DO YOU HAVE WHAT IT TAKES

November 29, 2017


The graphics for this post are from Feris Alsulmi and the Entrepreneur Magazine.

The title of this post is not really a challenge but merely a question.  Do you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur?  Most individuals at some time in their lives feel they can do it better.  I’ll let you define “IT” but everyone working for a living has dreamed of going it alone—even if that thought is fleeting and momentary.  Someone once said that if your dreams don’t scare you, you are not dreaming big enough.   I would hazard a guess we see the light at the end of that long tunnel as being riches untold and not really considering the journey that got us there.  I have started two or three businesses and can relate from personal experience there are those dark days.  Waking up at 2:00 A.M. Wednesday morning wondering how you will make payroll on Friday.  If you are challenged by the prospects, you may appreciate the following graphics and comments.  Let’s take a quick look.

WHAT ARE THE OBVIOUS OBSTACLES

No one wants to fail. No one wants to spend time and money working from dawn to dusk with the result being deep in debt and possible bankruptcy.    Even with this being the case, fully 98% of the replies from polls taken indicate the greatest obstacle is the willingness or the ability to take the necessary risks.  Age may be a factor.  Family circumstances may be a factor. Possible lack of knowledge may be a factor. Fear may be a factor.  Clearly, the ability to attract necessary capital IS a factor.  Ted Turner once said “never use your own money when starting a venture”.  Easy for Turner to say.  In today’s world, finding an “angel” or investment capital is a huge problem.   Thanks to a do-nothing Congress and Executive Branch, we have tax codes that work against an individual launching a business.  This will not change with the next administration or the 114th Congress.  It won’t change.

In looking at the graphic above, you can see 2009 numbers and they are not pretty.  Sixty-one thousand bankruptcies and six hundred and sixty-one thousand company closures.  Most of these are retail establishments relative to manufacturing companies but even so—that hurts.  Now, 2009 was the year after the housing bubble popped.  Did you see that coming? I did not. Not on my radar at all and yet, the bubble affected all of us. Everyone.  You will not be taking your family for Sunday dinner or a movie on Saturday if you have a sudden drop in sales.  People with their homes in foreclosure don’t spend for items somewhat frivolous in nature.

IS AGE A FACTOR

It’s a given fact, the older you are the more experience you have.  There are few successful business owners under the age of thirty and most of them are whiz-kids involved in computer science and programming.  Good for them, but most of us are not.

Again, from the graphic, you see that seventy percent of new business owners are married and sixty percent have at least one child.  These facts weigh very heavily on one’s mind with contemplating ownership of a company.

Now the big question:

There are mavericks that launch their businesses without benefit of those items given above but probably few, if any, who do not at least consider the questions posed above.  It takes:

Consider the questions and problems above.  Are you willing to jump?  Is now the time? Are the conditions proper for the company I contemplate starting?  Is my family situation right for a new professional direction?  Am I really dedicated to a fifty, sixty or even seventy hour work week?  If you cannot give answers in a positive fashion to these questions you may really need to continue working for “the man”.  Just a thought.

 

Advertisements

THEY GOT IT ALL WRONG

November 15, 2017


We all have heard that necessity is the mother of invention.  There have been wonderful advances in technology since the Industrial Revolution but some inventions haven’t really captured the imagination of many people, including several of the smartest people on the planet.

Consider, for example, this group: Thomas Edison, Lord Kelvin, Steve Ballmer, Robert Metcalfe, and Albert Augustus Pope. Despite backgrounds of amazing achievement and even brilliance, all share the dubious distinction of making some of the worst technological predictions in history and I mean the very worst.

Had they been right, history would be radically different and today, there would be no airplanes, moon landings, home computers, iPhones, or Internet. Fortunately, they were wrong.  And that should tell us something: Even those who shape the future can’t always get a handle on it.

Let’s take a look at several forecasts that were most publically, painfully, incorrect. From Edison to Kelvin to Ballmer, click through for 10 of the worst technological predictions in history.

“Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible.” William Thomson (often referred to as Lord Kelvin), mathematical physicist and engineer, President, Royal Society, in 1895.

A prolific scientific scholar whose name is commonly associated with the history of math and science, Lord Kelvin was nevertheless skeptical about flight. In retrospect, it is often said that Kelvin was quoted out of context, but his aversion to flying machines was well known. At one point, he is said to have publically declared that he “had not the smallest molecule of faith in aerial navigation.” OK, go tell that to Wilber and Orville.

“Fooling around with alternating current is just a waste of time. No one will use it, ever. Thomas Edison, 1889.

