Operations Article

Multiple Authors
By: Erik Fogelman, Jeff Orszak

With the increasing power of digital technology, the idea of a connected manufacturing system that can sense, analyze, and respond will soon be a reality. This idea—called “intelligent edge”—combines computing power, data analytics, and advanced connectivity to allow responses to be made much closer to where the data are captured. It takes emerging internet of things (IoT) and Industry 4.0 capabilities to the next level.

Cybersecurity plays a complex role in this vision. On one hand, technological advances can lead to improved cybersecurity capabilities. On the other hand, when built without a consideration for privacy, data integrity, or network resilience, such technological advances can instead increase cyber risks dramatically.

The capabilities that enable the intelligent edge include artificial intelligence (AI), computing hardware, networking capabilities, and standard protocols. Advances in these capabilities have converged to help tie together components that accelerate the realization of Industry 4.0. Here are the key components that enable new ways of working, new products and services, and new value creation.

John Keogh’s picture

By: John Keogh

Almost all businesses involved in the food supply chain have experienced effects ranging from a mild shock to severe disruptions during the Covid-19 pandemic, and further disruptions may be ahead this winter.

Yet not all organizations have learned critical lessons, and history shows us some companies are destined to remain unprepared for the next wave.

Many companies have taken decisive action to survive the pandemic and enhance their supply chain resilience. In doing so, they are protecting their interests and those of their business customers or consumers. We believe that successful firms are taking what’s known as a systems thinking approach to enhance food supply-chain resilience.

In the systems engineering world, systems represent the interconnected complexity of ecosystems that are connected both internally and externally.

For example, a food production business is connected to numerous ecosystems internally and to those of its suppliers, business partners, and customers.

Multiple Authors
By: Jason Davis, Thomas Mannarelli

In 2017, Indonesian state-owned giant Pertamina had two ambitious strategic objectives: Transition from oil and gas to a more diverse portfolio, including renewables; and entrench itself deeper in the global market.

But there was a problem. Thanks to a remarkably low retirement age of 56 for Indonesian state-owned enterprise (SOEs), the organization—one of the nation’s largest, with more than 31,000 employees—would be losing nearly all its top leaders within a few years. Worse still, a past hiring freeze that lasted more than a decade had left a plunging experience gap between the highest-ranking company directors and their appointed successors.

In order to meet its audacious goals for the future, Pertamina would have to prepare hundreds of second-tier leaders to assume command before the retirement window closed. That meant cramming up to 15 years of missing experience into a two- to three-year time frame. For SOEs, which are not known for their agility, this was a tall order to say the least.

Suneel Kumar’s picture

By: Suneel Kumar

Remote auditing (RA) has become a norm during the Covid-19 pandemic. Remote auditing is one of the audit methods prescribed in ISO 19011:2018—“Guidelines for Auditing Management Systems.” Although RA has surged due to pandemic constraints, this method of operation will surely gain ground as a routine audit technique.

During a remote audit, auditors engage with a company via technology to assess its QMS as per ISO 9001:2015. The audit covers the usual steps, including a documented information review, interviews, and presentation of the findings, by using various information and communications technology (ICT) platforms.

Remote audits can be divided into:
• Fully off-site remote audit
• Partial off-site remote audit
• Onsite remote audit

In the case of a fully off-site remote audit, the assessment audit is carried out completely away from the site. Partial off-site audits are conducted through a combination of remote and onsite checks to verify compliance. For onsite remote audits, the audit is carried out at the site but through synchronous ICT platforms.

Talmage Wagstaff’s picture

By: Talmage Wagstaff

Preventive maintenance, specifically in production and manufacturing industries, has been a fundamental part of product consistency for years. It is well known that without product consistency, customer complaints and rework will soon be the result. What does preventive maintenance do to directly assist in product consistency? Well, a whole lot.

Manufacturers specifications

When manufacturers of a piece of equipment used in the manufacturing process sell their equipment, they include a manual that lists the specifications at which the machine must run to produce the optimum product. As the machine operates during the normal course of production, it begins to “walk out of spec,” or develop minute changes in the products that are further and further away from optimum products. This is inevitable when manufacturing a particular product, and it is usually undetectable to the naked eye.

