Jennifer V. Miller’s picture

By: Jennifer V. Miller

Being a leader is tough enough, but it’s downright demoralizing if you feel like you’re swimming upstream against the currents of a toxic workplace. If you want to stand apart and make a positive difference at work, it might seem like you’re living in this weird, misshapen house where some of the doorways don’t lead anywhere, a few of the rooms don’t connect to other rooms and... are those people actually using tin cans as a way to communicate from one floor to the other? Welcome to the Weird Work House.

Of course, finding a new job is an option, but perhaps there are reasons you want to stay put. Take heart: You can create a pocket of excellence in an otherwise unhealthy work environment.

When management unintentionally creates toxicity

Let’s face it: A lot of workplaces are dysfunctional, and some of them are downright toxic. Much of that dysfunction is a direct result of the company culture unintentionally created by leaders’ behaviors. Have you ever seen a vision statement in a company cafeteria that says, “We are an industry leader in dysfunction. Our employees are confused, distrustful, and disgusted. We’re losing customer loyalty and market share by double digits each year.”

Jennifer Lauren Lee’s picture

By: Jennifer Lauren Lee

There’s a mystery happening in some satellites facing the sun, and scientists from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) are on the case. The team has been trying to figure out what is clouding up and compromising the performance of tiny, thin metal membranes that filter sunlight as it enters detectors that monitor the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays.

These detectors can warn us about impending solar storms—bursts of radiation from the surface of the sun—that could reach Earth and temporarily disrupt communications or interfere with GPS readings.

Last year, the team disproved the prevailing theory that this clouding was a buildup of carbon on the surface of the filters from organic sources stowing away on the satellite.

Narayan Pant’s picture

By: Narayan Pant

Sami, a manager in a multinational company, had to make a difficult decision concerning an underperforming direct report. To complicate the situation further, the subordinate in question was a contender for Sami’s job and friendly with Sami’s current boss. Sami’s boss had seemingly left all decisions to him, telling Sami, “You’re the boss; you make the decision that’s right.”

Sami now had to decide whether he should fire his recalcitrant subordinate and was left grappling with his own doubts and fears about the potential repercussions. His boss had said it was his decision, but did she mean it? What if she resented his choice to fire someone she liked and supported? Was he biased in his assessment, especially given that his subordinate was a contender for his position? Would a more capable leader be able to persuade this subordinate to be more productive?

Fred Miller’s picture

By: Fred Miller

Researchers in Arkansas and two other states will be using a $5 million grant to increase use of artificial intelligence and robotics in chicken processing to reduce waste in deboning and detect pathogens.

The grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture will establish the Center for Scalable and Intelligent Automation in Poultry Processing. The center, led by the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, will join researchers from five institutions in three states in efforts to adapt robotic automation to chicken meat processing.

Project director Jeyam Subbiah said the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station, the research arm of the Division of Agriculture, will receive $2.2 million from the grant primarily to focus on food safety automation for poultry processing plants. The grant is for four years.

Subbiah is a professor and head of the food science department for the Division of Agriculture and the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food, and Life Sciences at the University of Arkansas.

Steve Calechman’s picture

By: Steve Calechman

Sustainability is a hot topic. Companies throw around their carbon or recycling initiatives, and competing executives feel the need to follow suit. But aside from the external pressure, there are also bottom-line benefits. Becoming more efficient can save money. Creating a new product might make money. However, customers care about a company’s practices and will spend their money based on that.

The work is in getting there. Becoming sustainable can seem simple: Establish a goal for five years down the road and everything will fall into place. But it’s easy for things to get upended. “There is so much confusion and noise in this space,” says Jason Jay, senior lecturer and director of the Sustainability Initiative at MIT’s Sloan School of Management.

His work helps companies break through the confusion and figure out what they want to actually do, not merely what sounds good. It means doing research and listening to science. Mostly, it requires discipline, and because something new—be it a product, process, or technology—is being requested, it also takes ambition. “It’s a tricky dance,” he says, but one that can result in “doing well and doing good at the same time.”

