Innovation Article

Multiple Authors
By: Matthew Hutson, Knowable Magazine

This story was originally published by Knowable Magazine.

When Stefanie Tellex was 10 or 12, around 1990, she learned to program. Her great-aunt had given her instructional books, and she would type code into her father’s desktop computer. One program she typed in was a famous artificial intelligence program called ELIZA, which aped a psychotherapist. Tellex would tap out questions, and ELIZA would respond with formulaic text answers.

“I was just fascinated with the idea that a computer could talk to you, that a computer could be alive, like a person is alive,” Tellex says. Even ELIZA’s rote answers gave her a glimmer of what might be possible.

David Chandler’s picture

By: David Chandler

Advanced metal alloys are essential in key parts of modern life, from cars to satellites, from construction materials to electronics. But creating new alloys for specific uses, with optimized strength, hardness, corrosion resistance, conductivity, and so on, has been limited by researchers’ fuzzy understanding of what happens at the boundaries between the tiny crystalline grains that make up most metals.

When two metals are mixed together, the atoms of the secondary metal might collect along these grain boundaries, or they might spread out through the lattice of atoms within the grains. The material’s overall properties are determined largely by the behavior of these atoms, but until now there has been no systematic way to predict what they will do.

Researchers at MIT have now found a way, using a combination of computer simulations and a machine-learning process, to produce the kinds of detailed predictions of these properties that could guide the development of new alloys for a wide variety of applications. The findings are described today in the journal Nature Communications, in a paper by graduate student Malik Wagih, postdoc Peter Larsen, and professor of materials science and engineering Christopher Schuh.

Corey Brown’s picture

By: Corey Brown

The ongoing global Covid-19 pandemic has forced companies of all types to rapidly update policies and procedures governing how they share information in response to a world that is constantly changing around them. For the manufacturing sector in particular, their workforce is more spread out than it has ever been, but communication remains essential.

Many knew that telecommuting was the future of the workforce in the United States—it’s just that few could have predicted that “the future” would have come along quite as quickly as it did. In April 2020, at the peak of the first wave of the pandemic, a massive 51 percent of people were working from home. Although that number had dropped to 33 percent by the following October, it’s still enormous, creating a challenge for the manufacturing sector in particular.

Thankfully, a wide range of digital tools have emerged for manufacturing companies that not only enable the rapid communication need right now, but that may also put them in a better decision-making position than they were in before all of this began.

Michael Taylor’s picture

By: Michael Taylor

Digital applications in manufacturing are not only becoming increasingly accepted; they are expected. However, for smaller manufacturers, the process of making this switch can be daunting. Initial expenses, as well as the cost of training employees, is enough to stop the process altogether.

But beginning the process of “going digital” doesn’t have to be overwhelming. With a little guidance and education, all manufacturers can start to implement digital manufacturing concepts in a staged approach that best fits their individual work environments. Here are our top five recommendations for digital applications that can help you get started.

1. Digital performance management

Since 2010, the percentage of business that is conducted digitally has grown from 4 percent to almost 12 percent, and that trend is expected to continue. Finding an integrated way to analyze both business and IT metrics is key to optimizing the experience of this growing enterprise. Enter data performance management.

Merilee Kern’s picture

By: Merilee Kern

The benefits of simulation-based training are indisputable and innumerable. Given its power and efficacy, this methodology is used in sectors beyond aerospace and military, where it gained its initial foothold. These include everything from manufacturing and retail to healthcare, fitness, fashion, and hospitality, reports indicate.

No longer reserved for mammoth corporations, now businesses of every size and scope can benefit from highly optimized, interactive cyber-training innovations. These come in the form of short-burst, micro-learning 3D simulations that are now as accessible as they are effective. Such brief, easy-to-digest content, which learners can access on their own time, provides numerous benefits. At its highest level, 3D simulation remote-training methods can immediately teach employees how to effectively navigate difficult conversations and communicate in a way that drives optimal outcomes and enriches relationships—all irrespective of where that employee is based.

