Operations Article

Multiple Authors
By: Rachel Ehrenberg, Knowable Magazine

If you’re lucky, you’ve tasted a perfectly ripe fruit—a sublime peach, perhaps, or a buttery avocado. But odds are most of the fruit you’ve eaten tastes more like wet cardboard. Although plant breeders have mastered growing large, perfect-looking fruits that resist decay, ship easily, and are available year-round, flavor has fallen by the wayside.

That’s starting to change. Amid growing consumer interest in sustainable farming and good food, researchers are delving into the complex biochemistry and genetics of fruit flavor with renewed zest. Here are some basic facts about fruit, how it ripens, why much of it tastes so bland—and how scientists are trying to reclaim lost flavors.

What is fruit and how is it made?

Botanically speaking, fruits are mature, ripened ovaries containing seeds. These seed suitcases can be dry, like a pea pod, or fleshy, like an apple or tomato. A fleshy fruit, from the plant’s point of view, is a fee-for-service: a nutritious meal offered to an animal in exchange for dispersing the seeds inside.

Sébastien Breteau’s picture

By: Sébastien Breteau

Whether it be a move forced by the U.S.-China tariff turmoil, or a sourcing strategy long in the works, the exodus from China is a reality for a host of businesses, from small to medium-sized enterprises to multinationals.

While the departure is widespread, it isn’t universal—some major players, Nike and Intel among them, openly announce they have no intention to pull out of China, in a large part due to its importance as a consumer market. However, for businesses in pursuit of low-cost outsourcing, China is becoming an increasingly less feasible choice. With Vietnam—arguably the biggest beneficiary from the trade war fallout—almost at capacity, global supply chains in price-sensitive consumer goods segments are exploring new sourcing horizons.

That said, shifting one’s supply chain into a new country is never a trouble-free process. In the classic project management triangle of quality vs. speed vs. cost, only two facets out of three are available at any given time. The latest data collected by quality and compliance solution provider QIMA indicate that as buyers move into new sourcing regions, the quality dimension is the most likely to suffer.

Krystle Morrison’s picture

By: Krystle Morrison

From carrying food in from the field, to shipping processed products, to assembling a supermarket display, packaging matters. As a follow-up to our exploration of emerging trends in food packaging, we’re taking a look at several innovative technologies that could change the future of packaging.

The search for sustainability

More than half of consumers say that environmental sustainability is at least somewhat important to their purchasing decisions, and 41 percent of those shoppers look for recyclable packaging. To benefit the environment and ultimately please consumers with sustainability practices, food brands, startups, and researchers are discovering new ways to package products with recyclable, reusable, or biodegradable materials. 

Jon Speer’s picture

By: Jon Speer

Medical device manufacturers must implement and maintain a quality management system to ensure they are producing safe and effective medical devices. Created and maintained by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), standard 13485 outlines the guidelines for medical device quality management systems. ISO 13485:2016 has been adopted by regulatory agencies around the world as a universally harmonized standard.

However, the International Organization for Standardization itself is not a governing regulatory agency; unlike government agencies, ISO does not publish reports to the public of violations during audit findings. This fact makes it nearly impossible for device makers in this market to research and learn from others’ mistakes.

With more than 20 years of experience working in the medical device industry, I’ve seen my fair share of mistakes made during ISO 13485 implementation, with six mistakes in particular that commonly trip up device makers. You can learn from these missteps of others and avoid making them yourself:

Multiple Authors
By: Jill Barshay, Sasha Aslanian

When Keenan Robinson started college in 2017, he knew the career he wanted. He’d gone to high school in a small town outside Atlanta. His parents had never finished college, and they always encouraged Robinson and his two older siblings to earn degrees. Robinson’s older brother was the first in the family to graduate. “My parents always stressed how powerful an education is and how it is the key to success,” Robinson says.

When Robinson arrived at Georgia State University in Atlanta, he wanted to major in nursing. “I always knew I had a passion for helping people,” he says. Biology had been his best subject in high school. “My dad, my mom would always kind of call me like the king of trivia because I’d always have just like random science facts.”