Thomas Edison’s brilliance was unassailable. A prolific inventor, he earned 1,093 patents in areas ranging from electric power to sound recording to motion pictures and light bulbs. But he believed that alternating current (AC) was unworkable and its high voltages were dangerous.As a result, he battled those who supported the technology. His so-called “war of currents” came to an end, however, when AC grabbed a larger market share, and he was forced out of the control of his own company.

 

“Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons.” Popular Mechanics Magazine, 1949.

The oft-repeated quotation, which has virtually taken on a life of its own over the years, is actually condensed. The original quote was: “Where a calculator like the ENIAC today is equipped with 18,000 vacuum tubes and weighs 30 tons, computers in the future may have only 1,000 vacuum tubes and perhaps weigh only 1.5 tons.” Stated either way, though, the quotation delivers a clear message: Computers are mammoth machines, and always will be. Prior to the emergence of the transistor as a computing tool, no one, including Popular Mechanics, foresaw the incredible miniaturization that was about to begin.

 

“Television won’t be able to hold on to any market it captures after the first six months. People will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night.” Darryl Zanuck, 20th Century Fox, 1946.

Hollywood film producer Darryl Zanuck earned three Academy Awards for Best Picture, but proved he had little understanding of the tastes of Americans when it came to technology. Television provided an alternative to the big screen and a superior means of influencing public opinion, despite Zanuck’s dire predictions. Moreover, the technology didn’t wither after six months; it blossomed. By the 1950s, many homes had TVs. In 2013, 79% of the world’s households had them.

 

“I predict the Internet will go spectacularly supernova and in 1996 catastrophically collapse.” Robert Metcalfe, founder of 3Com, in 1995.

An MIT-educated electrical engineer who co-invented Ethernet and founded 3Com, Robert Metcalfe is a holder of the National Medal of Technology, as well as an IEEE Medal of Honor. Still, he apparently was one of many who failed to foresee the unbelievable potential of the Internet. Today, 47% of the 7.3 billion people on the planet use the Internet. Metcalfe is currently a professor of innovation and Murchison Fellow of Free Enterprise at the University of Texas at Austin.

“There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share.” Steve Ballmer, former CEO, Microsoft Corp., in 2007.

Some magna cum laude Harvard math graduate with an estimated $33 billion in personal wealth, Steve Ballmer had an amazing tenure at Microsoft. Under his leadership, Microsoft’s annual revenue surged from $25 billion to $70 billion, and its net income jumped 215%. Still, his insights failed him when it came to the iPhone. Apple sold 6.7 million iPhones in its first five quarters, and by end of fiscal year 2010, its sales had grown to 73.5 million.

 

 

“After the rocket quits our air and starts on its longer journey, its flight would be neither accelerated nor maintained by the explosion of the charges it then might have left.” The New York Times,1920.

The New York Times was sensationally wrong when it assessed the future of rocketry in 1920, but few people of the era were in a position to dispute their declaration. Forty-one years later, astronaut Alan Shepard was the first American to enter space and 49 years later, Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon, laying waste to the idea that rocketry wouldn’t work. When Apollo 11 was on its way to the moon in 1969, the Times finally acknowledged the famous quotation and amended its view on the subject.

“With over 15 types of foreign cars already on sale here, the Japanese auto industry isn’t likely to carve out a big share of the market for itself.” Business Week, August 2, 1968.

Business Week seemed to be on safe ground in 1968, when it predicted that Japanese market share in the auto industry would be miniscule. But the magazine’s editors underestimated the American consumer’s growing distaste for the domestic concept of planned obsolescence. By the 1970s, Americans were flocking to Japanese dealerships, in large part because Japanese manufacturers made inexpensive, reliable cars. That trend has continued over the past 40 years. In 2016, Japanese automakers built more cars in the US than Detroit did.

“You cannot get people to sit over an explosion.” Albert Augustus Pope, founder, Pope Manufacturing, in the early 1900s.

Albert Augustus Pope thought he saw the future when he launched production of electric cars in Hartford, CT, in 1897. Listening to the quiet performance of the electrics, he made his now-famous declaration about the future of the internal combustion engine. Despite his preference for electrics, however, Pope also built gasoline-burning cars, laying the groundwork for future generations of IC engines. In 2010, there were more than one billion vehicles in the world, the majority of which used internal combustion propulsion.

 

 

 

“I have traveled the length and breadth of this country and talked to the best people, and I can assure you that data processing is a fad that won’t last out the year.” Editor, Prentice Hall Books,1957.