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By: NIST

When the words “artificial intelligence” (AI) come to mind, your first thoughts may be of super-smart computers, or robots that perform tasks without needing any help from humans. Now, a multi-institutional team including researchers from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has accomplished something not too far off: They developed an AI algorithm called CAMEO that discovered a potentially useful new material without requiring additional training from scientists. The AI system could help reduce the amount of trial-and-error time scientists spend in the lab, while maximizing productivity and efficiency in their research.

The research team published its work on CAMEO in Nature Communications

In the field of materials science, scientists seek to discover new materials that can be used in specific applications, such as a “metal that’s light but also strong for building a car, or one that can withstand high stresses and temperatures for a jet engine,” says NIST researcher Aaron Gilad Kusne.

Multiple Authors
By: Phanish Puranam, Julien Clément

Covid-19 has dealt most businesses a heavy blow, but the pandemic has at least one under-acknowledged upside. By moving organizations from the office into the virtual space, the pandemic has cracked open a treasure trove of data that can be used to streamline and optimize how organizations operate. We wrote a (free) ebook to help you capitalize on it.

The inner workings of organizations used to be largely invisible. Before many of us started working from home, pivotal decisions were made around a conference table, at a restaurant over lunch, or even in the lift—where interactions are hard to track. But virtual work, largely conducted via digital platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams, makes the intangible concrete. Chat logs, video recordings, and activity trails on collaborative projects form a comprehensive, real-time record of organizational activity, offering managers new levels of insight into everything from employee morale to how informal ties among employees affect the outcomes of business decisions.

Multiple Authors
By: M. Mitchell Waldrop, Knowable Magazine

If you were to contact a group of recycling professionals, as one recent survey did, and ask them to list all the ways that consumer product manufacturers drive them crazy, you’d probably hear a lot about “shrink sleeves”—those full-body, shrink-to-fit plastic labels found on beer cans, yogurt containers, and any number of other items.

Because these sleeves fool the infrared sensors that are supposed to identify plastics by polymer type in recycling facilities (see  “Recycling meets reality”), it becomes difficult to sort the items correctly. And that can lead to all kinds of downstream contamination issues for the recycling facilities that are supposed to turn bales of “sorted” plastic and cans into reasonably pure materials for new products.

Sanjay Mishra’s picture

By: Sanjay Mishra

As the weather cools, the number of infections of the Covid-19 pandemic are rising sharply. Hamstrung by pandemic fatigue, economic constraints, and political discord, public health officials have struggled to control the surging pandemic. But now, a rush of interim analyses from pharmaceutical companies Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech have spurred optimism that a novel type of vaccine made from messenger RNA, known as mRNA, can offer high levels of protection by preventing Covid-19 among people who are vaccinated.

Although unpublished, these preliminary reports have exceeded the expectations of many vaccine experts, including mine. Until early this year, I worked on developing vaccine candidates against Zika and dengue. Now I am coordinating an international effort to collect reports on adult patients with current or previous cancers who have also been diagnosed with Covid-19.

Multiple Authors
By: Joerg Niessing, Fred Geyer

A new digital era of business-to-business (B2B) sales and marketing is upon us. It’s driven by corporate customer demand for online access to their suppliers’ offerings and expertise. Taking advantage of this shift is challenging because it requires moving from deeply embedded B2B sales and marketing models to data-driven, digitally powered partnerships between sales, marketing, and analytics.

The rewards of digital demand generation—a pivotal piece of the B2B digital transformation puzzle—can be significant. For example, GE Healthcare Life Sciences, a biopharma business, grew by building an extensive digital demand-generation operation that engages researchers through thought-leadership content and software, allows customers to fulfill orders through an e-commerce portal, and supports online research into unique, custom biological agents. In March 2020, Danaher completed the purchase of the business, what is now called Cytiva, for 17 times the firm’s 2019 earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA).

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