David Braun’s picture

By: David Braun

No matter how well designed, there are no running shoes that allow runners to keep up with cyclists. The bicycle was a key invention that doubled human-powered speed. But what if a new kind of shoe could allow people to run faster by mimicking cycling mechanics?

This is the question my students in Vanderbilt’s Center for Rehabilitation Engineering & Assistive Technology and I explored as we developed a new theory of spring-driven robotic exoskeletons. We came up with a concept for a new type of lower-limb exoskeleton that could allow the world’s fastest human to reach a speed of 18 meters per second or about 40 miles per hour.


Robo-boots allow the legs to supply energy in the air during running, similar to the pedaling mechanism in cycling. A. Sutrisno and D. J. Braun, CC BY-ND

Anne Trafton’s picture

By: Anne Trafton

When MIT announced in March 2020 that most research labs on campus would need to ramp down to help prevent the spread of Covid-19, Canan Dagdeviren’s lab was ready.

For the past two years, Dagdeviren and her lab manager, David Sadat, have run the Conformable Decoders Group using “lean lab” management principles, working closely with MIT’s Environment, Health and Safety (EHS) Office. Every item in their lab has an assigned function and location, and there are strict procedures in place describing how everything is to be used, put away, and replenished. As a result, it took the lab just 15 minutes to close down operations on March 13, 2020.

“Given that everyone in our lab is very well-trained with these checklists, everyone took care of their own experiments and the tools that they use,” says Dagdeviren, an assistant professor in MIT’s Media Lab. “I was then able to spend the rest of the time before the campus shutdown communicating with my students, motivating them, and preparing them mentally for this upcoming period of time.”

Donald J. Wheeler’s picture

By: Donald J. Wheeler

Setting the process aim is a key element in the short production runs that characterize the lean production of multiple products. Last month in part one we looked at how to use a target-centered XmR chart to reliably set the aim. This column will describe aim-setting plans that use the average of multiple measurements.

The necessity of process predictability

All effective aim-setting procedures will be built upon the notion of a process standard deviation. Some estimate of this process dispersion parameter will be used in determining the decision rules for adjusting or not adjusting the process aim. When a process is operated predictably this idea of a single dispersion parameter makes sense.


Figure 1: When statistics serve as estimates

Dirk Dusharme @ Quality Digest’s picture

By: Dirk Dusharme @ Quality Digest

Around the world, local agencies and institutions have scrambled to find personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect their essential employees from Covid-19. Not just healthcare workers, but also the men and women who to work to keep our cities and counties up and running, from emergency responders to maintenance workers.

Told by President Trump to fend for themselves, states that couldn’t find local PPE sources have signed contracts directly with overseas manufacturers or distributors claiming to represent them. Given the problems of getting it themselves or competing with the federal government for the same supplies, governors of seven Eastern states even agreed to work together on purchasing medical equipment.

Quality Digest’s picture

By: Quality Digest

It’s easy to assume that something as simple as a mask wouldn’t pose much of a risk. Essentially, it’s just a covering that goes over your nose and mouth.

But masks are more than just stitched-together cloth. Medical-grade masks use multiple layers of nonwoven material, usually polypropylene, designed to meet specific standards for how big and how many particles they can block. And they are tested and certified to determine how well they do that job.

Healthcare and other frontline workers usually use either a surgical mask or an N95 mask. Both protect the patient from the wearer’s respiratory emissions. But where surgical masks provide the wearer protection against large droplets, splashes, or sprays of bodily or other hazardous fluids, an N95 mask is designed to achieve a very close facial fit and very efficient filtration of submicron airborne particles.

The “N95” (or “KN95”) designation means that the respirator blocks at least 95 percent of very small (0.3 micron) test particles. If properly fitted, the filtration capabilities of N95 respirators exceed those of face masks.

Hari Abburi’s picture

By: Hari Abburi

If there’s one thing the global business community is learning from the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s the outright imperative for companies to be agile “from top to bottom.” This lesson continues to ebb, flow, and unfold daily, wreaking having on bottom lines in every corner of the world.

