Portions of the following post were taken from the September 2017 Machine Design Magazine.

We all like to keep up with salary levels within our chosen profession.  It’s a great indicator of where we stand relative to our peers and the industry we participate in.  The state of the engineering profession has always been relatively stable. Engineers are as essential to the job market as doctors are to medicine. Even in the face of automation and the fear many have of losing their jobs to robots, engineers are still in high demand.  I personally do not think most engineers will be out-placed by robotic systems.  That fear definitely resides with on-line manufacturing positions with duties that are repetitive in nature.  As long as engineers can think, they will have employment.

The Machine Design Annual Salary & Career Report collected information and opinions from more than two thousand (2,000) Machine Design readers. The employee outlook is very good with thirty-three percent (33%) indicating they are staying with their current employer and thirty-six percent (36%) of employers focusing on job retention. This is up fifteen percent (15%) from 2016.  From those who responded to the survey, the average reported salary for engineers across the country was $99,922, and almost sixty percent (57.9%) reported a salary increase while only ten percent (9.7%) reported a salary decrease. The top three earning industries with the largest work forces were 1.) industrial controls systems and equipment, 2.) research & development, and 3.) medical products. Among these industries, the average salary was $104,193. The West Coast looks like the best place for engineers to earn a living with the average salary in the states of California, Washington, and Oregon was $116,684. Of course, the cost of living in these three states is definitely higher than other regions of the country.

PROFILE OF THE ENGINEER IN THE USA TODAY:

As is the ongoing trend in engineering, the profession is dominated by male engineers, with seventy-one percent (71%) being over fifty (50) years of age. However, the MD report shows an up-swing of young engineers entering the profession.  One effort that has been underway for some years now is encouraging more women to enter the profession.  With seventy-one percent (71%) of the engineering workforce being over fifty, there is a definite need to attract participants.    There was an increase in engineers within between twenty-five (25) and thirty-five (35).  This was up from 5.6% to 9.2%.  The percentage of individuals entering the profession increased as well, with engineers with less than fourteen (14) years of experience increasing five percent (5%) from last year.  Even with all the challenges of engineering, ninety-two percent (92%) would still recommend the engineering profession to their children, grandchildren and others. One engineer responds, “In fact, wherever I’ll go, I always will have an engineer’s point of view. Trying to understand how things work, and how to improve them.”

 

When asked about foreign labor forces, fifty-four percent (54%) believe H1-B visas hurt engineering employment opportunities and sixty-one percent (61%) support measures to reform the system. In terms of outsourcing, fifty-two percent (52%) reported their companies outsource work—the main reason being lack of in-house talent. However, seventy-three percent (73%) of the outsourced work is toward other U.S. locations. When discussing the future, the job force, fifty-five percent (55%) of engineers believe there is a job shortage, specifically in the skilled labor area. An overwhelming eighty-seven percent (87%) believe that we lack a skilled labor force. According to the MD readers, the strongest place for job growth is in automation at forty-five percent (45%) and the strongest place to look for skilled laborers is in vocational schools at thirty-two percent (32%). The future of engineering is dependent on the new engineers not only in school today, but also in younger people just starting their young science, technology, engineering, and mathematic (STEM) interests. With the average engineer being fifty (50) years or old, the future of engineering will rely heavily on new engineers willing to carry the torch—eighty-seven percent (87%) of our engineers believe there needs to be more focus on STEM at an earlier age to make sure the future of engineering is secure.

With being the case, let us now look at the numbers.

The engineering profession is a “graying” profession as mentioned earlier.  The next digital picture will indicate that, for the most part, those in engineering have been in for the “long haul”.  They are “lifers”.  This fact speaks volumes when trying to influence young men and women to consider the field of engineering.  If you look at “years in the profession”, “work location” and years at present employer” we see the following:

The slide below is a surprise to me and I think the first time the question has been asked by Machine Design.  How much of your engineering training is theory vs. practice? You can see the greatest response is almost fourteen percent (13.6%) with a fifty/fifty balance between theory and practice.  In my opinion, this is as it should be.

