"In today's world of heavy outsourcing, design teams are often spread out all over the world. In order to be successful in managing or leading such a group, one needs to not only have design experience, but also proper preparation and knowledge of techniques and best known practices which can be gained through the dfM Program."
Domingo Guerra earned a graduate certificate in Product Creation and Innovative Manufacturing and later completed his MS in Mechanical Engineering in June 2007 as a part-time student in the Stanford Honors Cooperative Program.
Why did you choose the Honors Cooperative Program (HCP)?
I was attracted to the HCP program because it allowed me to continue to gain valuable work experience while I completed my master's, and I could apply what I learned in the classroom directly to my job. Being in the Silicon Valley, I thought it was important to have the flexibility of being able to take online classes (for example, my workload could spike suddenly preventing me from going to class) as well as take advantage of my company's proximity to campus.
When did you typically study?
I was fortunate enough to be able to schedule school during the work day, to participate with the full time students, and attend class. Of course, this meant that I had to complete my work for my job early in the morning and late at night so that my job performance wouldn't suffer. As a result, I had to reorganize my life around work and school. Working full time in the Silicon Valley means working a lot more than 40 hours per week. Usually it was between 50 and 60 hours per week for work, plus 2 graduate-level classes each quarter.
It was a very busy period in my life, but the opportunity to work in a top Silicon Valley company while studying at a prestigious university like Stanford at the same time kept me motivated. It was not an easy task, but I believe that the sacrifices I made between 2004 and 2007 have already paid huge dividends.
Were you able to apply your knowledge as you were taking the course?
Yes! I was able to use Stanford's method of "design thinking" when I was part of a team of cross-functional-engineers that redesigned a robot wrist to improve its operation at high temperatures. We were able to extend the component's useful life by 200% and were granted a patent on our design. Also, Stanford classes in Design for Manufacturability (dFM) proved very helpful. The classes showed me how to improve my designs and ensure that there was an easy transition between my team and the manufacturing team.
Can you describe the dfM principles/concepts that you learned?
The Stanford dfM program has a strong emphasis on teamwork and dfM project/program management. In today's world of heavy outsourcing, design teams are often spread out all over the world. In order to be successful in managing or leading such a group, one needs to not only have design experience, but also proper preparation and knowledge of techniques and best known practices which can be gained through the dfM Program.
Among other things, we learned special organizational skills, how to lead successful design reviews, and how to follow methodologies that promote risk-taking in the early stages of a design program, while following a systematic approach to ensure creativity and design wins.
What course insight stuck with you and how does it shape your work life?
I always thought Professor Ishii's quote of dfM standing for "design for money" made a lot of sense. Of course, it was meant as a joke, but his point was to always have the right priorities in mind. As a designer, one often gets caught up in the details of what solutions are needed to address a specific set of issues. However, as successful leaders we have to focus further than that. Corporations are in business for one reason: profit. It is very important to keep that in mind when presenting our projects to management.
A great design will not always gain enough support to be successful solely on technical brilliance. We need to learn how to properly "sell" our ideas and justify our decisions based on how they affect the "big M," the bottom line. Even though this principle was mentioned with a hint of humor, I believe it was a very important take-away from the course. After all, if we can't demonstrate value (in every sense of the word, but specifically financial value) to the organization, we'll have huge hurdles in the path to success.
How has dFM helped you in the "real world?"
Interviewers were very impressed with the types of real world projects we worked on during the course. Specifically, my ME317 dfM team did a fantastic job on a project for St. Jude Medical. The project won us the Phil Barkan Award, an annual award given to Stanford dfM's most valuable project.
For St. Jude Medical, our team took a trip to their ICD Factory (Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator) in southern California. We then analyzed and audited their design and manufacturing process, and used dfM techniques to achieve a 62% reduction in touch-time and a 54% reduction lead-time resulting in a 63% increase in NPV (net present value).
What makes dfM unique?
We have leading field experts teaching the class as well as guest lecturers who keep the students up to date on recent developments and best known practices. Stanford's dfM program is unique in that it is one of the few programs of its kind in our region.
Much of the Silicon Valley's focus seems to be in electrical engineering and computer science, but Stanford continues to invest, develop, and excel in mechanical and manufacturing engineering, research, and innovation. Students who complete the program are very competitive in the field, and proof of this can be seen in local hiring trends.
I know several dfM alumni who got great jobs with companies who sponsored dfM projects. Also, at my current group at work, there are 2 other Stanford dfM alumni. I now have the opportunity to help recruit and interview recent graduates, and Stanford's dfM program is definitely something I look for on their resumes.