The concept of data processing was a head-scratcher in 1957, especially for the unnamed Prentice Hall editor who uttered the oft-quoted prediction of its demise. The prediction has since been used in countless technical presentations, usually as an example of our inability to see the future. Amazingly, the editor’s forecast has recently begun to look even worse, as Internet of Things users search for ways to process the mountains of data coming from a new breed of connected devices. By 2020, experts predict there will be 30 to 50 billion such connected devices sending their data to computers for processing.

CONCLUSIONS:

Last but not least, Charles Holland Duell in 1898 was appointed as the United States Commissioner of Patents, and held that post until 1901.  In that role, he is famous for purportedly saying “Everything that can be invented has been invented.”  Well Charlie, maybe not.


Portions of this post are taken from the publication “Industry Week”, Bloomberg View, 30 October 2017.

The Bloomberg report begins by stating: “The industrial conglomerate has lost $100 billion in market value this year as investors came to terms with the dawning reality that GE’s businesses don’t generate enough cash to support its rich dividend.”

Do you in your wildest dreams think that Jack Welch, former CEO of GE, would have produced results such as this?  I do NOT think so.  Welch “lived” with the guys on Wall Street.  These pitiful results come to us from Mr. Jeffery Immelt.  It’s also now clear that years of streamlining didn’t go far enough as challenges of dumpster-fire proportions at its power and energy divisions overshadowed what were actually pretty good third-quarter health-care and aviation numbers.  Let me mention right now that I can sound off at the results.  I retired from a GE facility—The Roper Corporation, in 2005.

The new CEO John Flannery’s pledged to divest twenty billion ($20 billion) in assets perhaps is risking another piecemeal breakup but as details leak on the divestitures and other changes Flannery’s contemplating, there’s at least a shot he could be positioning the company for something more drastic.  Now back to Immelt.

Immelt took over the top position at GE in 2001. Early attempts at changing the culture to meet Immelt’s ideas about what the corporate culture should look like were not very successful. It was during the financial crisis that he began to think differently. It seems as if his thinking followed three paths. First, get rid of the financial areas of the company because they were just a diversion to what needed to be done. Second, make GE into a company focused upon industrial goods. And, third, create a company that would tie the industrial goods to information technology so that the physical and the informational would all be of one package. The results of Immelt’s thinking are not impressive and did not position GE for company growth in the twenty-first century.

Any potential downsizing by Flannery will please investors who have viewed the digital foray as an expensive pet project of Immelt’s, but it’s sort of a weird thing to do if you still want to turn GE into a top-ten software company — as is the divestiture of the digital-facing Centricity health-care IT operations that GE is reportedly contemplating.  Perhaps a wholesale breakup of General Electric Co. isn’t such an improbable idea after all.

GE has lost one hundred billion ($100 billion) in market value this year as investors came to terms with the dawning reality that GE’s businesses don’t generate enough cash to support its rich dividend. It’s also now clear that years of streamlining didn’t go far enough as challenges of dumpster fire proportions at its power and energy divisions overshadowed what were actually pretty good third-quarter health-care and aviation numbers.

One argument against a breakup of GE was that it would detract from the breadth of expertise and resources that set the company apart in the push to make industrial machinery of all kinds run more efficiently. But now, GE’s approach to digital appears to be changing. Rather than trying to be everything for everyone, the company is refocusing digital marketing efforts on customers in its core businesses and deepening partnerships with tech giants including Microsoft Corp and Apple Inc. It hasn’t announced any financial backers yet, but that’s a possibility former CEO Jeff Immelt intimated before he departed. GE’s digital spending is a likely target of its cost-cutting push.

This downsizing will please investors who have viewed digital as an expensive pet project of Immelt’s, but it’s sort of a weird thing to do if you still want to turn GE into a top-10 software company — as is the divestiture of the digital-facing Centricity health-care IT operations that GE is reportedly contemplating.

The company is unlikely to abandon digital altogether. Industrial customers have been trained to expect data-enhanced efficiency, and GE has to offer that to be competitive. As Flannery said at GE’s Minds and Machines conference last week, “A company that just builds machines will not survive.” But if all we’re ultimately talking about here is smarter equipment, as opposed to a whole new software ecosystem, GE doesn’t necessarily need a health-care, aviation and power business.

Creating four or five mini-GEs would likely mean tax penalties.  That’s not in and of itself a reason to maintain a portfolio that’s not working. If it was, GE wouldn’t also be contemplating a sale of its transportation division. But one of GE’s flaws in the minds of investors right now is its financial complexity, and there’s something to be said for a complete rethinking of the way it’s put together. For what it’s worth, the average of JPMorgan Chase & Co. analyst Steve Tusa’s sum-of-the-parts analyses points to a twenty-dollar ($20) valuation — almost in line with GE’s closing price of $20.79 on Friday. Whatever premium the whole company once commanded over the value of its parts has been significantly weakened.

