Ron Soonieus’s picture

By: Ron Soonieus

Driven by geopolitical uncertainty, trade risks, and new technologies such as generative AI, the most profound business transformation in 50 years is underway. Alongside these factors, pressures from regulators and stakeholders are mounting around the reporting, transparency, and accountability of companies’ social and environmental impacts.

The effects of regulatory requirements such as the European Sustainability Reporting Standardscovering a range of sustainability issues, including climate change, biodiversity, and human rights—have a profound effect on organizations and their boards, according to recent global research I’ve done under the remit of the INSEAD Corporate Governance Centre, together with colleagues from BCG and Heidrick & Struggles.

Tim Heston’s picture

By: Tim Heston

At Metalworks Inc.’s main plant in Lincoln, Nebraska, co-founders Rob Ernesti and Doug Swanson walked past a new punch/laser system being tested, complete with part removal and stacking automation. It’s one piece of a value stream dedicated to a family of parts. They next walked by a row of small and large robotic press brake cells; a little later they came across a collection of welding robots. After that, Ernesti paused, then said something that, on the surface, didn’t have anything to do with the merits of an automated fab shop.

“The biggest thing we manage here is our culture. Our culture is everything to us. You find out how important your employees are the day they don’t show up.”

Historically, automation and shop culture sometimes stood at odds with each other. After all, a shop culture is all about providing a quality working life to employees. Job-eliminating automation doesn’t seem to fit into that picture. The thing is, the picture isn’t that simple.

ISO’s picture

By: ISO

Healthcare administrators find themselves at the fore of a demanding and transformative field, where the pursuit of excellence in patient care is nonnegotiable. In a health industry landscape facing evolving regulations, escalating costs, and an increasing emphasis on patient outcomes, the need for effective management of quality in healthcare organizations has never been more critical.

Quality care for all promotes equal opportunities for good health, regardless of socioeconomic status. This article explores the formidable obstacles and challenges that healthcare administrators encounter daily, highlighting the indispensable role of quality management in addressing these issues and ensuring the highest standards of care delivery.

ISO 7101 is the first management system standard for quality in healthcare organizations. It prescribes requirements for a systematic approach to sustainable, high-quality health systems.

The six biggest challenges of healthcare management

The health industry today faces a number of complex challenges that put a strain on healthcare management and quality care for patients.

Anne Trafton’s picture

By: Anne Trafton

Flat screen TVs that incorporate quantum dots are now commercially available. But it has been more difficult to create arrays of their elongated cousins, quantum rods, for commercial devices. Quantum rods can control both the polarization and color of light to generate 3D images for virtual-reality devices.

Using scaffolds made of folded DNA, MIT engineers have come up with a new way to precisely assemble arrays of quantum rods. By depositing quantum rods onto a DNA scaffold in a highly controlled way, the researchers can regulate their orientation, which is a key factor in determining the polarization of light emitted by the array. This makes it easier to add depth and dimension to a virtual scene.

“One of the challenges with quantum rods is how to align them all at the nanoscale so they’re all pointing in the same direction,” says Mark Bathe, an MIT professor of biological engineering and the senior author of the new study. “When they’re all pointing in the same direction on a 2D surface, then they all have the same properties of how they interact with light and control its polarization.”

Donald J. Wheeler’s picture

By: Donald J. Wheeler

In last month’s column, we looked at how process-hyphen-control algorithms work with a process that is subject to occasional upsets. This column will consider how they work with a well-behaved process.

Last month we saw that process adjustments can reduce variation when they are reacting to real changes in the process. To be clear, I know that process control technology is everywhere, and it allows us to do things we couldn’t otherwise do. To borrow from Page 326 of my Advanced Topics in SPC (SPC Press, 2004), among other things, process-control technology allows us to:
1. Operate processes safely
2. Maintain process characteristics near a set point
3. Improve process dynamics
4. Reduce the effect of disturbances that can’t be economically removed
5. Accomplish complex control strategies

Julie van der Hoop’s picture

By: Julie van der Hoop

We’re all familiar with photos of Ford’s production lines in 1920. But would we recognize them today? As part of a broader trend referred to as “Industry 4.0,” systems in many factories have modernized considerably in recent years. This digitization of the manufacturing sector aims to apply emerging technologies—such as cloud computing, smart automation, IoT devices, digital inventories, and data analytics—to use data to help engineers make better decisions, improve factory processes, and ultimately require less human oversight.