In fact, agility is rapidly establishing itself as “the great equalizer,” asserting its unbridled authority over which companies—from global conglomerates to mom-and-pops, and everything in between—will survive another day. Although business agility has always been a key driver and benchmark of successful operations, now more than ever it’s clear that a business’s ability to rapidly (and accurately) assess a situation and then pivot quickly and with relative ease in response can be a deal breaker in the most profound sense. For many companies, this lack of agility on not just one but multiple levels of the operation means the literal end of the road.

Brian Lagas’s picture

By: Brian Lagas

When most people think of lean processes, they believe the goal is to optimize things in a step-by-step approach. The result that companies using lean methods can look forward to is incremental improvements brought about by the elimination of waste.

Individuals who stick with this definition often assert that lean principles oppose innovation. That’s because “innovation” is typically considered a product-based form of invention that causes disruption. Lean manufacturing is all about following well-defined processes and figuring out how to make them better. Innovation, on the other hand, usually occurs by uprooting current processes or blatantly not following them.

It may appear that lean manufacturing and innovation are opposed. However, some analysts assert that when companies recognize the compatibility between lean principles and innovation they will accelerate past their competition.

NIST’s picture

By: NIST

Scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have devised a novel, accurate, easy-to-operate, time- and labor-saving way to provide calibrated scale-bar standards for testing the performance of terrestrial laser scanner (TLS) systems.

TLS technology is widely employed to create detailed, high-resolution, 3D digital images of terrain, buildings, vegetation, construction projects, crime-scene forensics and—increasingly—very large objects such as airframe components that must be fitted together with precision, often on the scale of a few hundred micrometers (millionths of a meter; a human hair is about 100 micrometers thick).

“Of course, for geodesy and surveying and most forensic uses, you don’t really need micrometer resolution,” says NIST project scientist Vincent Lee. “But TLS systems are now often used in aerospace and ship building, where big components have to be joined very meticulously, like a wing onto a fuselage. That’s where measurements from a few hundred micrometers to a millimeter really matter.” And that’s where careful system testing really matters. (See video three below.)

Carrie Van Daele’s picture

By: Carrie Van Daele

Crossing the street or stepping backward when you encounter another person has already become a habit, as has a routine elbow bump, instead of a handshake.

And that is definitely what is needed during a health crisis. But when the time is right, as a society we must bounce back to social connectivity to prevent productivity and relationships from being forever damaged.

Humans are social beings. Sure, we have varying levels of desire for social interaction; some of us want to spend time alone, while others are more inclined to want to hang out in groups. But in one form or another, we all strive for connection with one another.

The physical distancing and forced isolation was a shock to our social system. Although it is helping the health emergency, in the long run it will hinder companies’ efforts to ramp up productivity.

During the late 1970s, I remember the Big Three automotive companies launched a “Quality of Work Life” workshop to rebuild trust between employees and their superiors after an economic downturn resulting in layoffs. The Big Three knew ramping up productivity would happen only with repaired relationships.

Gleb Tsipursky’s picture

By: Gleb Tsipursky

So many companies are shifting their employees to working from home to address the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic. Yet they’re not considering the potential quality disasters that can occur as a result of this transition.

An example of this is what one of my coaching clients experienced more than a year before the pandemic hit. Myron is the risk and quality management executive in a medical services company with about 600 employees. He was one of the leaders tasked by his company’s senior management team with shifting the company’s employees to a work-from-home setup, due to rising rents on their office building.

Specifically, Myron led the team that managed risk and quality issues associated with the transition for all 600 employees to telework, due to his previous experience in helping small teams of three to six people in the company transition to working from home in the past. The much larger number of people who had many more diverse roles they had to assist now was proving to be a challenge. So was the short amount of time available to this project, which was only four weeks, and resulted from a failure in negotiation with the landlord of the office building.

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