John Keogh’s picture

By: John Keogh

Almost all businesses involved in the food supply chain have experienced effects ranging from a mild shock to severe disruptions during the Covid-19 pandemic, and further disruptions may be ahead this winter.

Yet not all organizations have learned critical lessons, and history shows us some companies are destined to remain unprepared for the next wave.

Many companies have taken decisive action to survive the pandemic and enhance their supply chain resilience. In doing so, they are protecting their interests and those of their business customers or consumers. We believe that successful firms are taking what’s known as a systems thinking approach to enhance food supply-chain resilience.

In the systems engineering world, systems represent the interconnected complexity of ecosystems that are connected both internally and externally.

For example, a food production business is connected to numerous ecosystems internally and to those of its suppliers, business partners, and customers.

Del Williams’s picture

By: Del Williams

For companies that process high-value products such as nuts, cereal, coffee, snacks, and dry pet food, material breakage and loss is a costly problem that can harm the bottom line. Even the variation between 1-percent waste and 5 percent can mean the difference between profit or loss.

To convey such delicate food products, processors should avoid conveyors that force fragile material through stressful phases during transport that could affect its integrity. This can be problematic when food processors also must maintain high-throughput requirements. To address the transport issue, some fragile-food processors are reconsidering using conveyors that send products through tubes, bends, or sweeps via high-velocity air power before before dumping them into bins or containers.

In the coffee industry, for example, processors go to great expense to roast whole beans. However, the beans can be damaged by high-velocity air conveyance, compromising flavor and aroma, according to Gary Schliebs, a process engineer and director of Plus One Percent… Engineered Solutions, an Australian consulting firm that works in the food industry and markets conveyor equipment globally.

Nancy Westcott’s picture

By: Nancy Westcott

October 2020 was manufacturing month in the United States, an event that is normally a cause for celebration. Even more so, with the news that U.S. manufacturing accelerated to a near two-year high in August. At a time when good news is in short supply, it’s been four consecutive months of growth for the sector.

With the coronavirus pandemic raging on, however, that enthusiasm is being tempered. Nonfarm payrolls are about 10.7 million below their pre-pandemic level, while the unemployment rate has more than doubled from September last year. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a year ago, 3.1 percent of women were unemployed, compared with 3.2 percent of men. It’s now 7.7 percent of women and 7.4 percent of men.

Women make up almost half of the overall workforce in the United States, but in manufacturing, that drops to less than one in three. In my role as company president of GoatThroat Pumps, I'm trying to buck this trend and set an example for would-be female entrepreneurs.

My father started training me with tools in his shop when I was six years old, so it never occurred to me that I couldn’t do anything I wanted. I think building things is in my blood.

Multiple Authors
By: Jason Davis, Thomas Mannarelli

In 2017, Indonesian state-owned giant Pertamina had two ambitious strategic objectives: Transition from oil and gas to a more diverse portfolio, including renewables; and entrench itself deeper in the global market.

But there was a problem. Thanks to a remarkably low retirement age of 56 for Indonesian state-owned enterprise (SOEs), the organization—one of the nation’s largest, with more than 31,000 employees—would be losing nearly all its top leaders within a few years. Worse still, a past hiring freeze that lasted more than a decade had left a plunging experience gap between the highest-ranking company directors and their appointed successors.

In order to meet its audacious goals for the future, Pertamina would have to prepare hundreds of second-tier leaders to assume command before the retirement window closed. That meant cramming up to 15 years of missing experience into a two- to three-year time frame. For SOEs, which are not known for their agility, this was a tall order to say the least.

Suneel Kumar’s picture

By: Suneel Kumar

Remote auditing (RA) has become a norm during the Covid-19 pandemic. Remote auditing is one of the audit methods prescribed in ISO 19011:2018—“Guidelines for Auditing Management Systems.” Although RA has surged due to pandemic constraints, this method of operation will surely gain ground as a routine audit technique.

During a remote audit, auditors engage with a company via technology to assess its QMS as per ISO 9001:2015. The audit covers the usual steps, including a documented information review, interviews, and presentation of the findings, by using various information and communications technology (ICT) platforms.

Remote audits can be divided into:
• Fully off-site remote audit
• Partial off-site remote audit
• Onsite remote audit

In the case of a fully off-site remote audit, the assessment audit is carried out completely away from the site. Partial off-site audits are conducted through a combination of remote and onsite checks to verify compliance. For onsite remote audits, the audit is carried out at the site but through synchronous ICT platforms.

K. C. Morris’s picture

By: K. C. Morris

The Covid pandemic has highlighted the role that manufacturing plays in our society. Manufacturing is important not only for improving our quality of life but also for the necessities of life, from food to toilet paper to transportation and safe and secure housing.  As our society has evolved, we have learned better ways to manufacture and are able to create an amazing variety of products. But providing these goods is not without side effects to the environment, and care is needed to manage the impacts of our production systems.

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), sustainable manufacturing refers to the ability to manage manufacturing operations “in an environmentally and socially responsible manner.” Standards and programs of various kinds have formed around this idea, but many only scratch the surface of what could be accomplished if we had better measurement science to really evaluate the trade offs that manufacturers must make every day to be sustainable.

NVision Inc.’s picture

By: NVision Inc.

A popular high-tech retailer recently used NVision Inc.'s long-range scanning and measurement services to reduce by one full month the time and cost of expanding its business into a newly vacated space. The system is designed to scan large structures where precise manual measurements are difficult or even impossible.

The scans were used to create a computer-aided design (CAD) file that revealed numerous interferences contained within the proposed design for the vacant space. The retailer used the CAD file to revise its designs before construction began, thus avoiding costly and time-consuming midconstruction corrections.

When a retailer closes its brick-and-mortar store, it can provide a neighboring retailer with the opportunity to expand its own space, increasing its displays, inventory, customer services, and ultimately, sales. However, this opportunity invariably requires some redesign work and new construction on the part of the expanding retailer.

Talmage Wagstaff’s picture

By: Talmage Wagstaff

Preventive maintenance, specifically in production and manufacturing industries, has been a fundamental part of product consistency for years. It is well known that without product consistency, customer complaints and rework will soon be the result. What does preventive maintenance do to directly assist in product consistency? Well, a whole lot.

Manufacturers specifications

When manufacturers of a piece of equipment used in the manufacturing process sell their equipment, they include a manual that lists the specifications at which the machine must run to produce the optimum product. As the machine operates during the normal course of production, it begins to “walk out of spec,” or develop minute changes in the products that are further and further away from optimum products. This is inevitable when manufacturing a particular product, and it is usually undetectable to the naked eye.

Rich Press’s picture

By: Rich Press

Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have produced synthetic gene fragments from SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19. This material, which is noninfectious and safe to handle, can help manufacturers produce more accurate and reliable diagnostic tests for the disease.

Tests for an active infection—as opposed to antibody tests that indicate a past infection—work by detecting the virus’s genes on a nasal swab. But a negative result does not necessarily mean that a person is disease-free. It could be that the amount of virus is too low for the test to detect, which is especially possible during the first days after catching the virus.

“Having better data on test sensitivity will help us understand how often tests for Covid-19 produce a negative result for people who are actually infected,” says NIST research scientist Megan Cleveland.

Sarah Burlingame’s picture

By: Sarah Burlingame

There is more to lean manufacturing than improving a few processes. Sustainable lean success requires a companywide culture of daily continuous improvement. Companies that develop their people to think scientifically, using facts and data to drive their decisions, are often the ones that achieve their goals most successfully. Practicing kata promotes this way of thinking, which can help companies become more nimble and competitive not only to survive, but also thrive in the current pandemic crisis.

Kata is a Japanese word that refers to a structured way of doing things or pattern of behavior. As senior project manager for TDO (Train Develop Optimize), part of the New York Manufacturing Extension Partnership Center and the MEP National Network, I work with small and medium-sized manufacturers to practice kata, or behaviors, and apply additional lean manufacturing tools and techniques to solve business challenges. This gives them a competitive advantage.

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