Matthew Inniger’s picture

By: Matthew Inniger

The inability to gather good data has challenged many food manufacturers for decades. But not anymore. As sensor technology has improved, and technology platforms have become more accessible and affordable to small and medium-sized manufacturers, the food industry is poised for transformation. Food companies can now better understand their ingredients, products, and operations.

The Center for Innovative Food Technology (CIFT) and JobsOhio recently commissioned a business intelligence group, TEConomy Partners, to conduct a study on the current and future state of the food industry. The findings identified five large-scale trends, or themes, that are having a significant impact on the industry, whether in craft beer or dairy. The disruptive technologies span the entire value chain and will have effects for many years. It’s not just high-demand areas such as supply chain and cold storage where innovation is occurring; it’s also happening in traditional unit operations found in legacy manufacturers and product categories.

Donald J. Wheeler’s picture

By: Donald J. Wheeler

The cumulative sum (or Cusum) technique is occasionally offered as an alternative to process behavior charts, even though they have completely different objectives. Process behavior charts characterize whether a process has been operated predictably. Cusums assume that the process is already being operated predictably and look for deviations from the target value. Thus, by replacing process characterization with parameter estimation, Cusums beg the very question process behavior charts were created to address.

To illustrate the Cusum approach and compare it with an average chart, I’ll use the example from page 20 of Shewhart’s first book, Economic Control of Quality of Manufactured Product (Martino Fine books, 2015 reprint).These data consist of 204 measurements of electrical resistivity for an insulator. Shewhart organized them into 51 subgroups of size four, based upon the time order in which the measurements were obtained. Figure 1 gives the averages and ranges for these 51 subgroups.

Quy Huy’s picture

By: Quy Huy

In September 2022, Boeing agreed to pay $200 million for charges that it misled investors about two crashes of its 737 Max aircraft that killed 346 people. The penalty imposed by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is small change compared to the $2.5 billion shelled out by the plane maker last year to settle a criminal fraud suit filed by the U.S. Dept. of Justice.

Sadly, Boeing is just one of many multinational corporations (MNCs) to fall foul of the authorities or public opinion over subpar products in recent years. In 2016, Samsung had to recall its flagship smartphone globally at a cost of $5.3 billion over complaints of exploding batteries. Meanwhile in China, Heinz has been embroiled in at least two damaging recalls since the 2000s.

Matt Fieldman’s picture

By: Matt Fieldman

Customer experience, or “CX,” is all the rage in marketing circles nationally. Customer experience refers to how a customer experiences your company at every point of their buying journey—from marketing to sales to customer service, and everywhere in between. It can be tangible actions, such as emails and phone calls, but it also can be the feelings that coincide with the buying journey.

Businesses around the country have realized the importance of providing a great CX, and the resulting return on investment (ROI) from customer loyalty. In past years, Gartner reported that “customer experience is the new battlefield.” In fact, my quick Indeed search for CX jobs brought up more than 61,000 postings nationally.

Despite all this, I’d like to make the case that small manufacturers need to refocus from CX to EX, the employee experience, if they want to grow and succeed in the years to come.

Ula Chrobak’s picture

By: Ula Chrobak

Thirty miles east of Reno, Nevada, past dusty hills patched with muted blue sage and the occasional injury-lawyer billboard, a large concrete structure rises prominently in the desert landscape. When fully constructed, it will be a pilot for a business that entrepreneurs envision as a major facet of America’s future green economy: lithium-ion battery recycling.

Construction manager Chuck Leber points out bays where trucks will drop off batteries, and deep drains in rooms to catch leaking chemicals. He shows me a 2-ft concrete slab under the building—a hefty foundation so workers can move equipment and adapt the plant while refining the recycling process. Later this year, the first batteries will pass through the facility; the goal is to ramp up to handle 20,000 metric tons of batteries a year.

The 60,000 sq-ft plant owned by the American Battery Technology is an optimistic endeavor to address the inconvenient environmental downside of electric vehicles: their resource-demanding battery packs. It’s also a test of whether business leaders can live up to their promises to help build a circular economy—one in which materials are reused indefinitely, minimizing the need to continually pry more minerals from the earth.

