Durward K. Sobek

Montana State University, Bozeman, Montana, United States

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Publications (19)3.54 Total impact

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    Ahmed Al-Ashaab, Durward K. Sobek
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    ABSTRACT: Successes in lean manufacture have led researchers and practitioners to consider extending ‘lean’ to different parts of the engineering enterprise, including product and process development PPD. Lean product development PD has been understood ...
    International Journal of Computer Integrated Manufacturing 12/2013; 26(12):1103-1104. · 0.94 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Rework that occurs late in the product life cycle is dramatically more expensive than design work performed early in the cycle. However, shifting traditional design work earlier in the design process so as to avoid rework later is difficult. A number of product development practices that have been characterized as a shift from developing a single-point design to developing a set of possible designs have proven effective at reducing development rework. This paper refines the definitions of such “set-based” development practices, which are aimed at early development phases, and shows how they can be applied to the systems engineering process in order to reduce or eliminate the root causes of rework. Examples from the Wright Brothers, Toyota, and several other companies are presented. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Syst Eng 17
    Systems Engineering 05/2013; · 0.66 Impact Factor
  • Elizabeth S Adams, Durward K Sobek, Felmont Eaves
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    ABSTRACT: The Patient Safety Committee of The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) has initiated a new patient safety training program. The pilot module of this program will focus on hypothermia prevention, with the goal of decreasing the negative effects of hypothermia for surgery patients. Previous literature has shown that hypothermia can result in a higher incidence of surgical wound infections and longer postanesthesia recovery times, among other adverse effects. Therefore, educating medical personnel on patient safety techniques like hypothermia prevention is important for achieving positive patient outcomes. However, organizational research indicates that implementing and sustaining improvements system-wide requires a "continuous improvement culture." Earlier research has identified concepts such as double-loop learning, problem-solving, error management, and organizational routines as key elements of a continuous improvement culture. Antecedent to the ASAPS training program, a case study analysis of three surgery practices was performed to better understand the relationship between organizational structure, hypothermia domain knowledge, and continuous improvement culture characteristics. The data analysis indicates a positive correlation between hypothermia prevention and elements of a continuous improvement culture. These findings suggest that a patient safety training program, which includes learning objectives directed at improving organizational culture in addition to specific research-based preventative techniques, is more likely to achieve sustained improvements in patient outcomes than training focused on preventative techniques alone.
    Aesthetic surgery journal / the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic surgery 01/2011; 31(1):122-34.
  • Durward K. Sobek, Vikas K. Jain
    Journal of Mechanical Design - J MECH DESIGN. 01/2007; 129(5).
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    Vikas K. Jain, Durward K. Sobek
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    ABSTRACT: This work seeks to better understand how design processes affect design outcomes. Design process data were collected from journals kept as a part of mechanical engineering capstone design projects at Montana State University. Student processes were characterized by time coding journal entries using a 3×4 matrix of process variables. The data were modeled using a principal components artificial neural network, and the model used in a virtual designed experiment to obtain estimates for design process factors that significantly affect client satisfaction. Results indicate that greater client satisfaction is achieved through: greater problem definition (PD) activity and idea generation at conceptual design levels, and PD and engineering analysis activities at the system design level. Whereas, design activity at the detailed level associates with lower client satisfaction. These results support some aspects of existing models of “good” design process, and suggest adaptations of the models for novice designers.