Wall Street is torn on General Electric, the one-time favorite blue chip for long-term investors, which is now facing an identity crisis and possible dividend cut. Major research shops downgraded and upgraded the industrial company following its third-quarter earnings miss this past Friday. The firm’s September quarter profits were hit by restructuring costs and weak performance from its power and oil and gas businesses. It was the company’s first earnings report under CEO John Flannery, who replaced Jeff Immelt in August. Two firms reduced their ratings for General Electric shares due to concerns about dividend cuts at its Nov. 13 analyst meeting. The company has a 4.2 percent dividend yield. General Electric shares declined 6.3 percent Monday to close at $22.32 a share after the reports. The percentage drop is the largest for the stock in six years. Its shares are down twenty-five (25%) percent year to date through Friday versus the S&P 500’s fifteen (15%) percent return.

At the end of the day, it comes down to what kind of company GE wants to be. The financial realities of a breakup might be painful, but so would years’ worth of pain in its power business as weak demand and pricing pressures drive a decline to a new normal of lower profitability. Does it really matter, then, what the growth opportunities are in aviation and health care? As head of M&A at GE, Flannery was at least partly responsible for the Alstom SA acquisition that swelled the size of the now-troubled power unit inside GE. If there really are “no sacred cows,” he has a chance to rewrite that legacy.

CONCLUSIONS:

Times are changing and GE had better change with those times or the company faces significant additional difficulties.  Direction must be left to the board of directors but it’s very obvious that accommodations to suite the present business climate are definitely in order.


In preparation for this post, I asked my fifteen-year old grandson to define product logistics and product supply chain.  He looked at me as though I had just fallen off a turnip truck.  I said you know, how does a manufacturer or producer of products get those products to the customer—the eventual user of the device or commodity.  How does that happen? I really need to go do my homework.  Can I think about this and give you an answer tomorrow?

SUPPLY CHAIN LOGISTICS:

Let’s take a look at Logistics and Supply Chain Management:

“Logistics typically refers to activities that occur within the boundaries of a single organization and Supply Chain refers to networks of companies that work together and coordinate their actions to deliver a product to market. Also, traditional logistics focuses its attention on activities such as procurement, distribution, maintenance, and inventory management. Supply Chain Management (SCM) acknowledges all of traditional logistics and also includes activities such as marketing, new product development, finance, and customer service” – from Essential of Supply Chain Management by Michael Hugos.

“Logistics is about getting the right product, to the right customer, in the right quantity, in the right condition, at the right place, at the right time, and at the right cost (the seven Rs of Logistics)” – from Supply Chain Management: A Logistics Perspective By John J. Coyle et al

Now, that wasn’t so difficult, was it?  A good way to look at is as follows:

MOBILITY AND THE SUPPLY CHAIN:

There have been remarkable advancements in supply chain logistics over the past decade.  Most of those advancements have resulted from companies bringing digital technologies into the front office, the warehouse, and transportation to the eventual customer.   Mobile technologies are certainly changing how products are tracked outside the four walls of the warehouse and the distribution center.  Realtime logistics management is within the grasp of many very savvy shippers.  To be clear:

Mobile networking refers to technology that can support voice and/or data network connectivity using wireless, via a radio transmission solution. The most familiar application of mobile networking is the mobile phone or tablet or i-pad.  From real-time goods tracking to routing assistance to the Internet of Things (IoT) “cutting wires” in the area that lies between the warehouse and the customer’s front door is gaining ground as shippers grapple with fast order fulfillment, smaller order sizes, and ever-evolving customer expectations.

In return for their tech investments, shippers and logistics managers are gaining benefits such as short-ended lead times, improved supply chain visibility, error reductions, optimized transportation networks and better inventory management.  If we combine these advantages we see that “wireless” communications are helping companies work smarter and more efficiently in today’s very fast-paced business world.

MOBILITY TRENDS:

Let’s look now at six (6) mobility trends.