Rich Press’s picture

By: Rich Press

Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have produced synthetic gene fragments from SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19. This material, which is noninfectious and safe to handle, can help manufacturers produce more accurate and reliable diagnostic tests for the disease.

Tests for an active infection—as opposed to antibody tests that indicate a past infection—work by detecting the virus’s genes on a nasal swab. But a negative result does not necessarily mean that a person is disease-free. It could be that the amount of virus is too low for the test to detect, which is especially possible during the first days after catching the virus.

“Having better data on test sensitivity will help us understand how often tests for Covid-19 produce a negative result for people who are actually infected,” says NIST research scientist Megan Cleveland.

Sarah Burlingame’s picture

By: Sarah Burlingame

There is more to lean manufacturing than improving a few processes. Sustainable lean success requires a companywide culture of daily continuous improvement. Companies that develop their people to think scientifically, using facts and data to drive their decisions, are often the ones that achieve their goals most successfully. Practicing kata promotes this way of thinking, which can help companies become more nimble and competitive not only to survive, but also thrive in the current pandemic crisis.

Kata is a Japanese word that refers to a structured way of doing things or pattern of behavior. As senior project manager for TDO (Train Develop Optimize), part of the New York Manufacturing Extension Partnership Center and the MEP National Network, I work with small and medium-sized manufacturers to practice kata, or behaviors, and apply additional lean manufacturing tools and techniques to solve business challenges. This gives them a competitive advantage.

Zane Patalive’s picture

By: Zane Patalive

Meet Humphrey. Humphrey is a gray squirrel that a friend of mine rescued as an abandoned baby squirrel. For weeks, my friend and his family nursed the young creature by hand. While Humphrey was growing, he became very friendly with the family members, often perching on their shoulders and snuggling in their arms for naps.

Humphrey was permitted the run of the house and had a basket for his sleeping quarters, which he often used at night. As time passed, he grew strong enough to survive on his own, and the family released him back into the wild to enjoy the life of a healthy gray squirrel. Having grown fond of his human family, Humphrey built a nest in a tree just outside their back door and still hops on laps and shoulders while the family sits together outside.

The ‘tail’ of two cities

So how does a story of a rescued squirrel connect with the timely topic of cybersecurity? There is a rampant and significant vulnerability that exists for homeowners and enterprise businesses alike, and in many ways correlates with Humphrey’s story.

John Young’s picture

By: John Young

During the course of helping organizations and teams develop more effective ways of working, I have found that many of the obstacles to delivering value quickly to customers originate from mental models and assumptions that have been internalized. These mental models and assumptions largely exist and operate outside of our awareness. Listening and asking questions can help drive these concepts to the surface.

Listening and asking questions helps me create the partnerships needed to realize more effective ways of working and ultimately help companies serve their customers better and faster. I have found that open-ended questions, when asked with sincere curiosity, spur deeper thinking. This is true for people on both sides of the question—the questioner and the person to whom the question is posed.

Deborah Blumberg’s picture

By: Deborah Blumberg

In the summer of 2014, Aruna Ranganathan was doing postdoctoral research at a garment factory in Bangalore, India, when she noticed that some worker stations—but not all—were equipped with radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology, a tool used to quantify workers’ output.

Ranganathan, now an associate professor of organizational behavior at Stanford Graduate School of Business, wondered how the technology impacted workers’ productivity, a topic that’s received little attention.

So she spent the next several months embedded in the plant, then analyzed multiple years of the factory’s data to find out. Ultimately, she discovered that when companies quantify simple tasks, productivity goes up. Quantifying complex work, however, has the opposite effect: It drives productivity down.

What’s behind this phenomenon? When workers completing simple tasks have their work quantified, they’re more likely to turn the experience into a personal game, a concept known as “auto-gamification.” They compete against themselves to increase efficiency, even when there’s no reward for doing so and no punishment if they don’t.

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