Sébastien Breteau’s picture

By: Sébastien Breteau

In recent months, the widespread lockdowns of Covid-19 have exposed global supply chains to unprecedented shifts and volatility in consumer behavior, impacting innumerable organizations, industries, and consumer goods. While much of the supply-chain overhaul conversation has focused on drops in demand and disruptions in business across various consumer categories, delivering on sharply rising demands for medical equipment has been particularly challenging for companies in the healthcare manufacturing space.

Up against a supply chain landscape paralyzed by lockdowns and factory closures, personal protective equipment (PPE) necessary for combating the virus and protecting the lives and livelihoods of essential workers may be at critical risk for quality erosion as companies race to speed up production, according to inspection data from QIMA, a leading provider of supply chain compliance solutions. And with Covid-19 deepening supply-chain diversification activity—which was already happening prior to the pandemic thanks to the ongoing U.S.-China trade war—it is expected that global brands will face quality risks for some time to come across all consumer product categories.

Amitrajeet Batabyal’s picture

By: Amitrajeet Batabyal

Arguing against globalization is like arguing against the laws of gravity, said former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan. Globalization, the international trade in goods and services with minimal barriers between countries, may seem inevitable as the world’s economies become more interdependent.

Properly regulated, globalization can be a powerful force for social good. For wealthy nations, globalization can mean less expensive goods, additional spending, and a higher standard of living. For those who live and work in poorer nations, globalization can lead to greater prosperity with the power to reduce child labor, increase literacy, and enhance the economic and social standing of women.

Michael Popenas’s picture

By: Michael Popenas

Product development (PD) is the life blood of a company’s success and is the process for innovation. Today, product life cycles are shrinking due to an ever-increasing number of competitive and disruptive products coming to market quicker.

To stay in business, a company’s PD needs to become more effective, more productive, and faster. Product development systems can no longer take years or months to deliver something that the customer will hopefully still want. Planning, design and development, testing, and release can no longer rely on the currently widely practiced sequential phase-gate waterfall methods developed years ago.

Multiple Authors
By: Sridhar Kota, Glenn Daehn

The Covid-19 pandemic has revealed glaring deficiencies in the U.S. manufacturing sector’s ability to provide necessary products—especially amidst a crisis. It’s been five months since the nation declared a national emergency, yet shortages of test kit components, pharmaceuticals, personal protective equipment, and other critical medical supplies persist.

Globalization is at the heart of the problem. With heavy reliance on global supply chains and foreign producers, the pandemic has interrupted shipping of parts and materials to nearly 75 percent of U.S. companies.

LauraLee Rose’s picture

By: LauraLee Rose

The reality for small and medium-sized manufacturers (SMMs) is that they are going to have to be good at training their workforce or they won’t make as much money. That’s a blunt assessment, but the need for proficiency in training will only increase, whether it’s retraining current employees for new products, processes, and equipment or getting new employees up to speed more quickly. Effective training should be able to drive down the time for training.

Jennifer Mallow’s picture

By: Jennifer Mallow

Covid-19 has led to a boom in telehealth, with some healthcare facilities seeing an increase in its use by as much as 8,000 percent. This shift happened quickly and unexpectedly, and has left many people asking whether telehealth is really as good as in-person care.

During the last decade, I’ve studied telehealth as a Ph.D. researcher while using it as a registered nurse and advanced-practice nurse. Telehealth involves the use of phone, video, internet, and technology to perform healthcare, and when done right, it can be just as effective as in-person healthcare. But as many patients and healthcare professionals switch to telehealth for the first time, there will inevitably be a learning curve as people adapt to this new system.

Jennifer V. Miller’s picture

By: Jennifer V. Miller

There’s no shortage of important work to do—both at home and in your job. So, the last thing you want tossed your way is unnecessary work. Nobody likes needless activity, right?

But this is easier said than avoided. I’m sure you can easily recall getting pulled into something that did not add value—at least not in your opinion.

From a workplace perspective, here’s where I think part of the problem lies.

The past couple of decades have seen the rise of “The Group” e.g., self-directed work teams, participative decision-making. These work formations and processes definitely have many benefits; they also have drawbacks. In my observation, one unfortunate byproduct of group interaction is that needless activity gets added in the name of innovation and collaboration.

Add to that dynamic Americans’ love affair with taking action, and you have a recipe for nonvalue-added work.

The “people equation” looks like this:

Inclusiveness + Compulsion to act = Making things more complicated

For example, consider the story of Clarice and Sebastian, two department leaders at a large multinational corporation. Once a month, Clarice and Sebastian participate in a 15-person global conference call for their division. As Clarice gives her update, Sebastian offers a suggestion.

Shobhendu Prabhakar’s picture

By: Shobhendu Prabhakar

Although remote inspection has been a topic of discussion in the oil and gas industry in the past, it has recently been getting more attention during the Covid-19 pandemic. Many oil and gas operators, as well as engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) contractors and suppliers have come forward to discuss this topic with an open mind and explore possibilities. Remote inspection is perhaps the need of the hour, but it can also be the future of inspection.

What is remote inspection?

Remote inspection is an alternative to an onsite physical inspection in which the person performs inspection activities remotely using sophisticated technological tools. It’s many benefits include:
• Elimination of personnel risk exposure to hazardous conditions and dangerous tasks in harsh environments
• Global collaboration and optimization of workforce use
• Inspection cost reduction
• Real-time feedback
• Flexibility
• Eco-friendly by helping to reduce overall global carbon footprint

Success factors for remote inspection

Vision
“It’s not enough to be busy, so are the ants. The question is, what are we busy about?
—Henry David Thoreau

Multiple Authors
By: Tom Siegfried, Knowable Magazine

It’s Stardate 47025.4, in the 24th century. Starfleet’s star android, Lt. Commander Data, has been enlisted by his renegade android “brother” Lore to join a rebellion against humankind—much to the consternation of Jean-Luc Picard, captain of the USS Enterprise. “The reign of biological lifeforms is coming to an end,” Lore tells Picard. “You, Picard, and those like you, are obsolete.”

That’s Star Trek for you—so optimistic that machines won’t dethrone humans until at least three more centuries. But that’s fiction. In real life, the era of smart machines has already arrived. They haven’t completely taken over the world yet, but they’re off to a good start.

“Machine learning”—a sort of concrete subfield within the more nebulous quest for artificial intelligence—has invaded numerous fields of human endeavor, from medical diagnosis to searching for new subatomic particles. Thanks to its most powerful incarnation—known as deep learning—machine learning’s repertoire of skills now includes recognizing speech, translating languages, identifying images, driving cars, designing new materials, and predicting trends in the stock market, among uses in many arenas.

Dallas Crawford’s picture

By: Dallas Crawford

Manufacturers know the value of automation on the plant floor. The world is more interconnected, with more competitors, and consumers are more informed and thus more selective with purchasing decisions. With increased competition and disruption, manufacturers must leverage automation to achieve operational efficiency.

Automation of any process delivers higher productivity, lower costs, improved workplace safety, enhanced precision, and ultimately allows associates to focus on more valuable activities. Technology, and specifically machine learning, has helped expand the breadth of automation by becoming more accessible and affordable for manufacturers of every size.

Transferring plant-floor efficiency to pricing efficiency

Robotic automation on the plant floor has helped companies produce high-quality goods more quickly and efficiently. Robots perform dull, repeatable steps with reliable accuracy and do not get tired, distracted, or endure repetitive injuries.

Pricing automation is simply transferring the same plant-floor efficiencies to pricing best practices. Physical strain is unlikely from a pricing process, but mentally it can be taxing and often impossible when determining the optimal prices for unique products.

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