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By: National Standards Authority of Ireland NSAI

(NSAI: Nashua, New Hampshire) — Even though no firm action was taken during the 2009 Climate Conference in Copenhagen, the U.S. administration has still pledged that the country will tighten carbon emission regulations. The most plausible possibility is what is referred to as a “cap and trade” system where the government sets a cap on how much pollution a company can produce and companies that need to exceed the cap can buy credits from those who pollute less.

While the concept of regulating carbon emissions may be new for U.S. businesses, many foreign governments and companies—as well as U.S. businesses that have a global presence—have been struggling with how to identify and regulate their greenhouse gases since the Kyoto Protocol was passed in 2005. If there is a silver lining in all of the discussion, it’s that it is much easier to implement a proven system to monitor your carbon emissions that it was just four years ago—and often reducing carbon output results in a company saving money on utilities and other products.

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By: Knowledge at Wharton

In 2008, the University of North Carolina (UNC) Health Care System faced a challenge: Length of stay per patient at this major nonprofit health system and academic medical center was longer than it needed to be. If administrators could figure out how to cut the length of stay by an average of just 10 percent—without compromising patient health—the system could add tens of millions of dollars to its operating budget and most important, provide care to more patients.

Reducing the length of stay for patients of UNC Health Care System without affecting quality required analyzing every aspect of patient care, identifying inconsistencies and redundancies, and finding ways to improve the service, according to Jon Scholl, a partner and managing director at The Boston Consulting Group (BCG). One step involved setting goals for shorter stays and putting a whiteboard in every room. “The nurse writes daily goals on the board,” says Scholl, who helped guide the health system through its successful initiative. “This involves patients in their own care. Now they have a sense of what needs to happen before they’ll be discharged, and what progress they’ve made.” It gives them goals to shoot for—and most times they achieve them.

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By: Patrick Beauchemin

Optical comparators, also referred to as profile projectors and contour projectors, were first introduced in the 1940s and they are still widely used today in a broad range of industries to verify that manufactured parts are within tolerance. These versatile instruments are easy to use and the fact that they are very robust makes them well suited for use on the shop floor as well as in the metrology and quality control labs. They are well suited to complex geometries (i.e., shapes not easily described by simple elements like lines and circles) and, up until now, they have been the easiest way to quickly compare a part to its drawing to allow the operator to make an overall pass/fail determination.

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By: William J. McEwen

A new book from the Advertising Research Foundation (ARF) bemoans, at least in part, marketers’ continued reliance on traditional consumer surveys (termed “asking”) in spite of the ready abundance of relatively inexpensive consumer buzz tracking (called “listening”). Written by Steve Rappaport, The ARF Listening Playbook (ARF Press, January 2010) is an outgrowth of an ARF workshop that focused on various methods of monitoring customer comments, chats, and tweets.

Consumers aren’t answering the phones, or at least some of them aren’t. They’re tweeting, blogging, and buzzing. But why?

The author points out that the explosive growth of online product and service reviews, Twitter, Facebook, and other forms of consumer-produced media has been taking place at the very same time that obstacles to conventional survey research have been increasing. As consumers rely more and more on cell phones and screening devices such as answering machines and voice mail, they become more difficult to reach by phone. It’s getting harder and harder to “ask.” In stark contrast, consumers willingly extend themselves, going out of their way to seek online vehicles that will let them give voice to their experiences and feelings.

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By: Knowledge at Wharton

Is the manufacturing sector getting more respect?

Although it represents a declining share of the U.S. economy, signs of a manufacturing rebound in the nation and around the world seem to be another indication that the global recession is coming to an end. At the same time, the near-collapse of the U.S. auto industry and last year’s arrival of a Democratic president and legislature in Washington have prompted new thinking about the importance of manufacturing in the current recovery.

According to Wharton management professor, John Paul MacDuffie, while some staunch free-market advocates were willing to let the U.S. auto industry die, the prevailing sentiment in the country favored salvaging this sector and others—in part because manufacturing companies have traditionally provided well-paying jobs directly and indirectly through their many suppliers. Manufacturing is also viewed as an important sponsor of research and development, leading to innovative technologies that can give birth to whole new industries. Some experts believe “that if there were no U.S. car company, we, as an economy and a country, would not be as strong as we need to be,” especially in the wake of the latest crisis, says MacDuffie.