    Research in Engineering Design 08/2006; 17(2):59-71. · 1.94 Impact Factor
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    Cindy Jimmerson, Dorothy Weber, Durward K Sobek
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    ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND: The Toyota Production System (TPS), based on industrial engineering principles and operational innovations, is used to achieve waste reduction and efficiency while increasing product quality. Several key tools and principles, adapted to health care, have proved effective in improving hospital operations. TOOLS: Value Stream Maps (VSMs), which represent the key people, material, and information flows required to deliver a product or service, distinguish between value-adding and non-value-adding steps. The one-page Problem-Solving A3 Report guides staff through a rigorous and systematic problem-solving process. PILOT PROJECT at INTERMOUNTAIN HEALTHCARE: In a pilot project, participants made many improvements, ranging from simple changes implemented immediately (for example, heart monitor paper not available when a patient presented with a dysrythmia) to larger projects involving patient or information flow issues across multiple departments. Most of the improvements required little or no investment and reduced significant amounts of wasted time for front-line workers. In one unit, turnaround time for pathologist reports from an anatomical pathology lab was reduced from five to two days. CONCLUSIONS: TPS principles and tools are applicable to an endless variety of processes and work settings in health care and can be used to address critical challenges such as medical errors, escalating costs, and staffing shortages.
    Joint Commission journal on quality and patient safety / Joint Commission Resources 06/2005; 31(5):249-57.
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    Joshua Ruder, Durward K Sobek
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    ABSTRACT: Previous studies have indicated that system level design (SLD) has a positive association with the outcome of engineering design projects. However, the causal relationship has not been established. This pilot study will explore the feasibility of implementing a laboratory experiment on design process and attempt to demonstrate a causal relationship between SLD and design outcome quality. Using outcome data from the pilot student laboratory exercise, a comparison between design processes that used SLD activities and those that did not are made using simple statistical testing methods. The results of this comparison support previous indications that SLD has an effect on outcome quality. The difficulties of constraining students performing SLD activities gave rise to an alternative method of analyzing SLD activities and lead us to conclude that our protocol is insufficient to test design process but is suitable for testing the application of a specific tool. INTRODUCTION In prior work, our research group studied student design processes through the use of student design journals. The journals provide a convenient method to collect data on student design processes, data which can be categorized and quantified in order characterize the design processes used. Analysis of the journal data has produced a number of startling results related to design effort at a system level (as opposed to conceptual or detailed level). Analysis reveals that system level design effort has a remarkable correlation to both design quality and productivity. Determining whether this correlation is masking a stronger relationship can not be discovered from the journal data. Further experimentation is required. Toward that end, we conducted a pilot study with two goals in mind. The first goal was to determine whether we could design an experiment to directly test differences between competing design processes. We were confident that we could design a scientifically valid experiment. The problem was whether we could design a protocol that would constrain the students' design processes in a way that would isolate the variable in question, yet not predispose the creative process to predetermined end result. The second goal was to demonstrate a causal relationship between system level design and design quality.
    01/2005;
  • Durward K. Sobek, Vic A. Cundy, Vicki L. Briggeman
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    ABSTRACT: This paper describes the given-find-solution method as a general approach to solving engineering problems. An in-classroom study was conducted to provide evidence of its effectiveness in increasing, students' problem-solving proficiency. The target course was an undergraduate service thermodynamics course taught at Montana State University. Results indicate that the given-find-solution method seems to be effective for most students. The implications for assessment and methodological improvements are discussed.
    International Journal of Mechanical Engineering Education 07/2004; 32(3).
