantastic resource for beginners and advanced students alike.  From survival Japanese to daily email courses, they provide a tremendous amount of content to students for free.

This article published in Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists suggests that recent modernization of the US ballistic missile arsenal might have troubling and unintended repercussions.

With all the hype around self-driving cars, you may have heard about varying levels of Advanced Driver Assist Systems (ADAS).  This summary from SEMA explains it all quite nicely.

Planning to buy your very own private island once you land that winning lotto ticket?  Check out this page to see what’s on the market right now.

Are your important passwords something like <insert pet’s/children’s name here><insert birthday here>?  Consider protecting your mission-critical data with a random passphrase using the Diceware technique instead.

Friday Fun Links 3-17-2017

In the spirit of Tim Ferriss’ Five Bullet Friday, enjoy the following random tidbits from this week’s wanderings:

* This is a great article from National Geographic about a huge underground cave system being explored in Uzbekistan.

* What I’m reading this week:  The Toyota Way to Service Excellence – Lean Transformation in Service Organizations

* Maybe a path toward mindfulness means enjoying the subtle changes in season.  Or in Japan, all 72 of them.

* Ever wonder about the airplanes flying overhead?  Check out the ADSB Exchange Global Radar view to see what’s in the air.

* Tired of meeting scheduling email ping-pong?  Try adding Calendly to your business process arsenal.

Of Panzers and Product Planning

Sometimes in product planning, the widget you’re building needs to fit on a thingy built by somebody else.  But usually, you don’t have the luxury of knowing exactly how many thingys they’ve built, so you don’t know how many widgets you should build.

Working in the Powersports industry, unit production numbers are a frequent topic of intrigue.  Business-savvy aftermarket folks want to know how many vehicles of a certain type are in the market in order to guess at accessory fitment or service development.  While the Motorcycle Industry Council provides convenient registration data through IHS to all members, not all states require registration – particularly of off-road vehicles. This becomes problematic when you’d like to guess at ATV, UTV / Side-by-Side, or off-road motorcycle production.

Registration count vs. production count can be off by an order of magnitude in these cases, and manufacturers generally keep model-specific production numbers under wraps.  But despite the hurdles, there are a couple of ways to get reasonably accurate production numbers: one requires a little luck and one requires a bit more old-school sleuthing.

If you’re lucky, (and if the OEM is unlucky), some unfortunate engineer made a design mistake and your vehicle of interest is now part of a national or global recall.  Recalls and the associated vehicle identification number (VIN) ranges or affected unit counts are a matter of public record, and anyone with an internet connection can head to the NHTSA or CPSC websites to see the exact range of products affected.

The second way is a little trickier, and its use actually goes back to World War Two.

While Russia was wearing the German army down on the Eastern Front, the Allied command was busy with planning an initiative from the West.  Readers will be familiar with the Normandy invasion and the terrible sacrifice of human life on all sides, but this story is about how statistics were used to estimate German armor production, and to make a guess about how successful an invasion would be against that volume of hardware.

The fog of war (and of product development) makes simple things tough to comprehend and creates difficulty in decision-making.  Based on intelligence reports at the time, the Allies estimated that the German war machine was cranking out roughly between 1000 and 1500 Panzer tanks a month.  These field reports confounded the folks back at Allied HQ because it seemed like far too many for Germany’s embattled industrial base to support.  They knew the numbers were out of whack, so they decided to try a different take on the problem.  What they did next was genius.

Using statistics and good old-fashioned eyeballs, they came up with a way to estimate Panzer production.  Whenever a tank was destroyed or captured, the Allies scoured it for serial numbers.  With the German propensity for accurate accounting and serializing, this proved startlingly easy once the numbering systems were analyzed.  Engines, transmissions, and tank wheels were some of the serialized items used in the calculation.

Eventually, the numbers were plugged into this formula: N ≈ m+(m⁄k)-1 where “N” was the estimated number of tanks, “m” the maximum serial number, and “k” the count of captured tanks.  The statistical estimates used to plan the Western assault suggested numbers closer to 250-300 tanks produced per month – quite a bit fewer than the intelligence reports.  The invasion was launched, Germany eventually surrendered, and the captured production records were later compared to the estimates after the war.  The actual production numbers?  About 250-300 a month.

So how does a product planner profit from this arcane bit of history, you ask?  Well, if you’re building something like an aftermarket accessory that goes on an ATV (or bench-marking a competitor product for analysis), assign your field staff to head out to a few local dealers, look at the inventory and simply note the serial numbers of the models you’re targeting.  You can even do this online with dealers that post their inventory VIN data.  In the US, VINs are seventeen digits.  Digits four through eight are the model identifier, and the last six are the serial number.  Assuming serial numbers are sequential, you can make a list of the serial numbers in Excel and sort in ascending order.  The last (highest) number is “m” in the equation above, and the count of serial numbers is “k”.  Frequently, the VIN stickers will also feature a month of manufacture, so this additional data can be analyzed along with the tenth digit which indicates the vehicle model year.

And now you’ve got a new tool to estimate vehicle production volume!