School Introduction

Dialog with an Uncertain Future / Excerp (Irregular updates)

The 16th Installment"Robust Way of Life"

by Shigeomi Koshimizu,
Associate Professor, Masters Program of Innovation for Design and Engineering

Looking at the title, maybe some of you thought I meant the “LOHAS Way of Life.” The word “robust” might not sound familiar to Japanese people. The Japanese translation of the word is “ganken.” English synonyms include “strong,” “healthy,” and other words with a similar nuance.

In fact, one of my areas of specialization is the design method known as “robust design.” It is sometimes referred to as the “Taguchi method,” because it was developed by Dr. Genichi Taguchi.

Being a design method, it is used in technical development and product design.

For example, products shipped to the market are used in diverse ways by customers, in various environmental conditions. These conditions—both the environmental conditions and the conditions in which the products are used—in the market (customers) are collectively referred to as “noise.” It should be noted here that noise is a factor that engineers cannot control. And different noises can combine and attack the product, causing unexpected quality troubles.

So the task is to design robust products that can withstand noise, to prevent problems from arising in the market. Robust design makes this possible. Let me repeat, robust products are those that can withstand noise.

Moreover, robust design is quite strategic in its approach. No attempt is made to control or eliminate noise. Instead, the design elements, which engineers can control, are integrated in the most effective possible way so that the effects of noise on product performance are minimized. The strategic element is that the effects of noise are eliminated without trying to deal with the noise itself.

It is surprising that after so many years of research, I find myself wanting to live in a robust way. Perhaps readers are puzzled as to what I mean.

First, let me give an example of a person who I believe is robust. This example involves Hideki Matsui, one of the major league baseball players of New York Yankees.

A few years ago, a rumor was broadcast on the TV news that Hideki Matsui could get traded. A nasty reporter mentioned the possibility of trade when interviewing Matsui. Matsui immediately responded, saying “It is not an issue I can control, so there is no point thinking about it.”

That’s right. For Matsui, the media and rumors are simply noise. A trade is not an issue he can decide himself. His position against this noise is robust. Watching the TV news, I took his words as a declaration that he will concentrate on what he can control (playing baseball and batting) and continue focusing on that, instead of paying attention to noise.

It is quite likely common for people to be obsessed by something they cannot control, and so to feel troubled. Such people are not robust.

Incidentally, I started taking yoga lessons about a year ago. We tend to think only about poses when we talk about yoga, but I was told that the ultimate objective of yoga is to reach a state of meditation. According to my instructor, a state of meditation is a state where one is simultaneously relaxed but focused. Also in yoga, the tranquility of the mind is referred to as “shanti.”

Being simultaneously relaxed but focused --- this is how I define a robust state. However, I have not yet reached either a state of meditation or shanti (inner peace). It seems that I must go on with my research into robust design for awhile longer.

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  • The 17th Installment

    “Partial Knowledge and Comprehensive Knowledge”

    by Yoichi Seto,
    Professor, Master Program of Information Systems Architecture
  • The 16th Installment

    "Robust Way of Life"

    by Shigeomi Koshimizu,
    Associate Professor, Masters Program of Innovation for Design and Engineering
  • The 15th Installment

    “My Research”

    by Shogo Shimizu,
    Assistant Professor, Master Program of Information Systems Architecture