Multiple Authors
By: John Wenz, Knowable Magazine

This story was originally published by Knowable Magazine.

You hear a mechanical buzz. You look up, and there it is, hovering in the sky—four whirring rotors. Over your shoulder, you catch sight of someone tracking the flight and manipulating controls.

Drones, little flying vehicles with varying states of autonomy, have arrived. Some survey crops from above. Some film dazzling videos. Some just annoy the neighbors. In Virginia, drones have delivered library books. And NASA launched the Mars rover, Perseverance, on July 30, 2020, which features a helicopter named Ingenuity that will have to be somewhat autonomous because of the communication delay between Earth and Mars.

James Anderton’s picture

By: James Anderton

Injection mold making used to be a relatively simple business: machine the cavities and runners, polish, cross-drill for cooling, then shoot resin. Today, however, relentless pressure for lower part cost and higher productivity have led to bigger, faster machines with molds to match.

Multilayer stack molds, gas-assisted molding, overmolding, co-injection, advanced hot-runner systems, and other technologies have collapsed the cost of high-volume commodity resin parts. At the other extreme, a new generation of functional fillers and special-purpose engineering resins are allowing very large, special-purpose part making for industries such as automotive, aerospace, and medicine. In every application, cycle time, dimensional stability, and surface finish are paramount; hiding a sink mark under a trim plate just doesn’t cut it anymore.

Despite all the technical understanding of making injection molds, a surprising number of manufacturing engineers know very little about the complex dynamics that happen inside an injection mold.

Steven Forrest’s default image

By: Steven Forrest

The ongoing pandemic will likely change, if not completely alter, many aspects of our daily lives. One facet that will significantly change is the way we work. After months of being in lockdown, the massive shift to working from home has proven to be effective in helping employees stay productive. This led a lot of companies—including those that were initially suspicious about it—to seriously consider remote working as a viable and legitimate work arrangement.

Andrew Peterson’s picture

By: Andrew Peterson

Collaborative robots are increasingly attractive to manufacturers that require flexible solutions for their growing product mix but may not have the scale of work or capital resources needed to justify larger investments in automation systems.

These collaborative robots, commonly referred to as “cobots,” can execute tasks with minimal programming and adapt to variations in part position and size. Humans work side by side with cobots to reduce the need for custom fixturing that can make high-mix, low-volume (HMLV) work inefficient. Cobots can also go to where the work is on the shop floor.

The Purdue Manufacturing Extension Partnership has identified manufacturers that have a lot to gain from cobot adoption. Investing in collaborative robots may make the most sense for:
• Manufacturers from 50 to 500 employees with a family product mix
• Owners who are looking for a fast payback period on capital investments (e.g., six months)
• Managers who can’t fill shifts but can redeploy employees to more value-added positions
• Operators with repetitive or dangerous jobs

Benjamin Kessler’s picture

By: Benjamin Kessler

The full economic impact of the pandemic has yet to be felt. However, it seems beyond dispute that Covid-19 and globalization don’t mix well. Of course, all economic activity is suffering in this worldwide recession—but the global breadth of business may experience an especially acute shrinking effect. To cite just one grim projection, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is predicting a 12-percent contraction in global trade this year, more than double the already cataclysmic 4.9-percent negative growth prediction for the world economy as a whole.

The proximate causes for this are widely known: the unhappy coincidence of China being both the virus’s apparent country of origin and epicenter of global production for countless multinational corporations, the cessation of global travel, etc. Far less clear, at this stage, is what all this means for global business strategy. Should companies keep a low profile and hope for globalization to rebound, or prepare for hasty repatriation?

Farhana Ahmad’s picture

By: Farhana Ahmad

Despite juggling competing priorities, building resilient systems and processes within their organizations continues to be top of mind for business leaders today and is anticipated to be so for the foreseeable future. As such, the first logical step is to turn to existing methods and approaches that have been proven to be effective—of these, lean is a strong contender.