At the center of the factory’s shift toward digital is additive manufacturing (AM), known colloquially as 3D printing, which enables the core suite of Industry 4.0 technologies to be directly applied to the process of fabrication itself. 3D printers have come a long way from their humble beginnings as rapid prototyping machines and gimmick factories for novelty items. They’ve evolved not just into machines that fabricate high-performance parts for airplanes, but into data collection hubs that gather massive quantities of information about how different parts are built during the fabrication process.

Bryan Christiansen’s picture

By: Bryan Christiansen

Deciding whether to repair or replace an asset can be difficult. That’s why maintenance and reliability managers perform an analysis to determine whether it’s more economical to repair a failing asset or replace it with a new one. This process helps minimize total costs while ensuring that your organization’s operational needs are met.

We’ll give you a step-by-step breakdown of how to perform such an analysis so you can make more cost-effective asset management decisions.

Understanding the importance of a repair vs. replace decision

Making a hasty decision in the “repair vs. replace” dilemma can have far-reaching consequences. Opting for a quick repair might seem like a cost-effective solution in the short term, but it could cost more in the long run if the asset continues to fail. And it’s likely you’ll experience lower productivity in the meantime. 

Conversely, rushing to replace an asset can mean a significant outlay of capital that may have been avoidable if a simpler, less expensive repair could have extended the asset’s useful life.

Adam Zewe’s picture

By: Adam Zewe

Imagine grasping a heavy object, like a pipe wrench, with one hand. You would likely grab the wrench using your entire fingers, not just your fingertips. Sensory receptors in your skin, which run along the entire length of each finger, would send information to your brain about the tool you are grasping.

In a robotic hand, tactile sensors that use cameras to obtain information about grasped objects are small and flat, so they are often located in the fingertips. These robots, in turn, use only their fingertips to grasp objects, typically with a pinching motion. This limits the manipulation tasks they can perform.

MIT researchers have developed a camera-based touch sensor that is long, curved, and shaped like a human finger. Their device provides high-resolution tactile sensing over a large area. The sensor, called the GelSight Svelte, uses two mirrors to reflect and refract light so that one camera, located in the base of the sensor, can see along the entire finger’s length.


Image courtesy of the researchers.

Multiple Authors
By: Douglas C. Fair, Scott A. Hindle

Today’s manufacturing systems have become more automated, data-driven, and sophisticated than ever before. Visit any modern shop floor and you’ll find a plethora of IT systems, HMIs, PLC data streams, machine controllers, engineering support, and other digital initiatives, all vying to improve manufacturing quality and efficiencies.

That begs these questions: With all this technology, is statistical process control (SPC) still relevant? Is SPC even needed anymore? Some believe manufacturing sophistication trumps SPC technologies that were invented 100 years ago. But is that true? 

We the authors believe that SPC is indeed relevant today and can be a vitally important aid to manufacturing. (SPC can be used outside of manufacturing, and to great benefit, but we keep our focus on manufacturing.)

As quality professionals and statisticians, are we biased in our view? Possibly. After visiting hundreds of manufacturing plants around the globe, though, and witnessing their unending manufacturing challenges and opportunities, the evidence is overwhelming: SPC is an important strategic tool in the quest for improved quality and reduced costs. We also postulate that SPC has more potential uses and benefits today than ever before.

John Davis’s picture

By: John Davis

Over the past decade, one of the biggest advances in enterprise resource planning (ERP) has been the ability to communicate and integrate with machines and external software programs to lower costs and increase efficiency. For example, BOM Compare software can reduce engineering costs and get jobs into production much faster by expediting the design-to-production process. Integrating ERP with nesting software can significantly lower material and labor costs, and reduce scrap, by automatically determining the most efficient way to cut parts on a piece of metal.

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