“The theory can be learned in a school, but the practical applications need to be learned on the job. The academic world is out of touch with the current reality of practical applications since they do not work in

that area.” “My university required three internships prior to graduating. This allowed them to focus significantly on theoretical, fundamental knowledge and have the internships bolster the practical.”

ENGINEERING CERTIFICATIONS:

The demands made on engineers by their respective companies can sometimes be time-consuming.  The respondents indicated the following certifications their companies felt necessary.

 

 

SALARIES:

The lowest salary is found with contract design and manufacturing.  Even this salary, would be much desired by just about any individual.

As we mentioned earlier, the West Coast provides the highest salary with several states in the New England area coming is a fairly close second.

 

SALARY LEVELS VS. EXPERIENCE:

This one should be no surprise.  The greater number of years in the profession—the greater the salary level.  Forty (40) plus years provides an average salary of approximately $100,000.  Management, as you might expect, makes the highest salary with an average being $126,052.88.

OUTSOURCING:

 

As mentioned earlier, outsourcing is a huge concern to the engineering community. The chart below indicates where the jobs go.

JOB SATISFACTION:

 

Most engineers will tell you they stay in the profession because they love the work. The euphoria created by a “really neat” design stays with an engineer much longer than an elevated pay check.  Engineers love solving problems.  Only two percent (2%) told MD they are not satisfied at all with their profession or current employer.  This is significant.

Any reason or reasons for leaving the engineering profession are shown by the following graphic.

ENGINEERING AND SOCIETY: 

As mentioned earlier, engineers are very worried about the H1-B visa program and trade policies issued by President Trump and the Legislative Branch of our country.  The Trans-Pacific Partnership has been “nixed” by President Trump but trade policies such as NAFTA and trade between the EU are still of great concern to engineers.  Trade with China, patent infringement, and cyber security remain big issues with the STEM profession and certainly engineers.

 

CONCLUSIONS:

I think it’s very safe to say that, for the most part, engineers are very satisfied with the profession and the salary levels offered by the profession.  Job satisfaction is great making the dawn of a new day something NOT to be dreaded.

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WHERE WE ARE:

The manufacturing industry remains an essential component of the U.S. economy.  In 2016, manufacturing accounted for almost twelve percent (11.7%) of the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) and contributed slightly over two trillion dollars ($2.18 trillion) to our economy. Every dollar spent in manufacturing adds close to two dollars ($1.81) to the economy because it contributes to development in auxiliary sectors such as logistics, retail, and business services.  I personally think this is a striking number when you compare that contribution to other sectors of our economy.  Interestingly enough, according to recent research, manufacturing could constitute as much as thirty-three percent (33%) of the U.S. GDP if both its entire value chain and production for other sectors are included.  Research from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that employment in manufacturing has been trending up since January of 2017. After double-digit gains in the first quarter of 2017, six thousand (6,000) new jobs were added in April.  Currently, the manufacturing industry employs 12,396,000 people, which equals more than nine percent (9%) of the U.S. workforce.   Nonetheless, many experts are concerned that these employment gains are soon to be halted by the ever-rising adoption of automation. Yet automation is inevitable—and like in the previous industrial revolutions, automation is likely to result in job creation in the long term.  If we look back at the Industrial Revolution.

INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION:

The Industrial Revolution began in the late 18th century when a series of new inventions such as the spinning jenny and steam engine transformed manufacturing in Britain. The changes in British manufacturing spread across Europe and America, replacing traditional rural lifestyles as people migrated to cities in search of work. Men, women and children worked in the new factories operating machines that spun and wove cloth, or made pottery, paper and glass.

Women under 20 made comprised the majority of all factory workers, according to an article on the Industrial Revolution by the Economic History Association. Many power loom workers, and most water frame and spinning jenny workers, were women. However, few women were mule spinners, and male workers sometimes violently resisted attempts to hire women for this position, although some women did work as assistant mule spinners. Many children also worked in the factories and mines, operating the same dangerous equipment as adult workers.  As you might suspect, this was a great departure from times prior to the revolution.

