Supply Chain Article

Multiple Authors
By: Bob Holmes, Knowable Magazine

This story was originally published by Knowable Magazine.

Most of us won’t soon forget that disconcerting moment last spring when grocery store shelves were suddenly bare where the flour, pasta, and other staples should have been. The news told of farmers dumping milk—nearly four million gallons a day, by one account—smashing eggs, and euthanizing chickens that they couldn’t get to market. Crops worth billions of dollars were wasted, some rotting in the field, as restaurants and other food service businesses, shuttered by lockdowns, stopped buying.

The problem was short-lived, fortunately, as growers pivoted to new buyers, shippers and packers adapted, exports resumed, and the food system—the complex web of players that move food from farm to fork—came back to life. “Overall, the food system has been quite resilient,” says Johan Swinnen, director general of the International Food Policy Research Institute, a leading international think tank. “It’s hard to imagine a bigger shock than we’ve had now. And despite that, if you look at the rich countries, even countries like China, the food supply has not been a problem almost anywhere.”

Dirk Dusharme @ Quality Digest’s picture

By: Dirk Dusharme @ Quality Digest

Quality professionals no longer focus solely on product or service quality. Today, the quality function is involved in almost every aspect of a company, from customer interactions and compliance management to environmental health and safety, supply chain management, risk management, and more.

A key reason for this broadened scope is the skills that already exist within the quality department. If you already have experience dealing with quality compliance, you already have many of the skills for environmental health and safety (EHS) compliance. If you’re already versed at risk management from a quality perspective, supply chain risk isn’t much of a reach.

Sophia Finn, director of strategy, QualityOne at Veeva Systems, agrees. “More is expected of the quality function, from managing risk to addressing sustainability and transparency across the supply chain,” says Finn, adding that the extended scope has also changed the focus. “As quality is elevated, the duties shift from tactical—like fighting fires—to more strategic—like determining how quality can help companies meet their objectives.”

John Toon’s picture

By: John Toon

Using X-ray tomography, a research team has observed the internal evolution of the materials inside solid-state lithium batteries as they were charged and discharged. Detailed 3D information from the research could help improve the reliability and performance of the batteries, which use solid materials to replace the flammable liquid electrolytes in existing lithium-ion batteries.

The operando synchrotron X-ray computed microtomography imaging revealed how the dynamic changes of electrode materials at lithium/solid-electrolyte interfaces determine the behavior of solid-state batteries. The researchers found that battery operation caused voids to form at the interface, which created a loss of contact that was the primary cause of failure in the cells.

Scott Heide’s picture

By: Scott Heide

During the last several decades, the ability to manufacture customized products for customers has become increasingly attractive to a growing number of companies. However, customization has led to manufacturers drowning in a sea of increasingly complex bills of material (BOM).

Standard products are great when product changes are minimal, when identical products can be put into identical boxes hour after hour. The custom world, on the other hand, is always dynamic and ever-changing. Common tools that work well for standard design, engineering, and manufacturing resist adaptation into solutions for customization. An early symptom of looming problems is the need for huge repositories of parts masters or BOMs to be maintained.

Issues with the ‘150-percent BOM syndrome’

There are solutions that draw from established technologies and are designed from the ground up for dynamic, generative methodologies. Before outlining these, we must dig deeper into why standard solutions cause problems.

The drive to somehow repurpose standard practices into a custom infrastructure has led to the well-known “150-percent BOM,” also known as “master BOM,” “variant structure,” and “configurable BOM.”

Multiple Authors
By: Tinglong Dai, Christopher Tang, Ho-Yin Mak

More than 50 million Americans have received at least one dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna Covid-19 vaccine. So far, Americans have been largely brand-agnostic, but that’s about to change as the Johnson & Johnson vaccine rolls out.

The vaccine been hailed as a game changer. It requires only a single dose rather than two doses spaced weeks apart, and it does not need freezer storage, making it a natural fit for hard-to-reach rural areas and underserved communities with limited access to healthcare and storage facilities.