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    Ramon Costa, Durward K Sobek
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    ABSTRACT: In this paper, we analyze journal data from twelve student projects to help identify design processes that achieve higher quality in less time. Journal data are coded for the number of engineering hours spent on different design activities at three design levels. Each project's outcome is independently assessed for client satisfaction and design quality. We use factor analysis to group common variability into factors. A multivariate linear regression model of three factors explains 91% of productivity variance within the study sample. The factor scoring coefficients are then used to translate the regression model coefficients back to activities and design levels. Results indicate that generating ideas and defining the problem at a system level are the key discriminating variables between more or less productive design teams in our sample, while conceptual design at the front end and detail-level work at the back end are not associated with productivity. INTRODUCTION Product development organizations are under increasing pressure to provide innovative products at a lower cost in shorter time. To simultaneously increase quality and throughput while reducing cost requires a better understanding of the underlying principles of design. Also, from an educational standpoint, a deeper understanding of the design process will enable educators to better equip engineering graduates to work productively and thereby supply industry with more capable designers. In an effort to better align accredited institutions with the needs of industry, ABET increasingly focuses on the outcomes of the education engineers receive in accredited programs. Specifically, ABET sets as a criterion that students should have "an ability to design a system, component, or process to meet desired needs" and thus contribute their knowledge, skills, and abilities to increasingly competitive fields such as product development [1]. Academic programs will need to continue improving design education to preserve ABET accreditation. An objective of our current research effort is to better understand the role that process plays in engineering design. To accomplish this, mechanical, industrial, and electrical engineering students at Montana State University keep journals as part of their capstone course. The journals serve the dual purpose of instructional aid and data source. The present study analyzes journal data from mechanical engineering projects in order to identify patterns associated with productive processes. To characterize the process data, we define design process attributes along two dimensions [2]. First, we delineate four broad categories of activities: problem definition, idea generation, engineering analysis, and design refinement. Second, we distinguish three design levels, namely concept, system, and detail design, to indicate the progression of design work from ambiguous to specific, with a middle step focused on system architecture. Table 1 lists these attributes and their definitions. Journals are coded for the amount of time spent doing each activity at each design level. The objective of the present study is to provide empirical support for Costa and Sobek's framework for design iteration [3], specifically the recommendation to transition from concept to detail design without skipping intermediate design levels. The transition between conceptual and detailed work should involve spending time at an intermediate design level that considers solution structure and interfaces between modules or subsystems. This intermediate level is defined as system-level design in this work [2].
    01/2004;
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    Samuel Wilkening, Durward K Sobek
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    ABSTRACT: This study focuses on better understanding the impact of design process behavior on project outcomes, as demonstrated by mechanical engineering students at Montana State University. Using process data gathered from student design journals, and quantitative measures of project results, we examine the relationship between student designer activities and project outcomes through a multivariate linear regression analysis. Results indicate that significant differences exist between customer satisfaction, and design quality as measured by professional engineers. Further, this study finds that client satisfaction increases with time spent on problem definition activities and decreases with concept-level engineering analysis. In contrast, system-level idea generation and refinement activities are the most strongly positively associated activities for design quality, while design refinement at the concept level is a strong detractor. INTRODUCTION Design is recognized as an important part of the engineering profession, and is thus a major topic in research regarding both engineering education and commercial practice. One fundamental objective many researchers in either arena pursue is that of improving the process of design to achieve more effective designs efficiently. Whether this improvement manifests along a dimension of cost, quality, or time, the common goal is to optimize design. Many authors have proposed models for a superior design process, but they are usually based on either very small sample sizes, leading to highly specialized recommendations, or on personal experience, which may lead to general models difficult for inexperienced designers to apply. Further, the assertion some authors make that design can only be learned by practice, while likely valid, needs expanding upon, particularly in the area of recommendations for how to learn good design techniques.
    01/2004;
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    David N Ford, Durward Sobek
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    ABSTRACT: High uncertainty in the performance of product design alternatives has forced developers to consider multiple alternative designs in parallel. Traditional wisdom dictates the selection of the final alternative as quickly as possible. But delaying decisions on alternatives as designs develop has provided sustainable competitive advantage for Toyota, a leader in automobile development. Real options can potentially explain how Toyota's set-based development approach provides this advantage. The current work builds, initially tests, and uses a system dynamics model of automobile system development at Toyota to: 1) test the hypothesis that Toyota uses real options to switch among alternatives to operationalize set-based development and 2) propose and test a hypothesis of how real options at Toyota add value. Simulation results support these hypotheses and suggest that the effective use of real options requires a deep understanding of both the development process and the structure of real options. Research needs are discussed.