Dave Gilson’s picture

By: Dave Gilson

Like most of us, lawyers think they can be impartial when they rate other people’s work. “They say, ‘Who writes a brief doesn’t matter. A brief is a brief; it stands on its own merit,’” explains Lori Nishiura Mackenzie, the lead strategist for diversity, equity, and inclusion at Stanford Graduate School of Business.

She cites an experiment in which 60 law firm partners were given a legal memo peppered with errors. All were told that a young lawyer had drafted it. Half were told that the writer was white; the other half were told he was Black.

When the partners’ evaluations of the memo came back, the imaginary “white” lawyer received an average score of 4.1 out of 5 and was judged a “generally good writer.” The “Black” lawyer got a 3.2 and was deemed “average at best.”

Even when we think we’re being objective, biases can creep in. So how can we be more consistent and fair when we evaluate candidates and co-workers?

James Gaines’s picture

By: James Gaines

In 2004, the United States’ Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) dangled a $1 million prize for any group that could design an autonomous car that could drive itself through 142 miles of rough terrain from Barstow, California, to Primm, Nevada. Thirteen years later, the U.S. Department of Defense announced another award—not for a robot car this time, but for autonomous robotic doctors.

Robots have been found in the operating suite since the 1980s for things like holding a patient’s limbs in place, and later for laparoscopic surgery, during which surgeons can use remote-controlled robot arms to operate on the human body through tiny holes instead of huge cuts. But for the most part, these robots have been, in essence, just very fancy versions of the scalpels and forceps surgeons have used for centuries—incredibly sophisticated, granted, and capable of operating with incredible precision, but still tools in the surgeon’s hands.

Despite many challenges, that is changing.

Shelly Fan’s picture

By: Shelly Fan

I admit, if I see a beehive, I back away. But part of me is also fascinated. Beehives are a remarkable feat of engineering. Swarms of bees deposit materials ranging from tree buds to chewed-up wax into densely packed honeycombs—each a geometric masterpiece—while flying in the air.

In stark contrast, human construction is far more land-bound. Bulldozers, compactors, and concrete mixers are highly effective, and they’ve been the backbone for establishing our infrastructure. But they’re also bulky, unwieldy, and require roads or other means of transportation. This kneecaps their ability to rapidly respond to natural disasters on islands and other remote locations that need quick help, especially after emergencies.

Unfortunately, we’ve had increasingly frequent climate examples. Drastic road erosions due to raging wildfires. Highways and bridges that crumble after being soaked in water from floods and hurricanes. Recently, even as parts of Puerto Rico were still recovering from Hurricane Maria, many homes were once again flooded by Hurricane Fiona.

Is there a way to rapidly build shelters, or even houses, in difficult-to-access areas and better tackle these emergencies?

Ben P. Stein’s picture

By: Ben P. Stein

Right after the pandemic hit, I bought a new vacuum cleaner. I wanted to step up my housecleaning skills since I knew I’d be home a lot more. I was able to buy mine right away, but friends who wanted new appliances weren’t so lucky. My relatives had to wait months for their new refrigerator to arrive. And it wasn’t just appliances. New cars were absent from dealership lots, while used cars commanded a premium.

What do all these things have in common? Semiconductor chips.

The pandemic disrupted the global supply chain, and semiconductor chips were particularly vulnerable. The chip shortage delivered a wake-up call for our country to make our supply chain more resilient and increase domestic manufacturing of chips, which are omnipresent in modern life.

“To an astonishing degree, the products and services we encounter every day are powered by semiconductor chips,” says Mike Molnar, director of NIST’s Office of Advanced Manufacturing.

Jeetu Patel’s picture

By: Jeetu Patel

In recent years, pretty much every assumption about how, where, and when we work has been upended. But I believe we’re still at just the beginning of a revolution in hybrid work.

Today, there’s a clear opportunity for organizations to step into the next wave of working, supported by even better technology and workplace cultures that nurture work/life balance and creative collaboration. Along the way, we can create new opportunities and expand inclusivity as we dissolve the traditional barriers of geography, language, and culture.

Yet there’s also a risk: Those organizations that fail to learn the lessons of the past two years and try to return to a 100-percent, office-based work strategy will fall short in productivity, talent retention, and so much more.

As I speak to our global customers, all are laser-focused on hybrid work as one of the most critical—and challenging—business transitions of our time.

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