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The device doesn’t look like much: a caterpillar-sized assembly of metal rings and strips resembling something you might find buried in a home-workshop drawer. But the technology behind it, and the long-range possibilities it represents, are quite remarkable.

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By: MIT News

A couple of decades ago, visitors to the quiet city of Zaragoza, Spain, had no reason to think it would become a capital of world trade. But in 2000, the city opened Europe’s largest logistics hub, called PLAZA, and now Zaragoza is a global shipping link, connecting manufacturers, suppliers, and distributors, among others involved in international commerce.

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MIT researchers have developed a new technique for magnetically separating oil and water that could be used to clean up oil spills. They believe that, with their technique, the oil could be recovered for use, offsetting much of the cost of cleanup.

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Anyone who has tried to build a piece of furniture from scratch knows the frustration of painstakingly cutting pieces of wood, only to discover that they won't fit together because the cutting was not quite accurate enough.

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By: MIT News

Suppose you were asked to streamline the process of real estate development. Or to better organize the offices of an international manufacturer. Or to explain how the parts of a digital printer interact. The complexities of all these tasks would likely seem daunting.

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Complex systems inhabit a “gray world” of partial failures: While a system may continue to operate as a whole, bits and pieces inevitably degrade. Over time, these small failures can add up to a single catastrophic failure, incapacitating the system.

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In today’s manufacturing plants, the division of labor between humans and robots is quite clear: Large, automated robots are typically cordoned off in metal cages, manipulating heavy machinery and performing repetitive tasks, while humans work in less hazardous areas on jobs requiring finer detail.

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The manufacturing sector, its advocates note, is burdened by negative stereotypes. Outsiders often mistakenly think that manufacturing consists of jobs that are “dumb, dirty, and dull,” as MIT President Susan Hockfield said during a recent conference on the subject.

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By: MIT News

“E
veryone, take your order slips and move the shipment to the left,” says Nelson Repenning, a professor of systems dynamics at the MIT Sloan School of Management. “Factories, brew beer.”


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By: MIT News

Innovations in software and technology are creating increasingly complex systems: cars that park themselves; medical devices that automatically deliver drugs; and smartphones with the computing power of desktop computers, to name a few. Such complex systems allow us to do things that seemed difficult or impossible just a few years ago.