Michael Weinold’s picture

By: Michael Weinold

After nearly 130 years in business and a series of breakthrough innovations that shaped the way we light up our homes, General Electric has sold its lighting division to the U.S.-based market leader in smart homes, Savant, for a reported $250 million (£198 million). Although a licensing agreement means that consumers will continue to see GE-branded light bulbs in stores, the sale marks the end of an era for this quintessential giant of the illumination industry.

GE traces its roots to Thomas Edison’s invention of the electric light bulb in 1879. Since then, GE Lighting and its direct legal predecessors have shaped illumination technology like no other company: building on Edison’s legacy, the company went on to patent the tungsten filament in 1912 and the first practical fluorescent tubes in 1927.

Ken Voytek’s picture

By: Ken Voytek

I’ve made it my personal crusade to keep a focus on the fundamental importance of productivity to manufacturers, to the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) program at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and to the MEP centers that do the daily work of helping small manufacturers boost their performance. It may seem strange to consider productivity right now, given the current environment, but it remains important to both national economic and business success. Indeed, productivity will be even more critical as we recover from the current health and economic crisis.

Currently, there is significant excess capacity of both capital and labor that we can reengage to help the economy grow faster and return to full employment and capacity utilization of plants. In his 2004 book, The Power of Productivity (University of Chicago Press, 2005), William Lewis argues that the real solution is not necessarily more capital or working smarter (although these things certainly help), but rather how a company organizes and deploys its capital and labor.

Jeffrey Phillips’s picture

By: Jeffrey Phillips

Throughout human history we’ve constantly sought out tools and capital to make us more productive. From the formation of basic tools to assist in farming to real cultivation and shaping of the land for greater yields, humankind learned to grow food. Further research into genetics, fertilizers, and pesticides enabled us to rapidly scale food production. From early sweatshops to almost fully automated factories, we’ve learned how to scale manufacturing and get far more productivity from fewer workers and more machinery and automation.

In this manner, we’ve learned to improve the deployment of human labor, land, tools, machinery, and other capital to improve our quality of life. Now, we must fully engage the asset that we have the most of that is producing the least for us: data. It’s time to put our data to work.

Kayla Wiles’s picture

By: Kayla Wiles

A new laser treatment method could potentially turn any metal surface into a rapid bacteria killer just by giving it a different texture, researchers say. In a new study, they demonstrated that this technique allows the surface of copper to immediately kill off superbugs such as MRSA.

“Copper has been used as an antimicrobial material for centuries,” says Rahim Rahimi, an assistant professor of materials engineering at Purdue University. “But it typically takes hours for native copper surfaces to kill off bacteria. We developed a one-step laser-texturing technique that effectively enhances the bacteria-killing properties of copper’s surface.”

A laser prepares to texture the surface of copper, enhancing its antimicrobial properties. (Credit: Kayla Wiles/Purdue)

The technique is not yet tailored to killing viruses such as the one responsible for the Covid-19 pandemic, which is much smaller than bacteria.

Adam Bahret’s picture

By: Adam Bahret

‘What’s the MTBF of a human?” A bit of a strange question I ask in my Reliability 101 course. Why ask such a weird question? I’ll tell you why. Because MTBF is the worst, most confusing, crappy metric used in the reliability discipline.

OK, maybe that statement is a smidge harsh, but it does have good intentions because the amount of damage done by misunderstanding MTBF is horrendous.

MTBF stands for “mean time between failure.” It is the inverse of failure rate. An MTBF of 100,000 hours/failure is a failure rate of 1/100,000 fails/hour = .00001 fails/hour. Those are numbers; what does that look like in operation?

Does it mean:
The product lasts 100,000 hours before failing?
Half the population fails by 100,000 hours?

Wait a minute! Our product is only supposed to last three years with a 50-percent duty cycle. That’s 13,140 hours of use. Why would we have an MTBF goal of 100,000 hours? It can’t even run that long if everything goes perfectly.

Martin J. Smith’s picture

By: Martin J. Smith

Robert Siegel has peered into the post-Covid-19 future and concluded that anyone hoping for a quick recovery is likely to be disappointed. Which means a great many businesses will fail.

“We can say that with 1,000-percent certainty, and there are many reasons why,” says Siegel, a lecturer in management at Stanford Graduate School of Business.
First, he says, a vaccine almost certainly won’t be widely available for at least a year. In the interim, restaurants, airlines, and hotels are going to be running well below capacity.

“There’ll be fewer jobs, and fewer jobs means less money flowing into the economy,” he says. “It’s impossible for things to bounce right back.”

As a general partner at XSeed Capital and a venture partner at Piva, Siegel researches strategy and innovation in companies of all sizes, with an emphasis on technology. Stanford Business asked a few questions about what good leaders should do if the current pandemic proves to be an extinction event for their firms.

Wendy Stanley’s picture

By: Wendy Stanley

Today’s manufacturers have plenty of software solution options that are meant to enhance their productivity. You may be familiar with each of these software packages. However, if you are not, it is important to understand what each of these software packages are designed to deliver.

Enterprise resource planning (ERP): ERP systems help you to focus on the business aspects of your manufacturing processes. This includes things like supply and demand, scheduling, actual costs, accounting, and more. In essence, ERP tracks the execution of the business aspects of manufacturing. But while an ERP system offers high-level tracking of many business operations, it may have gaps in specific functionality. These gaps are often filled by additional software like PLM, MES, or QMS.

Production life-cycle management (PLM): The PLM system was developed to help track processes and product innovation. As such, it focuses on design, development, and production planning. In other words, PLM focuses on the innovation of your product line.

Multiple Authors
By: Katherine Harmon Courage, Knowable Magazine

This story was originally published by Knowable Magazine.

From mask wearing to physical distancing, individuals wield a lot of power in how the coronavirus outbreak plays out. Behavioral experts reveal what might be prompting people to act—or not.

With many states and towns lifting strict stay-at-home orders, people are faced with a growing number of new decisions. Mundane logistical questions—Should I go get my hair cut? When can I picnic with friends? What should I wear to the hardware store?—during the Covid-19 pandemic carry implications for personal and public health, in some cases life-or-death ones.

Matthew Staymates’s picture

By: Matthew Staymates

As a fluid dynamicist and mechanical engineer at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), I’ve devoted much of my career to helping others see things that are often difficult to detect. I’ve shown the complex flow of air that occurs when a dog sniffs. I’ve helped develop ways to detect drugs and explosives by heating them into a vapor. I’ve explored how drug residue can contaminate crime labs. I’ve even shown how to screen shoes for explosives.

Most of these examples fit into a common theme: detecting drugs and explosives through the flow of fluids that are usually invisible. When I’m in the laboratory, I use a number of advanced fluid flow-visualization tools to help better understand and improve our ability to detect illicit drugs and explosives on surfaces, on people, and in the environment.

Donald J. Wheeler’s picture

By: Donald J. Wheeler

The daily Covid-19 pandemic values tell us how things have changed from yesterday, and give us the current totals, but they are difficult to understand simply because they are only a small piece of the puzzle. This article will present a global perspective on the pandemic and show where the United States stands in relation to the rest of the world at the end of the third week in June.

Here we will consider 27 countries that are home to 5 billion people (67% of the world's population). According to the European CDC database, which is the source for all of the data reported here, these 27 countries had more than 75 percent of the world’s confirmed Covid-19 cases and 86 percent of the Covid deaths as of June 20, 2020. So they should provide a reasonable perspective on the worldwide pandemic. Figure 1 lists these countries by region and gives the relevant Covid-19 counts and rates as of June 20, 2020.


Figure 1: Countries used for global summary

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