  1. Increasingly Sophisticated Vehicle Communications—There was a time when the only contact a driver had with home base was after an action, such as load drop-off, took place or when there was an in-route problem. Today, as you might expect, truck drivers, pilots and others responsible for getting product to the customer can communicate real-time.  Cell phones have revolutionized and made possible real-time communication.
  2. Trucking Apps—By 2015, Frost & Sullivan indicated the size of the mobile trucking app market hit $35.4 billion dollars. Mobile apps are being launched, targeting logistics almost constantly. With the launch of UBER Freight, the competition in the trucking app space has heated up considerably, pressing incumbents to innovate and move much faster than ever before.
  3. Its’ Not Just for the Big Guys Anymore: At one time, fleet mobility solutions were reserved for larger companies that could afford them.  As technology has advanced and become more mainstream and affordable, so have fleet mobility solution.
  4. Mobility Helps Pinpoint Performance and Productivity Gaps: Knowing where everything is at any one given time is “golden”. It is the Holy Grail for every logistics manager.  Mobility is putting that goal within their reach.
  5. More Data Means More Mobile Technology to Generate and Support Logistics: One great problem that is now being solved, is how to handle perishable goods and refrigerated consumer items.  Shippers who handle these commodities are now using sensors to detect trailer temperatures, dead batteries, and other problems that would impact their cargos.  Using sensors, and the data they generate, shippers can hopefully make much better business decisions and head off problems before they occur.  Sensors, if monitored properly, can indicate trends and predict eventual problems.
  6. Customers Want More Information and Data—They Want It Now: Customer’s expectations for real-time shipment data is now available at their fingertips without having to pick up a telephone or send an e-mail.  Right now, that information is available quickly online or with a smartphone.

CONCLUSIONS: 

The world is changing at light speed, and mobility communications is one technology making this possible.  I have no idea as to where we will be in ten years, but it just might be exciting.


Portions of this post were taken from Design News Daily publication written by Chris Witz, August 2017.

I generally don’t “do” politics but recent activity relative to the Federal Jobs Initiative program have fallen upon hard times.  President Donald Trump has decided to disband the council of his Manufacturing Jobs Initiative. The announcement came Wednesday morning, after a significant exodus of council membership.  This exodus was in response to the President’s comments regarding a recent white supremacist protest in Charlottesville, VA.  By Tweet, the president said:

Rather than putting pressure on the businesspeople of the Manufacturing Council & Strategy & Policy Forum, I am ending both. Thank you all!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 16, 2017

I personally was very surprised by his reaction to several members pulling out of his committee and wonder if there was not more to ending the activities than meets the eye.

The members counseling President Trump were:

Brian Krzanich—CEO Intel

Ken Frazier—CEO Merk & Company

Kevin Plank—CEO UnderArmour

Elon Musk—CEO of SpaceX and Tesla

Bob Iger—CEO of Disney

Travis Kalanick—Former CEO of Uber

Scott Paul—President, Alliance for American Manufacturing

Richard Trumka—President, AFL-CIO

Inge Thulin—CEO 3M

Jamie Dimon—CEO of JPMorganChase

Steven Schwarzman—CEO of Blackstone

Rich Lesser—CEO of Boston Consulting Group

Doug McMillon—CEO of Walmart

Indra Nooyi—CEO and Chairperson of PepsiCo

Ginni Rometty—President and CEO of IBM

Jack Welch—Former CEO of General Electric Company

Toby Cosgrove—CEO of the Cleveland Clinic

Mary Barra—President and CEO of General Motors

Kevin Warsh—Fellow at the Hoover Institute

Paul Atkins– CEO of Patomak Global Partners LLC

Mark Weinberger– Global chairman and CEO, EY

Jim McNerney– Former chairman, president and CEO, Boeing

Adebayo Ogunlesi– Chairman, managing partner, Global Infrastructure Partners

Phillip Howard– Lawyer, Covington; founder of Common Good

Larry Fink—CEO of BlackRock

Matt Rose– Executive chairman, BNSF Railway

Andrew Liveris– Chairman, CEO, The Dow Chemical Company

Bill Brown—CEO, Harris Corporation

Michael Dell—CEO, Dell Technologies

John Ferriola– Chairman, president, CEO, Nucor Corporation

Jeff Fettig– Chairman, former CEO, Whirlpool Corporation

Alex Gorsky– Chairman, CEO, Johnson & Johnson

Greg Hayes– Chairman, CEO, United Technologies Corp

Marillyn Hewson– Chairman, president, CEO, Lockheed Martin Corporation

Jim Kamsickas– President, CEO, Dana Inc

Rich Kyle– President, CEO, The Timken Company

Jeff Immelt– Chairman, former CEO, General Electric

Denise Morrison– President, CEO, Campbell Soup Company

Dennis Muilenburg– Chairman, president, CEO, Boeing

Michael Polk– CEO, Newell Brands

Mark Sutton– Chairman, CEO, International Paper

Wendell Weeks—CEO, Corning

Mark Fields– Former CEO, Ford Motor Company

Mario Longhi– Former CEO, U.S. Steel

Doug Oberhelman– Former CEO, Caterpillar

Klaus Kleinfeld– Former Chairman, CEO, Arconic

I think we can all agree; this group of individuals are “BIG HITTERS”.  People on top of their game.  In looking at the list, I was very surprised at the diversity of products they represent.