Starting from the beginning: the definition of lean

Defined as “a way of providing maximum customer value while minimizing effort, equipment, time, and waste in the production system,” lean is based on five principles:
• Value is defined according to the customer’s perception of it.
• Organizations must map the entire value stream and eliminate anything that doesn’t contribute to customer value.
• Products and services must flow smoothly to the customer with no interruptions.
• Customer requirements pull value upstream along the process.
• Perfection with no waste is the goal of the production system.

From an applicability perspective, the business process most commonly linked to lean is that of waste reduction, which is summarized into eight key types. This includes everything from motion to overproduction to underutilized talent.

Lolly Daskal’s picture

By: Lolly Daskal

In a recent survey, only 3 percent said they have confidence in corporate executives.

The news was equally dismal for others: 3 percent reported having confidence in government officials, 5 percent in reporters and journalists, 8 percent in small business owners, and only 11 percent in ministers and clergy.

These results show, among other things, how hard it can be to find the leader who can be credible, courageous, trustworthy, ethical, and transparent.

But we all know great leadership is possible—because we ourselves want it.

Here are some basic ways we can be the example of what it looks like.

1. Do what you say you will do. Too many leaders just do whatever they can get away with. Be credible.

2. Do what’s right, not what’s easy. This one can be hard; doing what is right is rarely easy. And many times leaders choose the wrong path. Be courageous.

3. Take responsibility for your actions. Stop making excuses for your decisions and rationalizing your choices. The more excuses they hear from you, the less people will trust you. Be trustworthy.

Multiple Authors
By: Bill Bernstein, Teodar Vernica

Step into the factory of the future. Alicia, an operations manager, sits at her workstation viewing a digitally enhanced video feed of the facility, using cameras installed in strategic locations. Wearing safety gear, a maintenance engineer named Bob checks his tablet for the next machine to fix. Equipped with a headset and controllers, Dave, a software engineer at HQ, serves as a virtual tour guide for Carrie, the company’s lead executive. Wearing an augmented reality (AR) headset, Carrie surveys her machines as she walks through the facility. With Dave’s guidance, she sees digital information, such as a machine’s status, appearing in her view.

Each able to experience a virtual overlay onto a physical environment that provides more context relevant for their jobs, these co-workers can realize their potential as a team through industrial extended reality (XR), an umbrella term that encompasses a spectrum of technologies, from partially immersive AR to completely immersive virtual reality.

This factory might be hard to imagine, but each technology already exists. What’s missing are standard formats, protocols, and guidelines for them to work seamlessly with one another. In other words, the communication channels among these technologies remain shut.

NASA’s picture

By: NASA

On June 24, 2020, engineers completed the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket’s structural testing campaign for the Artemis lunar missions by testing the liquid oxygen structural test article to find its point of failure.

“The Space Launch System and Marshall test team have done a tremendous job of accomplishing this test program, marking a major milestone not only for the SLS program but also for the Artemis program,” says John Honeycutt, the SLS program manager. “From building the test stands, support equipment, and test articles, to conducting the tests and analyzing the data, it is remarkable work that will help send astronauts to the moon.”

Richard Fendler’s picture

By: Richard Fendler

Job satisfaction is important to most people, and yet this can be a fairly nebulous concept that is tricky to achieve and also tough to measure in a meaningful way.

Luckily a number of software platforms designed to manage employee recognition have emerged in recent years, as outlined in this comparison list. The upshot is that it is not just easier for businesses to keep their workers content, but also to track satisfaction and thus extrapolate the morale trajectory for the entire organization.

Here is a look at how these platforms work, why they are useful for keeping team members happy, and how analyzing employee contentment benefits the business as a whole.

The basics

Although they vary in terms of features and functions, all employee-recognition software solutions share the same purpose, which is to codify and unify the way that appreciation for people in a workplace is demonstrated by management.

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