WHERE WE ARE GOING:

In an attempt to create more jobs, the new administration is reassessing free trade agreements, leveraging tariffs on imports, and promising tax incentives to manufacturers to keep their production plants in the U.S. Yet while these measures are certainly making the U.S. more attractive for manufacturers, they’re unlikely to directly increase the number of jobs in the sector. What it will do, however, is free up more capital for manufacturers to invest in automation. This will have the following benefits:

  • Automation will reduce production costs and make U.S. companies more competitive in the global market. High domestic operating costs—in large part due to comparatively high wages—compromise the U.S. manufacturing industry’s position as the world leader. Our main competitor is China, where low-cost production plants currently produce almost eighteen percent (17.6%) of the world’s goods—just zero-point percent (0.6%) less than the U.S. Automation allows manufacturers to reduce labor costs and streamline processes. Lower manufacturing costs results in lower product prices, which in turn will increase demand.

Low-cost production plants in China currently produce 17.6% of the world’s goods—just 0.6% less

than the U.S.

  • Automation increases productivity and improves quality. Smart manufacturing processes that make use of technologies such as robotics, big data, analytics, sensors, and the IoT are faster, safer, more accurate, and more consistent than traditional assembly lines. Robotics provide 24/7 labor, while automated systems perform real-time monitoring of the production process. Irregularities, such as equipment failures or quality glitches, can be immediately addressed. Connected plants use sensors to keep track of inventory and equipment performance, and automatically send orders to suppliers when necessary. All of this combined minimizes downtime, while maximizing output and product quality.
  • Manufacturers will re-invest in innovation and R&D. Cutting-edge technologies. such as robotics, additive manufacturing, and augmented reality (AR) are likely to be widely adopted within a few years. For example, Apple® CEO Tim Cook recently announced the tech giant’s $1 billion investment fund aimed at assisting U.S. companies practicing advanced manufacturing. To remain competitive, manufacturers will have to re-invest a portion of their profits in R&D. An important aspect of innovation will involve determining how to integrate increasingly sophisticated technologies with human functions to create highly effective solutions that support manufacturers’ outcomes.

Technologies such as robotics, additive manufacturing, and augmented reality are likely to be widely adopted soon. To remain competitive, manufacturers will have to re-invest a portion of their profits in R&D.

HOW AUTOMATION WILL AFFECT THE WORKFORCE:

Now, let’s look at the five ways in which automation will affect the workforce.

  • Certain jobs will be eliminated.  By 2025, 3.5 million jobs will be created in manufacturing—yet due to the skills gap, two (2) million will remain unfilled. Certain repetitive jobs, primarily on the assembly line will be eliminated.  This trend is with us right now.  Retraining of employees is imperative.
  • Current jobs will be modified.  In sixty percent (60%) of all occupations, thirty percent (30%) of the tasks can be automated.  For the first time, we hear the word “co-bot”.  Co-bot is robotic assisted manufacturing where an employee works side-by-side with a robotic system.  It’s happening right now.
  • New jobs will be created. There are several ways automation will create new jobs. First, lower operating costs will make U.S. products more affordable, which will result in rising demand. This in turn will increase production volume and create more jobs. Second, while automation can streamline and optimize processes, there are still tasks that haven’t been or can’t be fully automated. Supervision, maintenance, and troubleshooting will all require a human component for the foreseeable future. Third, as more manufacturers adopt new technologies, there’s a growing need to fill new roles such as data scientists and IoT engineers. Fourth, as technology evolves due to practical application, new roles that integrate human skills with technology will be created and quickly become commonplace.
  • There will be a skills gap between eliminated jobs and modified or new roles. Manufacturers should partner with educational institutions that offer vocational training in STEM fields. By offering students on-the-job training, they can foster a skilled and loyal workforce.  Manufacturers need to step up and offer additional job training.  Employees need to step up and accept the training that is being offered.  Survival is dependent upon both.
  • The manufacturing workforce will keep evolving. Manufacturers must invest in talent acquisition and development—both to build expertise in-house and to facilitate continuous innovation.  Ten years ago, would you have heard the words, RFID, Biometrics, Stereolithography, Additive manufacturing?  I don’t think so.  The workforce MUST keep evolving because technology will only improve and become a more-present force on the manufacturing floor.