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The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has set a goal of obtaining at least 5 percent of U.S. electricity needs from wind power by the year 2020. This means that the demand for “green energy,” such as wind power, is growing. One company that has taken full advantage of wind power’s exploding growth is ATI Casting Service in Alpena, Michigan. As a member of the American Wind Energy Association, ATI Casting Service has been involved in the wind industry for more than 15 years.

“Wind energy is environmentally friendly and the price of wind is not going to change, it’s always free—unlike coal, natural gas, or nuclear fuels,” says ATI Casting Service president, David Neil. “This fact, along with the DOE’s 2020 goal, has caused a rush to produce wind turbines and to get them onto towers to start producing energy. Our customer base has grown as well as the demand of our existing customers.”

ATI Casting Service is an iron casting foundry and full service machine shop that specializes in making large castings utilized in wind energy and other markets. They produce turbine hubs, gear-box castings, and other components for wind turbines. Their high quality ferrous castings are manufactured with the latest in scientific technology and modern manufacturing methods.

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By: Michelle LaBrosse

We live in a world where we are often pressured to take shortcuts to save time and cut costs as much as possible. However, the wrong shortcut could end up costing a lot more. Here’s an anecdote to think about:

Let’s say you are running a project and the goal is to upgrade a road to a remote property. You solicit bids from several contractors and ask them to do it for the least cost possible. You also stipulate you don't want to get any permits.

None of the contractors are willing to work under those conditions, so you get your own earth-moving equipment and a friend with some experience to help you upgrade your road.

In the process, you fill in a spillway to a dam for a reservoir. You think this is no big deal, because the fine you pay for that is far less than what it would've cost to hire a contractor to do the job properly.

Three years later, in a heavy rainstorm, the dam breaks because the spillway has been compromised. Seven homes are washed away in the ensuing flood and 10 people die. What was intended to be a shortcut to save money ends up taking lives.

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By: Jennifer Simcox

One of the key additions to the R5 version of the telecommunications quality management system standard, TL 9000, is the addition of a risk management requirement. While the requirement is only a single sentence, it is followed by a bulleted note that adds guidance as to the intent. Managing risks that may affect your ability to provide a product or service requested by a customer should be a common business activity; however, recent experiences in our global economic environment have demonstrated that this effort is not as well managed as it should be. To enhance the standard, TL 9000 has taken what has long been a part of the automotive standard—ISO/TS 16949—to manage their supply chain, and also borrowed from Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI), to best manage projects.

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By: Denis Leonard

So much is written in the field of business and management about leadership, strategy, dynamic change, Six Sigma, and improving our skills and abilities. But let’s face facts—in the majority of cases we by no means measure up to these levels of achievement. Do you ever read these books and journal articles and then think, "This is great, I’m trying to do this." Do you wonder whether the managers and leaders you encounter ever read this stuff? If they do, do you wonder if they learn from it, or do they see themselves as the ideal manager about whom such books written?

We can learn from books and articles, however, we often too easily and incorrectly recognize ourselves as having already accomplished all of that self-improvement already. Too often, we look in the mirror and see what we want to see. But how do we really act, are we being honest with ourselves?

We can also learn from negative examples... what not to do. Take the test below. Be open, honest, reflect on the questions, and begin to focus on how you can ensure that you learn the lessons needed to improve your organization, leadership, and the lives of your employees and colleagues.

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By: GKS Global Services

Litigating in the aftermath of accidents is big business in the United States today. The costs of the lawsuit system are estimated to be several billion dollars a year. With such large sums of money riding on the outcomes of lawsuits every year, tools are needed to ensure that the cases are decided correctly and fairly and that frivolous suits do not waste the resources of the judicial system.

To accurately record and investigate every detail of an accident scene, laser scanning may be the biggest breakthrough since digital photography. Unlike two-dimensional photographs, however, noncontact laser scanning records the scene in three dimensions, capturing every detail, measurement, and placement without disturbing any evidence. Happily, it is gaining popularity with investigators and was even used to recreate a crime scene on a popular television drama recently.

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