Jason Chester’s picture

By: Jason Chester

Manufacturers routinely face uncertainty, risk, and volatility in everyday operations. It’s understood that organizations must be ready for anything, from supply chain interruptions, supplier quality issues and process variations, to volatility in market demand, competitor activities, and political influences.

But the Covid-19 pandemic presents a level of impact that even the most seasoned manufacturing leaders haven’t seen. Organizations are responding at an incredible pace to continue providing necessary and in-demand products, while adjusting to either increased or decreased volume (or in some cases, both).

Companies are deploying new protocols and procedures to keep their employees safe, including moving many roles to remote work and adapting shifts and resources to reduce the number of personnel onsite at any one time. Some are even retooling and repurposing their factories to produce the goods that are most needed. Many are even going above and beyond, donating essential safety gear or food to support our frontline workforce.

Multiple Authors
By: Donald J. Wheeler, Al Pfadt, Kathryn J. Whyte

This article is an update to “Tracking Covid-19” that Al Pfadt, Kathryn Whyte, and I wrote last week. In that article we summarized what is known about Covid-19, what has already happened, and what is to be expected based on the analysis of the data and the epidemiological models.

Over the past week the curve of Covid-19 infections in the United States has slightly flattened. Here are updated graphs of the actual data and new projections for what we can expect in the next few weeks.

Figure 1 shows the number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the United States as of 7 a.m. each day. These are the values posted by the European CDC at noon London time, and so they are slightly smaller than some other values that are reported later each day.

Figure 1: Number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in the United States

Oscar Combs’s picture

By: Oscar Combs

With the emergence of the coronavirus (Covid-19), many organizations are doing their part to prevent the spread of infection by practicing social distancing. Some organizations have implemented no-visitor policies, which helps prevent the spread of the disease, but is not so good when it comes to receiving services from their suppliers, which may require onsite interaction.

This is especially true for consulting, auditing, and training services, which are typically performed by onsite visits. Traditionally, organizations have been reluctant to have these services delivered remotely using web conferencing technology, but Covid-19 has thrust remote service delivery into the forefront. This article will explain the benefits of using technology, such as web conferencing, to have consulting, auditing, and training services delivered remotely to your organization.

What is remote service delivery?

Remote service delivery provides services through a web conference platform, typically conducted through the internet.

Jon Marcus’s picture

By: Jon Marcus

Want to find out how much it will cost to go to Arkansas Northeastern College? The federal government has a website that promises you can “Calculate your personal net price.” But clicking on that link brings you to the college’s own home page with a fun photo of its cuddly mascot and no immediate sign of anything about cost. Howard University? The link from the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard takes you to a primer about how financial aid works. For the University of St. Francis in Illinois, it lands on “page can’t be found.”

Multiple Authors
By: Paula Caligiuri, Helen De Cieri

The coronavirus pandemic has forced tens of millions of employees across the United States to work from home. While this will save lives by limiting the transmission of Covid-19, it also poses significant challenges for employees’ well-being.

How can companies support the health of their employees—many of whom have never before worked from home for a significant amount of time?

As researchers in the area of human resource management, we have studied companies’ ability to adopt and encourage practices to improve employees’ well-being.

Here are four research-backed ways we believe companies can promote employees’ health and well-being during this crisis.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s picture

By: Oak Ridge National Laboratory

‘Engineering is about building things to help others.”

Before diving into a longer explanation, that’s how Singanallur “Venkat” Venkatakrishnan, an electrical and computer engineer at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), described engineering to students at Northwest Middle School.

Venkat was among 20 ORNL engineers who visited 15 middle schools across East Tennessee for Engineers Week, an international outreach effort created to cultivate a diverse engineering workforce by “increasing understanding of and interest in engineering and technology careers.” ORNL’s inaugural Engineers Week activities introduced more than 800 students to the possibilities of engineering—and to the national lab in their backyard.

Singanallur “Venkat” Venkatakrishnan shows students at Northwest Middle School how to make a “hoop glider” as part of ORNL’s Engineers Week activities. Credit: Abby Bower/Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy.

Rebecca Spang’s picture

By: Rebecca Spang

Arnold Schwarzenegger tweeted a video of himself on March 15, 2020, saying: “No more restaurants.” Seated in his palatial kitchen with two miniature horses, Whiskey and Lulu, beside him, the former California governor pronounced: “We don’t go out; we don’t go to restaurants. We don’t do anything like that anymore.”

The immediate prompt for the video was, of course, the coronavirus pandemic, spread most easily by human-to-human contact. As a public health measure, mayors of New York, Seattle, Denver, and many other cities and states have ordered restaurants to switch to delivery and pickup service only.

NIST’s picture


Unlike diamonds, solar panels are not forever. Ultraviolet rays, gusts of wind, and heavy rain wear away at them over their lifetime. 

Manufacturers typically guarantee that panels will endure the elements for at least 25 years before experiencing significant drop-offs in power generation, but recent reports highlight a trend of panels failing decades before expected. For some models, there has been a spike in the number of cracked backsheets—layers of plastic that electrically insulate and physically shield the backsides of solar panels.

The premature cracking has largely been attributed to the widespread use of certain plastics, such as polyamide, but the reason for their rapid degradation has been unclear. By closely examining cracked polyamide-based backsheets, researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and colleagues have uncovered how interactions between these plastics, environmental factors, and solar panel architecture may be speeding up the degradation process. These findings could aid researchers in the development of improved durability tests and longer-lived solar panels. 

Multiple Authors
By: Donald J. Wheeler, Al Pfadt, Kathryn J. Whyte

Based on the professional literature available, there are some inconvenient truths about Covid-19 that are not always considered in the chorus of confusion that exists today. Here we summarize what is known, what has already happened, and what is to be expected based on the analysis of the data and the epidemiological models.


An analysis of the first 425 laboratory-identified cases of a novel coronavirus infected pneumonia (Covid-19) is presented by Qun Li, et.al.1. The first cases were identified at Wuhan hospitals as a "pneumonia of unknown etiology" when the patients met the following criteria: fever in excess of 100.4°F, radiographic evidence of pneumonia, low or normal white-cell count or low lymphocyte count, and no symptomatic improvement after antimicrobial treatment for 3 to 5 days according to standard clinical guidelines. On Jan. 7, 2020, the outbreak was confirmed as a new coronavirus infection2.

Lee Seok Hwai’s picture

By: Lee Seok Hwai

Hong Kong scientists teaching a panicked populace to make their own surgical masks with paper towels and metallic wire must surely rank as one of the most Kafkaesque moments of the new coronavirus disease outbreak. But the worst is yet to be if global medical supply chains, already stretched in parts to breaking point, are not shored up to cope with the pandemic.

A desperate shortage of surgical masks, the most visible symbol of the epidemic since China began fighting it at the start of the year, underscores the scale of the problem. The country made five billion masks last year and supplied about half of the global market. But with its people churning through tens of millions of masks every day, China is cranking up domestic production even as it imports medical gear from the West.

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