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Qualities – The engineering tool, not the buzz word, (Theory)


Lead Engineer, Michael Kirk-

On this website, we will use things like Calories, Vitamin A (g), Amount of 4G data/$. These qualities can be measured.

Or I can use it in my personal life. Label Maker- Hooks up to PC(True/False), inkless(True/False), doesnt use proprietary label paper(True/False), Cost($), size of label(inches).

These allow things to be compared objectively and without bias from brands and their marketing. Or if you do drink cooperate koolaid, this can help ensure you get the best product they offer.

Understanding the word Quality with an example

Suppose you need to buy a computer, consider what you want in a computer.

Do you want a fast computer, one that doesn’t slow down under movies, most video games, CAD, Photoshop, a video editor, and mobile? Do you only need something that runs Excel and a Browser? You can use qualities to find you the highest quality option at the lowest cost. There is even a situation that someone might have to give Apple money.

Qualities can be as simple as True/False or more complex/specific with numerical values. This depends on how much effort you want to put into collecting data. More time spent collecting information will give you a better end result, but this may not be necessary if you are buying something in the $0-$20 range. This may be more important when buying something in the $100-$1000 range.

When choosing a fast computer(as described above), you can choose the quality metric- Dedicated Video Card? (True/False). Or, you can use a numerical value of a standard Video Card Benchmark. Choice is yours to how you want to spend your time.

You could include RAM(GB of Memory), Storage Space(SSD or HDD). Deciding if these qualities are necessary to your decision is up to you.

Apple may meet your quality metrics, but they have the highest cost. This causes them to fall into last place quality per dollar (Not to mention their support for Chinese dictatorships), you wouldn’t buy an Apple product unless you had to. Suppose you need to compile an App for iPhone owners. In that case, there would be a quality called, Can compile for iOS (True/False). In that event, you are forced to buy an Apple product, you can still apply the previous advice. You don’t need video editing or fast speed, you need something that lets you compile.

These qualities can be compared to help you choose a $600 gaming laptop, a $200 used computer, or a $1000 barebones used Mac Mini.

Doing Math with Quality

Choosing a quality.

Start by brainstorming what qualities matter. In engineering this could be the max voltage for a transistor, at home it could be the number of inches a TV is. Don’t worry exactly how you will measure it, or the units. Focus on the problem you are looking to solve, and consider what qualities you need to achieve.

Choosing a dimension for a quality

Time to consider dimensions. It helps if there is an ‘objective measurement’, inches for a TV is generally something you are going to care about. You can extend this quality into multiple measurements. Diagonal in, width in, height in. Your decision how detailed you make your study. This can also be a simple Boolean True/False, ‘Does this allow me to connect via USB?’. (Also I have stopped making the Boolean/Bouillon joke, I get too many emails.)

You can even use subjective values, like a 0-10 ranking. Consider ‘coolness’, you could do a subjective 0/10 to 10/10. Its not perfect, but any measurement gets you closer than emotion.

Gather Data

After looking at lots of t-tables, it seems like there is a fantastic benefit in certainty to take even 2 samples. I personally recommend taking 3 samples because you get a 3x benefit in certainty by taking 3 samples over 2 samples. All that being said, if you want to actually be correct, you can take a larger sample. The most time conscious person should check 2 options, but I highly recommend 3 for lazy people. Weirdly enough confidence increases, but the diminishing returns are early. Fun fact, your airbags are officially tested 3 times.

Sometimes you need to get creative, if all you have available is the average caffeine content of coffee per liter, you might need to use it and make a note of how you came up with it. If the deciding factor comes down to this estimation, it may be worth spending more of your resources to figure out a better estimate.

Doing Math with it

Now that you have numbers, you can begin to compare. Its common to sort by max/min, but you can also do other useful things. Inches of TV divided by Cost of TV is the unit In/$, which later can be sorted for max/min. Other units I’ve used, mg Vitamin A/Calorie, mg Vitamin A/Gram of Broccoli. Protein per Second.

Making a decision

After you sort the data, you should learn a lot about the options. You can eliminate poor performers and begin focusing on the difference between the best options.

Where you can apply Quality for Correct Decisions

Ideas- Phones, Food, Contractors, Colleges, Degrees, Cars, Video Game systems, Laundry Detergents, and more. This website is full of comparisons, the best ROI I’ve seen on comparing quality per dollar was health insurance.

Next time you spend money, especially on big purchases, consider what quality metrics you care about. This will prevent corporate marketing from using psychology tricks on you. You save money, you get the best product.