As of Wednesday, members departing the committee are as follows:   Kenneth Frazier, CEO of pharmaceutical company Merck; Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank; Scott Paul, the president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing; Richard Trumka, of the AFL-CIO, along with Thea Lee, the AFL-CIO’s deputy chief of staff; 3M CEO Inge Thulin; and Intel CEO Brian Krzanich.

In a blog post , Intel’s Krzanich explained his departure, saying:

“I resigned to call attention to the serious harm our divided political climate is causing to critical issues, including the serious need to address the decline of American manufacturing. Politics and political agendas have sidelined the important mission of rebuilding America’s manufacturing base. … I am not a politician. I am an engineer who has spent most of his career working in factories that manufacture the world’s most advanced devices. Yet, it is clear even to me that nearly every issue is now politicized to the point where significant progress is impossible. Promoting American manufacturing should not be a political issue.”

Under Armour’s Plank, echoed Krzanich’s sentiment, expressing a desire to focus on technological innovation over political entanglements. In a statement released by Under Amour, Plank said,

“We remain resolute in our potential and ability to improve American manufacturing. However, Under Armour engages in innovation and sports, not politics …” In the past year Under Armour has gained attention for applying 3D printing techniques to shoe design and manufacturing.

Paul, of the Alliance of American Manufacturing, tweeted about his departure, saying, “… it’s the right thing to do.”

I’m resigning from the Manufacturing Jobs Initiative because it’s the right thing for me to do.

— Scott Paul (@ScottPaulAAM) August 15, 2017

President Trump’s Manufacturing Jobs Initiative, first announced back in January, was supposed to be a think tank, bringing together the most prominent business leaders in American manufacturing to tackle the problem of creating job growth in the manufacturing sector. At its inception the council boasted CEOs from companies including Tesla, Ford, Dow Chemical, Dell, Lockheed-Martin, and General Electric among its 28 members. However, over the course of the year the council had been steadily dwindling, with the largest exodus coming this week.

The first major blow to the council’s membership came in June when Tesla CEO Elon Musk resigned from the council in response to President Trump pulling out of the Paris climate accord. Musk, a known environmentalist , tweeted:

Am departing presidential councils. Climate change is real. Leaving Paris is not good for America or the world.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 1, 2017

At that same conference, when asked why he believed CEOs were leaving the manufacturing council, the President accused members of the council of being at odds with his plans to re-shore more jobs back to the US:

“Because [these CEOs] are not taking their job seriously as it pertains to this country. We want jobs, manufacturing in this country. If you look at some of those people that you’re talking about, they’re outside of the country. … We want products made in the country. Now, I have to tell you, some of the folks that will leave, they are leaving out of embarrassment because they make their products outside and I’ve been lecturing them … about you have to bring it back to this country. You can’t do it necessarily in Ireland and all of these other places. You have to bring this work back to this country. That’s what I want. I want manufacturing to be back into the United States so that American workers can benefit.”

Symbolic or Impactful?

It is unclear whether the dissolution of the manufacturing council will have an impact on Trump’s efforts to grow jobs in the US manufacturing sector. Some analysts have called the council little more than a symbolic gesture that was unlikely to have had any long-term impact on American manufacturing to begin with. Other analysts have credit Trump as a driving factor behind a spike in re-shoring in 2017. However other factors including labor costs and lack of skilled workers overseas are also playing a significant role as more advanced technologies in industries such as automotive and electronics hit the market.

CONCLUSIONS:

I personally regret the dissolution of the committee.  I think, given the proper leadership, they could have been very helpful regarding suggestions as to how to create and/or bring back jobs to our country.  In my opinion, President Trump simply did not have the leadership ability to hold the group together.  His actions over the past few months, beginning with leaving the Paris Climate Accord, simply gave them the excuse to leave the committee.  They simply flaked out.

As always, I welcome your comments.


The publication EfficientGov indicates the following: “The opioid crisis is creating a workforce epidemic leading to labor shortage and workplace safety and performance challenges.”

Opioid-related deaths have reached an all-time high in the United States. More than 47,000 people died in 2014, and the numbers are rising. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this month released prescribing guidelines to help primary care physicians safely treat chronic pain while reducing opioid dependency and abuse. Given that the guidelines are not binding, how will the CDC and the Department of Health and Human Services make sure they make a difference? What can payers and providers do to encourage a countrywide culture shift?