George Nelson’s picture

By: George Nelson

With the effects of pollution and climate change more visible than ever before, it’s clear that changes are needed to minimize mankind’s impact on the environment and protect the planet for future generations. To that end, many industries have made changes to become more sustainable. The packing industry is seeing some of the biggest changes.

Packaging and labeling can play a huge part in the battle for a more sustainable world. Without correct labeling, packaging is often disposed of incorrectly, contributing to waste issues and environmental problems. But, with smarter labeling processes, packaging can become much easier to reuse and recycle.

Types of waste generated by packaging and labeling

Packaging and labeling waste come in various forms, including:

Product waste: This type of waste is generated during the manufacturing process, where excess materials are produced due to inefficient production methods or overproduction.

Megan Wallin-Kerth’s picture

By: Megan Wallin-Kerth

At last year’s Masters Summit, MasterControl’s chief strategy officer, Matt Lowe, chatted with Quality Digest’s CEO, Jeff Dewar, about the challenges and rewards of his work and the many titles he’s held over the years. Lowe, who has worked at MasterControl for more than 15 years, has a lot to say about the technical knowledge and focus required to succeed in his field—particularly when it comes to gathering and analyzing data.

“It’s been quite the journey,” says Lowe of his career at MasterControl. “Lots of different hats. I always figured there’s an opportunity there if there’s something new for me to learn. Let’s give it a shot.”

Teamwork comes in many forms

This openness to new skill sets and roles has led to numerous job positions, one of which particularly sparks interest from Dewar.

“You had a title that I [had seen] maybe only once before in various executive titles: chief product and marketing officer. I’ve seen CMO, I’ve seen CPO, but never CPMO,” says Dewar. 

“It’s funny, because prior to my life in software, product and product managers always lived inside the marketing department,” says Lowe. “It wasn’t until I came to MasterControl that I saw it separated.”

Zach Winn’s picture

By: Zach Winn

There’s a lot riding on farmers’ ability to fight weeds, which can strangle crops and destroy yields. To protect crops, farmers have two options: They can spray herbicides that pollute the environment and harm human health, or they can hire more workers.

Unfortunately, both choices are becoming less tenable. Herbicide resistance is a growing problem in crops around the world, while widespread labor shortages have hit the agricultural sector particularly hard.

Now the startup FarmWise, co-founded by Sébastien Boyer, is giving farmers a third option. The company has developed autonomous weeding robots that use artificial intelligence to cut out weeds while leaving crops untouched.

The company’s first robot, fittingly called the Titan—picture a large tractor that makes use of a trailer in lieu of a driver’s seat—uses machine vision to distinguish weeds from crops, including leafy greens, cauliflower, artichokes, and tomatoes while snipping weeds with sub-inch precision.

Daniel Croft’s picture

By: Daniel Croft

As the aviation industry continues to evolve, the need for advanced technology to perform aircraft inspections is important. One such technology is noncontact scanning, which is becoming increasingly popular for full aircraft inspections.

Given the extreme forces to which aircraft are subjected during takeoff, flight, and landing, full aircraft inspections are necessary for military and commercial aircraft to ensure that essential features are all within tolerance.

National Physical Laboratory’s picture

By: National Physical Laboratory

Graphene and related 2D materials (GR2Ms) could help reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the production of advanced materials. Using GR2M nanoplatelets in applications such as reinforcing concrete or improving battery performance will require a dramatic increase in production. As the production of GR2Ms is scaled up, the ability to effectively and efficiently measure the material properties of the nanoplatelets—both in the final product and as part of process control systems—will become critical.

The need

It is likely that instruments used for in-line measurements will have a lower resolution than lab-based, research-grade instruments. The effect this has on the resulting measurement metrics needs to be understood to provide confidence in the results reported to customers.

Currently, Raman spectroscopy is used to monitor the material properties of the nanoplatelets. But this requires samples to be taken out and additional preparation to make them suitable for analysis, delaying the process and incurring additional storage costs.

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