Operations Article

Jason Furness’s picture

By: Jason Furness

One of my hobbies is building and flying radio-controlled model aircraft. Not the small foam ones from Kmart but larger 2-m wingspan craft. It is a lot of fun and usually very relaxing.

My birthday was a few months ago, and for the first time I was given a plane. Somehow my family read my mind, and I ended up with exactly what I wanted.

I have not spent a lot of time on this hobby during the last year or so. These days you can buy the aircraft in what they call ARF (almost ready to fly) format where the plane really just needs final assembling, fitting the control gear and motor, and it’s done. The process should take about 4 hours or so. This was the type of plane I was given, and I was really looking forward to spending the day assembling the kit and making it ready to fly the following weekend.

I wanted to fit an electric power setup and started to look through the plane to see if any modifications were required. There were a few mounting holes that had to be relocated; nothing major, I thought.

Annet Aris’s picture

By: Annet Aris

Even tedious jobs like cleaning out archives can sometimes lead to great insights. Sifting through my old files recently, I was pleasantly surprised to find a treasure trove of old memories and forgotten facts. Among these papers were notebooks from my engineering studies; I realized that I no longer remembered the math formulas I had so diligently noted. The everyday pressures of business have blurred these lines.

There are, however, some basic concepts that have stood the test of time. Most are simple intuitive relationships such as extrapolated trend lines, the normal distribution curve, and scale effects that taper as volume increases.

For most of us, these stick in our heads and have been useful in an analogue world where goods were scarce and the cost of transactions significant. As business becomes digital, however, other rules and relationships apply. If the old curves and concepts are rooted too deeply, we run the risk of making the wrong decisions based on our default ideas.

Jody Muelaner’s picture

By: Jody Muelaner

Whether we like it or not, manufacturing is becoming digitized and connected. Industry increasingly connects production machinery with internet of things (IoT) devices, gathers multiple real-time sensor information into large datasets, and harnesses machine learning to make data-driven decisions. The advantages of this Fourth Industrial Revolution are expected to generate huge increases in profits during the next few years. However, these developments are not without risk.

I’m not going to discuss the existential risk of drifting into dependence on a system so complex that only machine intelligence can make any sense of it. Cybersecurity presents much more immediate risks. Industry 4.0 brings the possibility of both terrorists and state actors gaining the ability to remotely shut down and sabotage critical infrastructure and military assets.

Matthew M. Lowe’s picture

By: Matthew M. Lowe

While most business sectors have welcomed the efficiencies and benefits that cloud technologies and software-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings bring, the life sciences industry has been slow to embrace external cloud networks. Merely a decade ago, in fact, an International Data Corp. survey showed that 75 percent of CIOs and IT executives in life sciences and healthcare fields surveyed said that security risks were their primary reason for opposing cloud technologies.

Cloud-averse attitudes are slow to change, and industry research shows that companies that manage health information continue to show major resistance to cloud technology.

David Dubois’s picture

By: David Dubois

Faced with a growing range of tech solutions in marketing, from AI to big data to blockchain, business-to-business (B2B) companies too often choose the status quo. Recent evidence suggests the divide between success and failure is not about how much companies spend, but how well they integrate technological solutions that create value.

In other words, a company’s digital investment does not necessarily translate into marketing return on investment (ROI). For that to happen the firm needs to build a digital marketing organization—data-driven marketing capabilities around the customer. 

Nicole Radziwill’s picture

By: Nicole Radziwill

As early as 2015, McKinsey’s “Digital America” report projected that adoption of Industry 4.0 technologies in manufacturing alone was expected to increase domestic GDP by more than $2 trillion by 2025. This estimate, developed from expectations surrounding productivity enhancements, waste reduction using methods from lean manufacturing, and new business models enabled by technologies like 3D printing and practices such as remanufacturing, is on track to not only be metbut exceeded.

Isaac Maw’s picture

By: Isaac Maw

In manufacturing today, data analysis tools can give management the information it needs to make better decisions in areas such as maintenance and labor. Unfortunately, however, many data analytics systems require large sets of historical data to generate accurate and useful results.

According to Rebecca Grollman, a data scientist at Bsquare, anomaly detection is different. These algorithms can begin generating useful information without needing to be trained on historical data. Although simple, anomaly detection can be used for applications such as detecting machine stoppage, sensor malfunctions, tracking production output, and more. Engineering.com recently spoke with Grollman about this solution. 

How essential is historical data in typical data science applications?

Multiple Authors
By: Vip Vyas, Diego Nannicini

Is your enterprise dominated by passive thinking and prescribed routines? Or is it one that generates fresh thinking and unlocks insights into the future?

The viral popularity of TED Talks—with more than a billion views to date—highlights the innate hunger we have for discovering breakthrough ideas.

When it comes to making that high-stakes decision or tackling the most pressing challenges facing your firm, whose experience, inspiration, and insights do you seek? Just as important, why do you look up to those particular individuals or organizations? What do they possess that draws your attention?

What if this wisdom and intelligence resided in your own organization? What does it take to become a thought leader within one's firm?

Alex Bekker’s picture

By: Alex Bekker

Do you know what a retailer and a tightrope walker have in common? They both have to balance. For the tightrope walker, the logic is clear. But what’s the balance that a retailer is looking for?

A typical dilemma of shortages vs. storage costs

Although the dilemma of shortages vs. storage costs is applicable to any product category, it’s much more painful with perishables. If their quantity can’t meet the demand, retailers should be ready to see a frown from an unhappy customer who didn’t find her favorite dairy, fruit, or vegetable on the shelves.

However, staying on the safe side by ordering more perishables is hardly a cost-effective solution. Perishable products require special storage conditions, and their shelf life seldom exceeds a couple of days, which means retailers must address disposal issues. So, it’s easy to understand why retailers, by all means possible, try to find the optimal balance between storing too much and too little.

Ryan E. Day’s picture

By: Ryan E. Day

Current business conversation often focuses on data and big data. Data are the raw information from which statistics are created and provide an interpretation and summary of data. Statistics make it possible to analyze real-world business problems and measure key performance indicators that enable us to set quantifiable goals. Control charts and capability analysis are key tools in these endeavors.

Control charts

Developed in the 1920s by Walter A. Shewhart, control charts are used to monitor industrial or business processes over time. Control charts are invaluable for determining if a process is in a state of control. But what does that mean?

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