The opioid epidemic is also having widespread effects on many industries relative to labor shortages, workplace safety and worker performance.  Managers and owners are trying to figure out methods to deal with drug-addicted workers and job applicants.  HR managers cite the opioid crisis as one of their biggest challenges. Applicants are unwilling or unable to pass drug tests, employees are increasingly showing signs of addiction on the job and there are workers with opioid prescriptions having significant performance problems.

Let’s take a very quick look at only three employers and what they say about the crisis.

  • Clyde McClellan used to require a drug test before people could work at his Ohio pottery company, which produces 2,500 hand-cast coffee mugs a day for Starbucks and others. Now, he skips the tests and finds it more efficient to flat-out ask applicants: “What are you on?”
  • At Homer Laughlin China, a company that makes a colorful line of dishware known as Fiesta and employs 850 at a sprawling complex in Newell, W.V., up to half of applicants either fail or refuse to take mandatory pre-employment drug screens, said company president Liz McIlvain. “The drugs are so cheap and they’re so easily accessible,” McIlvain, a fourth-generation owner of the company, said. “We have a horrible problem here.”
  • “That is really the battlefield for us right now,” said Markus Dietrich,global manager of employee assistance and work-life services at chemical giant DuPont, which employs 46,000 worldwide.

As you might suspect, the epidemic is having a devastating effect on companies — large and small — and their ability to stay competitive. Managers and owners across the country are at a loss in how to deal with addicted workers and potential workers, calling the issue one of the biggest problems they face. Applicants are increasingly unwilling or unable to pass drug tests; then there are those who pass only to show signs of addiction once employed. Even more confounding: how to respond to employees who have a legitimate prescription for opioids but whose performance slips.  There are those individuals who have a need for pain-killers and to deny them would be difficult, but how do you deal with this if you are a manager and fear issues and potential law suites when there is over use?

The issue is amplifying labor shortages in industries like trucking, which has had difficulty for the last six (6) years finding qualified workers and drivers.  It is also pushing employers to broaden their job searches, recruiting people from greater distances when roles can’t be filled with local workers. At stake is not only safety and productivity within companies — but the need for humans altogether, with some manufacturers claiming opioids force them to automate work faster.

One corporate manager said: “You’re going to see manufacturing jobs slowly going away for, if nothing else, that reason alone.   “It’s getting worse, not better.”

Economists have noticed also. In Congressional testimony earlier this month, Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen related opioid use to a decline in the labor participation rate. The past three Fed surveys on the economy, known as the Beige Book, explicitly mentioned employers’ struggles in finding applicants to pass drug tests as a barrier to hiring. The surveys, snapshots of economic conditions in the Fed’s twelve (12) districts, don’t mention the type of drugs used.   A Congressional hearing in June of this year focused on opioids and their economic consequences, Ohio attorney general Mike DeWine estimated that forty (40) percent of applicants in the state either failed or refused a drug test. This prevents people from operating machinery, driving a truck or getting a job managing a McDonald’s, he said.

OK, what should a manufacturer do to lessen or hopefully eliminate the problem?  There have been put forth several suggestions, as follows:

Policy Option 1: Medical Education– Opioid education is crucial at all levels, from medical school and residency, through continuing education; and must involve primary care, specialists, mental health providers, pharmacies, emergency departments, clinics and patients. The push to increase opioid education must come from medical schools, academic medical centers, accrediting organizations and possibly state legislatures.

Policy Option 2: Continuing Medical Education– Emphasize the importance of continuing medical education (CME) for practicing physicians. CME can be strengthened by incorporating the new CDC guidelines, and physicians should learn when and how to safely prescribe these drugs and how to handle patients with drug-seeking behavior.

Policy Option 3: Public Education– Emphasize the need to address patient demand, not just physician supply, for opioids. It compared the necessary education to the campaign to reduce demand for antibiotics. The public needs to learn about the harms as well as the benefits of these powerful painkillers, and patients must understand that their pain can be treated with less-dangerous medications, or nonpharmacological interventions like physical therapy or acupuncture. Such education could be spearheaded by various physician associations and advocacy groups, with support from government agencies and officials at HHS and elsewhere.

Policy Option 4: Removing Perverse Incentives and Payment Barriers– Prescribing decisions are influenced by patient satisfaction surveys and insurance reimbursement practices, participants said. Patient satisfaction surveys are perceived — not necessarily accurately — as making it harder for physicians to say “no” to patients who are seeking opioids. Long-standing insurance practices, such as allowing only one pain prescription to be filled a month, are also encouraging doctors to prescribe more pills than a patient is likely to need — adding to the risk of overuse, as well as chance of theft, sale or other diversion of leftover drugs.