    04/2003;
  • Samuel H. Wilkening, Durward K. Sobek
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    Manimay Ghosh, Durward K. Sobek
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    ABSTRACT: There is a growing national concern that health care organizations do not have a sound operating system in place. Reforming the operating system has assumed significance because of increasing operating costs and diminishing reimbursements from the payers. Critics argue that in the last 100 years or so significant strides have been made in product innovation but very little in process innovation. In an effort to improve the internal systems, health care leaders have adopted various process improvement techniques, yet success has remained elusive in most of the cases. The Toyota Production System (TPS), built on basic Industrial Engineering principles, offers powerful tools to revamp health care's work processes. Its application in the health care sector has been limited despite showing signs of promise. The authors present a successful application of TPS design rules, using a problem solving process adapted from Toyota, in improving the group meal therapy process in a Rehabilitation Nursing Unit (RNU) of a hospital. They present how participants observed the problem first hand, did root cause analysis, and then used the TPS design rules to redesign the process, which dramatically improved the patient outcome and productivity of the therapists.
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    Durward K. Sobek, Cindy Jimmerson
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    ABSTRACT: The A3 report is a tool that Toyota Motor Corporation uses to propose solutions to problems, give status reports on ongoing projects, and report results of information gathering activity. In our current research to apply Toyota Production System principles in a hospital setting, we have adapted the A3 problem-solving report for use by hospital staff to improve their organizational processes, and have successfully applied it to numerous problems within a local hospital. This paper presents an A3 report template, and describes the problem-solving approach it represents through an example.
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    Durward K. Sobek
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    ABSTRACT: This paper describes an emerging theory on the role that representations play in engineering problem solving. Modern cognitive psychology has shown that not only do problem solvers use different representations to store information and ideas, the representation itself influences the problem-solvers' solution approach. I extend this notion to the engineering domain, and illustrate it with an example from programmable logic controller (PLC) programming. These ideas have important implications for how educators can help students develop effective problem-solving skills.
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    Durward K. Sobek, Cindy Jimmerson
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    ABSTRACT: This paper presents the early results of an action research project to apply the principles of the Toyota Production System to a hospital pharmacy. We demonstrate that work systems can be improved through Bowen and Spear's (3) Rules-in-Use: defining activities better, making simpler and more direct connections, and/or smoothing pathways. We also extend this work by introducing a problem-solving tool to facilitate process improvement. The paper will describe the interventions attempted, the results, and implications for applying the Rules-in-Use to health care environments.
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    Manimay Ghosh, Durward K. Sobek
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    ABSTRACT: This paper presents a field research study involvin g application of the first three design Rules-in-Us e of Toyota Production System in a health care setting, which l ike many other health care organizations resembles a broken system. Qualitative research is used to collect th e data and a combination of qualitative and quantit ative approaches are used to analyze the data. A regression model r eveals a significant association between proper app lication of the rules and outcomes of process improvement efforts. The results confirm that with some refinement, the Rules-in- Use are transportable to health care and may provid e an answer to health care's systemic issues .
  • Durward K. Sobek, Dipali Patel
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    ABSTRACT: Vinod Goel (1) proposes a theory of notationality, derived from observations of interior designers, that distinguishes three classes of symbol systems: notational, non-notational, and discursive. He theorizes that design processes can be improved through the use of non-notational symbols. This paper presents the 23 factorial designed experiment used to test the applicability of this theory to electrical engineering. The results indicate that non-notational representations have a positive effect on designer productivity when complex design criteria are considered, but primarily if accompanied with discursive representations. Non-notational representations did not have a strong effect on number of ideas generated or quality of solution.
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    ABSTRACT: Abstract Accredited engineering programs need to show that their students learn how to effectively “function on multi-disciplinary teams.” This skill is important not only for accreditation but also to employers and to educators themselves, who understand the changing world of engineering work. In the summer of 2005, the College of Engineering at Montana State University embarked,on a study of multi-disciplinary engineering education within the college. This study followed the engineering design process. After an information-gathering stage, an ad-hoc cross-disciplinary team of faculty developed and refined multi-disciplinary