A recent assignment the quality management systems class at Dalton State College tackled was to identify new poka-yokes for products and services.

Poka-yokes are mistake-proofing or fail-safing activities that prevent errors, omissions, or defects in products or services.

You may not be familiar with the term but you know examples.

The cash register tape displays a pink stripe down each side when the roll reaches the end.

You’ve also found the “reorder form” in your checkbook well before you write your last check. The beeping sound in smoke detectors reminds us to replace their batteries.

Interestingly and not surprisingly students would design systems to help them organize their life, work faster, work smarter, and not forget critical items.

They love technology, gadgets, and beeping sounds as reminders.

One student wanted his car to be equipped with a space for a Post-it note pad, a small dry erase white board and marker, or a calendar so he could jot a note about the items needed for work or school the next day including extra clothes, books, and lunch.

The calendar could remind the students where they are supposed to go on a particular day and which books they needed.

One student found a clever way to remember her lunch by putting her keys in the refrigerator next to her pre-packed lunch.

One suggested flashing lights in the car that asks “have you forgotten anything” to engage along with the seat belt light.

Adding radio controls that were voice activated could be implemented to save auto accidents caused by drivers adjusting their radio.

Students saw the voice activation as an improvement over the controls now on some steering wheels.

After finding her seat soaked after a heavy rain, another student suggested an alarm that reminded drivers when windows were open or alternatively a system to automatically close all open windows when the car was turned off.

She’d add an override feature too if she chose to sit in the car for a period of time with the windows down.

A busy Mom wanted a series of beeps added to her curling iron to signal “ready” and another to signal “turning off” when she hadn’t used the iron in several minutes.

She also would add an automatic timer to turn the curling iron at a certain time during the week because she often forgot to turn it on.

Similarly a student wanted a timer on her computer to turn it on every evening at 9 p.m. because it takes too long to boot-up.

Another student wants the computer to automatically shut down and save all documents after an hour of inactivity. She thinks many of her Internet-born viruses are due to leaving the computer on with an Internet site open.

“Sometimes when listening to a voice mail message on my phone, I will accidentally hit the delete key and when you delete the message, it is gone forever,” wrote one student.

They would like a system to retrieve such messages.

Another cell phone aggravation is not being able to locate a phone when it is silenced or on vibrate. A student suggested a PC-based tracking signal to help locate the phone.

One student’s lawn mower has the gas gauge inconveniently located under the driver seat making it difficult to check and easy to run of out gas.

He suggested a light or buzzer to indicate a low fuel level to end his aggravation.

Helms is a business professor at Dalton State College.

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