As always, I welcome your comments.


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.


One of the best things the automotive industry accomplishes is showing us what might be in our future.  They all have the finances, creative talent and vision to provide a glimpse into their “wish list” for upcoming vehicles.  Mercedes Benz has done just that with their futuristic F 015 Luxury in Motion.

In order to provide a foundation for the new autonomous F 015 Luxury in Motion research vehicle, an interdisciplinary team of experts from Mercedes-Benz has devised a scenario that incorporates different aspects of day-to-day mobility. Above and beyond its mobility function, this scenario perceives the motor car as a private retreat that additionally offers an important added value for society at large. (I like the word retreat.) If you take a look at how much time the “average” individual spends in his or her automobile or truck, we see the following:

  • On average, Americans drive 29.2 miles per day, making two trips with an average total duration of forty-six (46) minutes. This and other revealing data are the result of a ground-breaking study currently underway by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and the Urban Institute.
  • Motorists age sixteen (16) years and older drive, on average, 29.2 miles per day or 10,658 miles per year.
  • Women take more driving trips, but men spend twenty-five (25) percent more time behind the wheel and drive thirty-five (35) percent more miles than women.
  • Both teenagers and seniors over the age of seventy-five (75) drive less than any other age group; motorists 30-49 years old drive an average 13,140 miles annually, more than any other age group.
  • The average distance and time spent driving increase in relation to higher levels of education. A driver with a grade school or some high school education drove an average of 19.9 miles and 32 minutes daily, while a college graduate drove an average of 37.2 miles and 58 minutes.
  • Drivers who reported living “in the country” or “a small town” drive greater distances (12,264 miles annually) and spend a greater amount of time driving than people who described living in a “medium sized town” or city (9,709 miles annually).
  • Motorists in the South drive the most (11,826 miles annually), while those in the Northeast drive the least (8,468 miles annually).

With this being the case, why not enjoy it?

The F 015 made its debut at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas more than two years ago. It’s packed with advanced (or what was considered advanced in 2015) autonomous technology, and can, in theory, run for almost 900 kilometers on a mixture of pure electric power and a hydrogen fuel cell.

But while countless other vehicles are still trying to prove that cars can, literally, drive themselves, the Mercedes-Benz offering takes this for granted. Instead, this vehicle wants us to consider what we’ll actually do while the car is driving us around.

The steering wheel slides into the dashboard to create more of a “lounge” space. The seating configuration allows four people to face each other if they want to talk. And when the onboard conversation dries up, a bewildering collection of screens — one on the rear wall, and one on each of the doors — offers plenty of opportunity to interact with various media.

The F 015 could have done all of this as a flash-in-the-pan show car — seen at a couple of major events before vanishing without trace. But in fact, it has been touring almost constantly since that Vegas debut.

“Anyone who focuses solely on the technology has not yet grasped how autonomous driving will change our society,” emphasizes Dr Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler AG and Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars. “The car is growing beyond its role as a mere means of transport and will ultimately become a mobile living space.”

The visionary research vehicle was born, a vehicle which raises comfort and luxury to a new level by offering a maximum of space and a lounge character on the inside. Every facet of the F 015 Luxury in Motion is the utmost reflection of the Mercedes way of interpreting the terms “modern luxury”, emotion and intelligence.

This innovative four-seater is a forerunner of a mobility revolution, and this is immediately apparent from its futuristic appearance. Sensuousness and clarity, the core elements of the Mercedes-Benz design philosophy, combine to create a unique, progressive aesthetic appeal.

OK, with this being the case, let us now take a pictorial look at what the “Benz” has to offer.

