Operations Article

Jane Bianchi’s picture

By: Jane Bianchi

Let’s pretend, for a moment, that you’re a primary care physician and you refer one of your patients to another doctor for a colonoscopy. Will the patient follow through? If not, how will your team know to remind him or her? If the patient does receive a colonoscopy, will your team be alerted so you can evaluate and respond to the exam results?

High-performing healthcare teams that are organized and trained to do what’s best for the patient can shine in this type of scenario, while low-performing teams can inadvertently let patients fall between the cracks. How do you make sure your healthcare team is one of the effective ones?

New research co-authored by Sara Singer, professor of organizational behavior at Stanford Graduate School of Business and professor of medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine, provides answers.

Bahar Aliakbarian’s picture

By: Bahar Aliakbarian

The two major U.S. developers of the early Covid-19 vaccines are Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna. They both developed mRNA vaccines, a relatively new type of vaccine. A major supply-chain issue is the temperature requirement for these vaccines.

The Pfizer vaccine needs to be stored at between –112° F (–80° C) and –94° F (–70° C), and the Moderna vaccine needs temperatures around –4° F (–20° C), which is close to the temperature of commercial-grade freezers. A third company developing vaccines, AstraZeneca, says it needs regular refrigeration temperature of 36° F to 46° F, or 2° to 8° C.

Multiple Authors
By: Thomas Malnight, Ivy Buche

The Covid-19 pandemic has prompted different responses from company CEOs seeking to ensure their businesses survive. Keeping their employees safe has been the first priority, but beyond that, their task has involved understanding the situation, launching countermeasures, and trying to evolve ways of working to ensure their businesses can continue.

We spoke to the chief executives of three major companies in three very different industries. In their responses to the crisis, we found that Winston Churchill’s adage, “Never let a crisis go to waste,” was as relevant as ever, with businesses finding positives during the pandemic.

Accelerate strategy

Shipping giant A.P. Moller - Maersk embarked on an historic transformation in 2016 to become an integrated transport and logistics company—combining its shipping line, port operations, and freight forwarding businesses into a single entity. However, progress had been limited.

Tim Waldo’s picture

By: Tim Waldo

If you are like many small and medium-sized manufacturers, finding good help has been a pain point for many years, and it has become even more difficult during the Covid-19 pandemic. The market forces driving that dynamic are not likely to change soon.

Your shop has had to become more adaptive and responsive in operations during this uncertainty, facing many challenges but also opportunities. You can take a similar approach to hiring and developing your people. The same principles that apply to lean manufacturing and continuous improvement in production processes also apply to recruiting, management, and performance of people. If you could improve your system, you can improve your performance.

What is systems thinking?

Systems thinking is a toolkit, or a type of language that describes how systems interact through various connections and feedback. Systems thinking is a holistic way to see connections through:
• Feedback loops
• Relationships (direct and indirect)
• Interactions and influences
• Systems within systems

Barry Richmond was a leader in the fields of systems thinking and system dynamics. He emphasized that people embracing systems thinking position themselves so that they can see both the forest and the trees, with one eye on each.

Multiple Authors
By: Phanish Puranam, Julien Clément

Covid-19 has dealt most businesses a heavy blow, but the pandemic has at least one under-acknowledged upside. By moving organizations from the office into the virtual space, the pandemic has cracked open a treasure trove of data that can be used to streamline and optimize how organizations operate. We wrote a (free) ebook to help you capitalize on it.

The inner workings of organizations used to be largely invisible. Before many of us started working from home, pivotal decisions were made around a conference table, at a restaurant over lunch, or even in the lift—where interactions are hard to track. But virtual work, largely conducted via digital platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams, makes the intangible concrete. Chat logs, video recordings, and activity trails on collaborative projects form a comprehensive, real-time record of organizational activity, offering managers new levels of insight into everything from employee morale to how informal ties among employees affect the outcomes of business decisions.

Multiple Authors
By: M. Mitchell Waldrop, Knowable Magazine

If you were to contact a group of recycling professionals, as one recent survey did, and ask them to list all the ways that consumer product manufacturers drive them crazy, you’d probably hear a lot about “shrink sleeves”—those full-body, shrink-to-fit plastic labels found on beer cans, yogurt containers, and any number of other items.

Because these sleeves fool the infrared sensors that are supposed to identify plastics by polymer type in recycling facilities (see  “Recycling meets reality”), it becomes difficult to sort the items correctly. And that can lead to all kinds of downstream contamination issues for the recycling facilities that are supposed to turn bales of “sorted” plastic and cans into reasonably pure materials for new products.

Ken Voytek’s picture

By: Ken Voytek

During the past few years, I have written more than a few blogs and papers looking at manufacturing productivity across the 50 states. I wanted to update some of these analyses to reflect more recent data, see what they tell us, and examine how states were performing when looking at the change in real manufacturing GDP since the Great Recession, but before the Covid-19 pandemic. After all, how do we know where we’re going if we don’t know where we’ve been?

The impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic will be difficult to predict or parse long term due to a number of variables, including sector, changes in demand, or likelihood the manufacturer was deemed essential during the spring 2020 closures. However, despite these variables, we can safely assume that issues existing before the pandemic will still affect manufacturers during and after the pandemic.

Natalie Weber’s picture

By: Natalie Weber

Unlike Covid-19, remote audits aren’t unprecedented. Remote audits didn’t start with the pandemic, although it has forced more companies to use them than previously. At MasterControl, we’ve been doing remote audits for years for our international customers. It saves time and expense, and it’s every bit as effective as an in-person audit.

However, this is only true because we operate in a digital environment. Using a paper system would significantly hinder remote audits.

This is largely still the case. The difference between pre-pandemic remote audits and those of the “new normal” is the sheer number that are being done, in many cases by those who have never done them before. Doing a remote audit is difficult to wrap your head around if your audit usually requires scouring binders for paperwork and completing a site walk. Mastering remote audits now will be worth it even after the pandemic is over.

Multiple Authors
By: Joerg Niessing, Fred Geyer

A new digital era of business-to-business (B2B) sales and marketing is upon us. It’s driven by corporate customer demand for online access to their suppliers’ offerings and expertise. Taking advantage of this shift is challenging because it requires moving from deeply embedded B2B sales and marketing models to data-driven, digitally powered partnerships between sales, marketing, and analytics.

The rewards of digital demand generation—a pivotal piece of the B2B digital transformation puzzle—can be significant. For example, GE Healthcare Life Sciences, a biopharma business, grew by building an extensive digital demand-generation operation that engages researchers through thought-leadership content and software, allows customers to fulfill orders through an e-commerce portal, and supports online research into unique, custom biological agents. In March 2020, Danaher completed the purchase of the business, what is now called Cytiva, for 17 times the firm’s 2019 earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA).

Knowledge at Wharton’s picture

By: Knowledge at Wharton

Real-world, face-to-face communication—complete with eye contact, body language, and other important sources of information—is a rarity in business today, and the potential for failing to convey an intended message or giving the wrong impression has grown. Neuroscience research has uncovered specific ways that you can fine-tune your message—whether it’s giving performance feedback, persuading your team to embrace a change initiative, or selling a product or service.

Two of the most effective methods for connecting with your audience, whether an individual or a group, are making eye contact and mirroring (i.e., subtly mimicking the gestures of the other person). Both of these methods lead to synchronized brain waves, which are linked to engagement, learning, and good rapport. Both methods are much harder to do when you’re not meeting in person, but that doesn’t mean you can’t engage. Try one or more of the following ideas to improve your chances of being heard.

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