Mark Schmit’s picture

By: Mark Schmit

The Covid-19 pandemic has asked much of manufacturing executives. They’ve had to make decisions about staffing and operations in the face of tremendous health and economic uncertainty—and then adjust or even change decisions based on myriad shifting and evolving factors.

They’ve had to retool to produce new items for a new market to generate needed revenue while helping address an urgent demand for personal protective equipment, or PPE. They’ve had to master new skills and new tools to communicate with workers and customers, and foster community in a period of necessary isolation. Oh, and they’ve had to do all of these at the same time and very quickly.

It’s been a heavy lift, as manufacturing executives who took part part in a Sept. 30, 2020, virtual conversation on the near-term and longer-term impacts of the twin public health and economic crises made clear. The discussion was one in a series of 11 listening sessions hosted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NIST MEP) called the “National Conversation with Manufacturers.”

Silke von Gemmingen’s picture

By: Silke von Gemmingen

The global pandemic has radically impacted the supply chain and logistics industry, making the need for robotic automation more urgent than ever. With more than 70 percent of labor in warehousing now dedicated to picking and packing, numerous companies are gradually investing in logistics automation. But what happens when robots must handle an unlimited number of (unknown) stock-keeping units (SKUs)? These companies need a fast, reliable, and robust way to automate picking and placing a large variety of objects.

This challenge was taken up successfully by the Dutch company Fizyr. The computer vision company based in Delft focuses on enabling robots to pick unknown objects even in harsh logistics environments. The result is an automated vision solution that enables logistic automation in various conditions and applications, like item picking, parcel handling, depalletizing, truck unloading, or baggage handling. To complete the system with the optimal hardware, Fizyr integrates compact, robust Ensenso 3D cameras in combination with high-performance GigE uEye cameras from IDS.

Esteve Garriga’s picture

By: Esteve Garriga

There are many important issues to be considered in the food industry, such as consumer tastes, environmental impact, and economic aspects, but the most important is food safety.

Although current food safety management system (FSMS) certification schemes around the world are highly effective, I believe it’s desirable to have a single agreed-upon FSMS certification that would harmonize various scheme requirements. Such a system would help reduce the auditing burden for companies that are certified to several FSMS schemes.

The most widespread FSMS certification schemes

In 1996, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) was created by UK retailers (Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s, and others) to harmonize food safety standards across the supply chain. The first edition of the BRC Global Standard (BRCGS) for Food Safety was issued in 1998, and is now in its eighth edition. Since then, sector-focused standards have been published covering different stages in the food supply chain (e.g., storage and distribution, packaging materials). Today, more than 28,000 sites are operating under such schemes worldwide.

Multiple Authors
By: Lucca Henrion, Duo Zhang, Victor Li, Volker Sick

One of the big contributors to climate change is right beneath your feet, and transforming it could be a powerful solution for keeping greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere.

The production of cement, the binding element in concrete, accounted for 7 percent of total global carbon dioxide emissions in 2018. Concrete is one of the most-used resources on Earth, with an estimated 26 billion tons produced annually worldwide. That production isn’t expected to slow down for at least two more decades.

Given the scale of the industry and its greenhouse gas emissions, technologies that can reinvent concrete could have profound impacts on climate change.

Andrew Schutte’s picture

By: Andrew Schutte

Industrial engineers design, develop, test, and evaluate integrated systems for managing industrial production processes. Functions include quality control, human work factors, inventory control, logistics and material flow, cost analysis, and production coordination. These and other facets are usually part of the job description when being hired.

Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates a 10-percent growth rate among industrial engineers from 2019 to 2029, the attrition rate is anecdotally just as high; that equates to 100-percent attrition in a decade. Nowhere is the dissatisfaction and attrition of industrial engineers as great as in the engineer-to-order manufacturing space.

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