Policy Option 5: Solutions through Technology– Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMP) and Electronic Health Records (EHR) could be important tools in preventing opioid addiction, but several barriers stand in the way. The PDMP data are incomplete; for instance, a physician in Washington, D.C., can’t see whether a patient is also obtaining drugs in Maryland or Virginia. The records are not user friendly; and they need to be integrated into EHRs so doctors can access them both — without additional costs piled on by the vendors. It could be helpful if certain guidelines, like defaults for dosing and prescribing, were baked into the electronic records.

Policy Option 6: Access to addiction treatment and reducing stigma—There is a need to change how the country thinks about — and talks about — addiction and mental illness. Substance abuse treatment suffers when people with addiction are treated as criminals or deviants. Instead, substance abuse disorder should be treated as an illness, participants recommended. High deductibles in health plans, including Obamacare exchange plans, create another barrier to substance abuse treatment.

CONCLUSIONS:  I don’t really know how we got here but we are a country with a very very “deep bench”.  We know how to do things, so let’s put all of our resources together to solve this very troublesome problem.


Portions of the following post were taken from an article by Rob Spiegel publishing through Design News Daily.

Two former Apple design engineers – Anna Katrina Shedletsky and Samuel Weiss have leveraged machine learning to help brand owners improve their manufacturing lines. The company, Instrumental , uses artificial intelligence (AI) to identify and fix problems with the goal of helping clients ship on time. The AI system consists of camera-equipped inspection stations that allow brand owners to remotely manage product lines at their contact manufacturing facilities with the purpose of maximizing up-time, quality and speed. Their digital photo is shown as follows:

Shedletsky and Weiss took what they learned from years of working with Apple contract manufacturers and put it into AI software.

“The experience with Apple opened our eyes to what was possible. We wanted to build artificial intelligence for manufacturing. The technology had been proven in other industries and could be applied to the manufacturing industry,   it’s part of the evolution of what is happening in manufacturing. The product we offer today solves a very specific need, but it also works toward overall intelligence in manufacturing.”

Shedletsky spent six (6) years working at Apple prior to founding Instrumental with fellow Apple alum, Weiss, who serves Instrumental’s CTO (Chief Technical Officer).  The two took their experience in solving manufacturing problems and created the AI fix. “After spending hundreds of days at manufacturers responsible for millions of Apple products, we gained a deep understanding of the inefficiencies in the new-product development process,” said Shedletsky. “There’s no going back, robotics and automation have already changed manufacturing. Intelligence like the kind we are building will change it again. We can radically improve how companies make products.”

There are number examples of big and small companies with problems that prevent them from shipping products on time. Delays are expensive and can cause the loss of a sale. One day of delay at a start-up could cost $10,000 in sales. For a large company, the cost could be millions. “There are hundreds of issues that need to be found and solved. They are difficult and they have to be solved one at a time,” said Shedletsky. “You can get on a plane, go to a factory and look at failure analysis so you can see why you have problems. Or, you can reduce the amount of time needed to identify and fix the problems by analyzing them remotely, using a combo of hardware and software.”

Instrumental combines hardware and software that takes images of each unit at key states of assembly on the line. The system then makes those images remotely searchable and comparable in order for the brand owner to learn and react to assembly line data. Engineers can then take action on issues. “The station goes onto the assembly line in China,” said Shedletsky. “We get the data into the cloud to discover issues the contract manufacturer doesn’t know they have. With the data, you can do failure analysis and reduced the time it takes to find an issue and correct it.”

WHAT IS AI:

Artificial intelligence (AI) is intelligence exhibited by machines.  In computer science, the field of AI research defines itself as the study of “intelligent agents“: any device that perceives its environment and takes actions that maximize its chance of success at some goal.   Colloquially, the term “artificial intelligence” is applied when a machine mimics “cognitive” functions that humans associate with other human minds, such as “learning” and “problem solving”.

As machines become increasingly capable, mental facilities once thought to require intelligence are removed from the definition. For instance, optical character recognition is no longer perceived as an example of “artificial intelligence”, having become a routine technology.  Capabilities currently classified as AI include successfully understanding human speech,  competing at a high level in strategic game systems (such as chess and Go), autonomous cars, intelligent routing in content delivery networks, military simulations, and interpreting complex data.

FUTURE:

Some would have you believe that AI IS the future and we will succumb to the “Rise of the Machines”.  I’m not so melodramatic.  I feel AI has progressed and will progress to the point where great time saving and reduction in labor may be realized.   Anna Katrina Shedletsky and Samuel Weiss realize the potential and feel there will be no going back from this disruptive technology.   Moving AI to the factory floor will produce great benefits to manufacturing and other commercial enterprises.   There is also a significant possibility that job creation will occur as a result.  All is not doom and gloom.

%d bloggers like this: