Jeffrey Phillips’s picture

By: Jeffrey Phillips

As Malcolm Gladwell and other business writers have found, it is entirely possible to write a compelling article around a rather obvious point, and still hold the reader’s attention. As an example I draw your attention to this article, titled “Why Corporate Innovation Is So Hard.”

The article was obviously written by a communications master because it has an attractive title that seems to address an intractable problem—and suggest an answer. It’s also based on a premise that seems inescapable: Too many companies fail to innovate because they trust their existing understanding and the existing perceptions of the way the world and the market work, while missing key signals that a disrupter finds, interprets, and implements.

The article quotes from the book, The Disruption Dilemma, by Joshua Gans (The MIT Press, 2016):

Scott A. Hindle’s picture

By: Scott A. Hindle

In everyday language, “in control” and “under control” are synonymous with “in specification.” Requirements have been met. Things are OK. No trouble.

“Out of control,” on the other hand, is synonymous with “out of specification.” Requirements have not been met. Things are not OK. Trouble.

Using this language, an obvious axiom would be: Take action when the process is out of control.

The everyday use of in and out of control is, however, unfortunate for control charts, the major tool of statistical process control (SPC). Why? Because in SPC these terms speak of processes as being stable or unstable. To characterize a process as stable or unstable, process limits, from process data, are needed. Specification limits are not needed.

Given the easy-to-understand basis for the action of meeting or not meeting requirements, coupled with the risk of confusion over the terms in control and out of control, why use control charts? If you are curious to see some of the benefits in doing so, read on. Two case studies are used.

Case one: Part thickness

During a regular review meeting in Plant 17, in- and out-of-specification data on the thickness of part 64 were reviewed.

Brian Lagas’s picture

By: Brian Lagas

‘Why are our changeovers taking so long?”

If you’ve asked this question on the shop floor, more than likely you were met with blank stares by your employees. Open-ended questions like this are overwhelming, so employees try to find quick answers that don’t really address the problem. They don’t have a starting point to form an answer.

But what if you asked a question with a specific, achievable goal, such as:

“What steps can we take to reduce changeover time by 15 minutes?”

You’ve then provided your employees with a measurable goal in the form of a question. Your workers may feel empowered to answer with some hands-on suggestions for incremental changes, such as reducing setup steps or combining workstations. This in turn could not only reduce changeover time, but also significantly eliminate wait times and inventories.

This approach is often described as kaizen, or “continuous improvement,” which serves as the backbone for lean manufacturing. Kaizen uses the plan, do, check, act (PDCA) problem-solving cycle to encourage manufacturers to use small ideas to solve big problems, such as costly, time-intensive changeovers.

Knowledge at Wharton’s picture

By: Knowledge at Wharton

CEOs are stepping forward to confront public policy issues that often extend beyond their core business, in part at the urging of their employees, write Caroline Kaeb and David Scheffer in this opinion piece. Kaeb is co-chair of the Business and Human Rights Pillar and a senior fellow of the Zicklin Center for Business Ethics Research at Wharton. David Scheffer is the Mayer Brown/Robert A. Helman professor of law at Northwestern University’s Pritzker School of Law.

It was not that long ago—less than two years—when The New York Times put a spotlight on “the moral voice of corporate America.” Little did we know how prominent the interventions of CEOs and companies would become in the public square to confront extremism, polarization, discrimination, and governance gaps. True, CEOs and corporations are still beholden to more conventional metrics of corporate success. But a growing number of corporate leaders are publicly taking a stand on policy issues that were formerly the province of politicians alone.

Jennifer Rosa’s picture

By: Jennifer Rosa

It takes more than a flashy website and clever promotional emails to compete in the manufacturing marketing arena. Chances are, your larger competitors are pitching similar products and services to the same client base. Your company’s industrial solution may be to offer state-of-the-art features at a reasonable cost, but do these benefits really outshine your larger competitors? Why should a potential customer choose you from a sea of manufacturers? To stand out in the crowd, you must first define your company’s unique value proposition.

Taking the first step: How to define your unique value

A value proposition goes beyond delivering your promised products and services. Your unique value proposition should explain how you plan to solve your customers’ problems in a way your competitors can’t.

To define your unique value, you may want to ask yourself these questions:
• What exactly are we offering in the way of products and services?
• Who are our target customers?
• What are our target customers’ needs and problems?
• How is our company uniquely qualified to solve these problems?
• What is the unique benefit we offer to solve these problems?

Multiple Authors
By: Chad Kymal, Gregory F. Gruska

During the early 1980s, GM, Ford, and Chrysler established the Automotive Industry Action Group (AIAG), a not-for-profit organization with the mission “To improve its members’ competitiveness through a cooperative effort of North American vehicle manufacturers and their suppliers.” In the late 1980s, U.S. automotive suppliers, through the auspices of the American Society for Quality (ASQ), approached the VPs of purchasing for GM, Ford, and Chrysler and explained the burden of multiple standards that were being imposed on the supply base. Not only where there multiple OEM standards, there were hundreds of tier one standards as well.

Isaac Maw’s picture

By: Isaac Maw

How often do you check your phone at work? Maybe you’re reading this article on it right now (Don’t worry; we won’t tell.). Smartphones were a revolution for workplace distractions, but they can also be tools for productivity.

I recently attended the IBM Watson IoT Exchange event in Orlando, Florida, the AI giant’s annual conference for its Watson solutions. It brings together users and developers of multiple IBM IoT products, including Maximo enterprise asset management.

As I attended the keynotes and workshops of the Maximo stream, I noticed a trend: Several of the featured monitoring, analytics, and asset management solutions required or recommended the use of a consumer electronic device, such as a smartphone, consumer tablet, or augmented reality headset.

Jyoti Madhusoodanan’s picture

By: Jyoti Madhusoodanan

A frog the size of a fingernail. A poncho-clad farmer leading his mule. A tree, some intertwining leaves, a silhouetted figure holding a pot. Such logos are stamped on labels of coffee, cocoa, mangoes, jeans, and myriad other products, certifying that the object for sale is in some way “sustainable”—made, in other words, in a way that meets humanity’s needs without jeopardizing the ability of future generations to meet their own.

Ryan E. Day’s picture

By: Ryan E. Day

Midwest Metrology Solutions (MMS) is a company in Indiana that provides onsite precision measurement services using state-of-the-art metrology equipment and software. With an extensive knowledge of geometric dimensioning and tolerancing (GD&T), a primary focus on quality, and a proven track record in manufacturing expertise, MMS strives to ensure its customers have a competitive advantage.

Midwest Metrology Solutions employs laser tracker technology for large-part inspection and alignment. The company’s main customers are those that cannot justify a full-time tracker and operator setup, but still require high precision measurement on large parts.


Although laser tracker systems are the technology of choice for large-volume measurements, they do have an inherent operational challenge: line of sight.

“The Achilles heel of the laser tracker is always line of sight,” explains Cody Thacker, owner of Midwest Metrology Solutions. “There’s always some place you just can't get a tracker into. Whether there’s a deep hole you need to reach down into, or a small surface that’s just around a corner from your tracker’s line of sight, for instance.”

Lawrence Lanahan’s picture

By: Lawrence Lanahan

Ryan Tillman-French sat at his seventh-floor desk early on a Thursday morning, the skyscrapers of downtown Boston crowding the windows behind him.

On a laptop in the nearly empty office, he worked on code for a web page he was developing for his employer, the learning materials company Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. In half an hour, he needed to join a conference call about changes to the company’s website.

He had been at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for four months. Coding he liked. Meetings, not so much.

“That’s one thing I wasn’t warned about when it comes to the corporate world,” he said. “So many meetings.”

Ryan Tillman-French, a developer for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in Boston. Chelsea Stahl / NBC News

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