During his freshman year, Robinson earned a B average. But the university was closely tracking his academic performance and knew from 10 years of student records that Robinson wasn’t likely to make the cut for the nursing program.

Georgia State is one of a growing number of schools that have turned to big data to help them identify students who might be struggling—or soon be struggling—academically so the school can provide support before students drop out.

Ekim Saribardak’s picture

By: Ekim Saribardak

Transporting cargo over long distances has always been a logistical nightmare, but when the goods are of a delicate nature, the whole operation becomes significantly more challenging. Perishable foods, chemicals, pharmaceutical products, and other delicate goods all need special treatment during transportation to keep them in optimal condition; in many cases, constant monitoring of the cargo’s temperature is necessary to ensure its integrity until delivery.

Luckily, thanks to the technological advances of the last two decades, logistics companies no longer have to rely on rudimentary methods such as manually inspecting the cargo hold, which used to be a cause of excess downtime and loss of productivity, and wasn’t particularly reliable.

Paul Foster’s picture

By: Paul Foster

When Deloitte wanted to get people excited about employee training, the company decided to adopt a gamification strategy for its online training portal. Using elements like achievement badges, missions, and leaderboards, they achieved a 37-percent increase in participation.

And when Ford Canada gamified its sales and service training, platform usage jumped a massive 417 percent, with big gains in engagement among younger employees.

Saying gamification makes work a game is an oversimplification. In reality, it’s all about leveraging proven psychological principles around our motivation to compete, encouraging habits and behavior that improve business performance.

These principles can also be used in manufacturing to increase engagement in audits, which are critical to quality but often suffer from low participation. Key gamification tools and techniques to consider include mobile apps, competitions, and recognition programs.

Simon Côté’s picture

By: Simon Côté

The aerospace industry is known for manufacturing parts with critical dimensions and tight tolerances, all of which must undergo demanding inspections. Given the scale of the controls to be carried out on these parts, it is hardly surprising that quality people in the industry prefer to turn to coordinate measuring machines (CMMs). However, directing all inspections to the CMM may cause other problems: CMMs are hyper-loaded and can generate bottlenecks during inspections, slow down manufacturing processes, and cause production and delivery delays.

Is it possible to unload CMMs so that they are fully available for the final quality controls? How can we improve manufacturing processes to produce more parts faster, and above all, of better quality? In the event of a quality issue occurring during production, is it possible to identify the root cause more quickly to minimize the delays that could impact schedules and production deliveries?

Zach Winn’s picture

By: Zach Winn

Manufacturers are constantly tweaking their processes to get rid of waste and improve productivity. As such, the software they use should be as nimble and responsive as the operations on their factory floors.

Instead, much of the software in today’s factories is static. In many cases, it’s developed by an outside company to work in a broad range of factories, and implemented from the top down by executives who know software can help but don’t know how best to adopt it.

That’s where MIT spinout Tulip comes in. The company has developed a customizable manufacturing app platform that connects people, machines, and sensors to help optimize processes on a shop floor. Tulip’s apps provide workers with interactive instructions, quality checks, and a way to easily communicate with managers if something is wrong.

Managers, in turn, can make changes or additions to the apps in real-time and use Tulip’s analytics dashboard to pinpoint problems with machines and assembly processes.

Multiple Authors
By: Natasha Gilbert, Knowable Magazine

Alfalfa, oats, and red clover are soaking up the sunlight in long narrow plots, breaking up the sea of maize and soybeans that dominates this landscape in the heart of the U.S. farm belt. The 18 by 85 meter sections are part of an experimental farm in Boone County, Iowa, where agronomists are testing an alternative approach to agriculture that just may be part of a greener, more bountiful farming revolution.

Organic agriculture is often thought of as green and good for nature. Conventional agriculture, in contrast, is cast as big and bad. And, yes, conventional agriculture may appear more environmentally harmful at first glance, with its appetite for synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, its systems devoted to one or two massive crops and not a tree or hedge in sight to nurture wildlife.

As typically defined, organic agriculture is free of synthetic inputs, using only organic material such as manure to feed the soil. The organic creed calls for caring for that soil and protecting the organisms within it through methods like planting cover crops such as red clover that add nitrogen and fight erosion.

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