Davis Balestracci’s picture

By: Davis Balestracci

What is the Vasa? It was a Swedish warship built in 1628. It was supposed to be the grandest, largest, and most powerful warship of its time. King Gustavus Adolphus himself took a keen personal interest and insisted on an entire extra deck above the waterline to add to the majesty and comfort of the ship, and to make room for the 64 guns he wanted it to carry.

This innovation went beyond the shipbuilder knowledge of the time... and would make it unstable. No one dared tell him. On its maiden voyage, the Vasa sailed less than a mile and sank to the bottom of Stockholm harbor in full view of a horrified public, assembled to see off its navy’s—and Europe’s—most ambitious warship to date.

What reminded me of the Vasa? The time has been ripe for visible motivational speakers to weigh in on Covid-19 and “inspire the troops.” From a speech using the Vasa as a backdrop:

“I want to see healthcare become world-class. I want us to promise things to our patients and their families that we have never before been able to promise them.... I am not satisfied with what we give them today.... And as much respect as I have for the stresses and demoralizing erosion of trust in our industry, I am getting tired of excuses....

Dave Cook’s picture

By: Dave Cook

We are experiencing the biggest remote-work experiment in history—but many are beginning to imagine life after lockdown. Amid unprecedented global job losses, concerns about transport infrastructure, and the continuing need for workplace social distancing, governments are launching back-to-work plans.

Meanwhile, the latest U.S. research reveals that 74 percent of businesses want some workers to permanently work remotely, and business leaders are actively shedding leased office space—hinting that not everyone will go back to the office.

Here are five key trends that will shape the future of how we work.

Multiple Authors
By: John Smits, Gary Confalone, Tom Kinnare

Confusion between the two terms “RADAR” and “LIDAR” is understandable. Their names are nearly synonymous, and the terms are often used interchangeably. The acronyms are RADAR, which stands for RAdio Detection And Ranging; and LIDAR, which stands for LIght Detection And Ranging. The major difference between the two is the wavelength of the signal and the divergence of the signal beam.

LIDAR is typically a collimated light beam with minimal divergence over long distances from the transmitter; RADAR is a cone-shaped signal fanning out from the source. Both calculate distance by comparing the time it takes for the outgoing wave or pulse to return to the source. LIDAR uses light wave frequencies that have a shorter wavelength, which enhances the capability of collecting data with high precision. RADAR uses longer microwave frequencies, which have lower resolution but the ability to collect signals with reduced impact from environmental obstructions. RADAR and LIDAR signals both travel at the speed of light.

Mary Ann Pacelli’s picture

By: Mary Ann Pacelli

Last year’s Manufacturing Day (MFG Day) was an enormous success for U.S. manufacturers looking to engage the next generation of manufacturers. But how can you ensure the spark you kindled in the next generation finds fuel? Now more than ever, it’s critical to inform students and potential young manufacturers about the numerous career opportunities available in today’s Industry 4.0 world.

Fortunately, there are many ways to inspire potential young manufacturers. Here are a few ideas.

Making and keeping the manufacturing connection

One of the key reasons MFG Day is such a success is that it gives students the chance to experience hands-on learning in a way they may never do in school. According to a recent IndustryWeek article, 64 percent of high-school students choose their career based on their interests and experiences. This means students need to see your manufacturing equipment and observe your processes in action.

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.

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