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.

Mark Schmit’s picture

By: Mark Schmit

As a kid I used to be confused by the so-called curse, “May you live in interesting times.” Wouldn’t interesting times be... good? Why would I not want to be interested? Then I got a little older, experienced a little more life, and I started to understand why “interesting times” could be a negative. Then the pandemic happened, and I began to wish for stable, comfortable, and predictable days in a way I never had before. There are always unknowns, risks, and challenges you can’t see coming, but the current health situation was so far outside my calculations it might as well have come from another solar system.

National conversations with manufacturers

It turns out I’m not alone. Manufacturers describe the months since the pandemic started, altered daily life worldwide, and threatened normal business operations as a test of leadership. And the test, they say, has been exhausting.

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.

Sanjay Mishra’s picture

By: Sanjay Mishra

As the weather cools, the number of infections of the Covid-19 pandemic are rising sharply. Hamstrung by pandemic fatigue, economic constraints, and political discord, public health officials have struggled to control the surging pandemic. But now, a rush of interim analyses from pharmaceutical companies Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech have spurred optimism that a novel type of vaccine made from messenger RNA, known as mRNA, can offer high levels of protection by preventing Covid-19 among people who are vaccinated.

Although unpublished, these preliminary reports have exceeded the expectations of many vaccine experts, including mine. Until early this year, I worked on developing vaccine candidates against Zika and dengue. Now I am coordinating an international effort to collect reports on adult patients with current or previous cancers who have also been diagnosed with Covid-19.

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.

Craig Tomita’s picture

By: Craig Tomita

Are the days of standard industrial robots numbered? Absolutely not. In part one of this series, we looked at the unique attribute of cobots. In this article, we’ll see how industrial robots do what they’re designed to do extremely well—high speed, high repeatability, heavy payloads, and more. There are many reasons why industrial robots are here to stay.

Nader Moayeri’s picture

By: Nader Moayeri

I am part of a grassroots effort at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) that is developing an exposure notification system for pandemics in general, though we hope it could be used in at least a limited fashion during the current Covid-19 pandemic. We are fortunate at NIST to have all the expertise required to tackle this multidisciplinary problem, solutions to which have the potential to save many lives and hasten economic recovery by helping to reopen our nation.

Contact tracing has been used to blunt the spread of pandemics since the 19th century. In its usual form, health workers conduct interviews with folks who have tested positive for the infectious disease to find out whom they have been in contact with during a certain period before testing. They also learn the length of time people were together and how close they got to one another. The health worker then traces those contacts to let them know they may have been exposed so that they can self-isolate or get tested. This process can be slow and labor-intensive and may not identify every contact. It relies on the infected person remembering all their contacts and the health worker being able to locate those individuals in a timely fashion to stop them from further spreading the disease.

Klaus Wertenbroch’s picture

By: Klaus Wertenbroch

From a customer perspective, the only thing more frustrating than being denied a product or service is when that denial comes without a satisfactory explanation. As humans, our ability to deal with disappointment depends on understanding why it happened. Without an acceptable rationale, we’re apt to assume the worst: deliberate disrespect, and blind prejudice.

This aspect of consumer psychology may create problems for companies relying on decision-making algorithms for vetting purposes, fraud prevention, and general customer service. We’re seeing widening adoption of AI in fields such as marketing and financial services. On balance, this is great news, allowing companies to serve customers with unprecedented speed and predictive precision. However, while bots beat humans hands down at making accurate decisions at scale, their communication skills (so far, anyway) leave much to be desired. As algorithms assume a more prominent role as gatekeepers, where will rejected customers turn for an adequate explanation? And how can companies provide one without revealing too much about their proprietary algorithms—which are, very often, essential IP?

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