One look and you can see the car is definitely aerodynamic in styling.  I am very sure that much time has been spent with this “ride” in wind tunnels with slip streams being monitored carefully.  That is where drag coefficients are determined initially.

The two JPEGs above indicate the front and rear swept glass windshields that definitely reduce induced drag.

The interiors are the most striking feature of this automobile.

Please note, this version is a four-seater but with plenty of leg-room.

Each occupant has a touch screen, presumably for accessing wireless or the Internet.  One thing, as yet there is no published list price for the car.  I’m sure that is being considered at this time but no USD numbers to date.  Also, as mentioned the car is self-driving so that brings on added complexities.  By design, this vehicle is a moving computer.  It has to be.  I am always very interested in maintenance and training necessary to diagnose and repair a vehicle such as this.  Infrastructure MUST be in place to facilitate quick turnaround when trouble arises–both mechanical and electrical.

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.

VOLVO ANNOUNCEMENT

July 7, 2017


Certain portions of this post were taken from Mr. Chris Wiltz writing for Design News Daily.

I don’t know if you are familiar with the VOLVO line of automobiles but for years the brand has been known for safety and durability.  My wife drives a 2005 VOLVO S-40 with great satisfaction relative to reliability and cost of maintenance.  The S-40 has about 150,000 miles on the odometer and continues to run like a Singer Sewing Machine.   The “boxy, smoking diesel” VOLVO of years-gone-by has been replaced by a very sleek aerodynamic configuration representing significant improvements in design and styling.  You can take a look at the next two digitals to see where they are inside and out.

As you can see from the JPEG above, the styling is definitely twenty-first century with agreeable slip-stream considerations in mind.

The interior is state-of-the art with all the whistles and bells necessary to attract the most discerning buyer.

Volvo announced this past Tuesday that starting in 2019 it will only make fully electric or hybrid cars.  “This announcement marks the end of the solely combustion engine-powered car,” Håkan Samuelsson, Volvo’s president and chief executive, said in a statement.  The move is a significant bet by the carmaker indicating they feel the age of the internal-combustion engine is quickly coming to an end.  Right now, the Gothenburg, Sweden-based automaker is lone among the world’s major automakers to move so aggressively into electric or hybrid cars. Volvo sold around half a million cars last year, significantly less than the world’s largest car companies such as Toyota, Volkswagen, and GM, but far greater than the 76,000 sold by Tesla, the all-electric carmaker.

Every car it produces from 2019 forward will have an electric motor.   Håkan Samuelsson indicated there has been a clear increase in consumer demand as well as a “commitment towards reducing the carbon footprint thereby contributing to better air quality in our cities.”  The Swedish automaker will cease production of pure internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles and will not plan any new developments into diesel engines.

The company will begin producing three levels of electric vehicles (mild, Twin Engine, and fully electric) and has committed to commercializing one million Twin Engine or all-electric cars until 2025.   Between 2019 and 2021 Volvo plans to launch five fully electric cars, three of which will be Volvo models and two that will be high performance electric vehicles from Polestar, Volvo’s performance car division. Samuelsson said all of these electric vehicles will be new models and not necessarily new stylings of existing Volvo models.

Technical details on the vehicles were sparse during a press conference held by Volvo, but the company did offer information about its three electric vehicle tiers. The mild electric vehicles, which Volvo views as a stepping stone away from ICEs, will feature a forty-eight (48) volt system featuring a battery in conjunction with a complex system functioning as a starter, generator, and electric motor.   Twin Engine will be a plug-in hybrid system. During the press conference Henrik Green, Senior VP of R&D at Volvo, said the company will be striving to provide a “very competitive range” with these new vehicles, which will be available in medium range and long range – at least up to 500 kilometers (about 311 miles) on a single charge. Green said Volvo has not yet settled on a battery supplier, but said the company is looking at all available suppliers for the best option.  “When it comes to batteries of course it’s a highly competitive and important component in all the future pure battery electric vehicles,” he said. Samuelsson added that this should also be taken as an invitation for more companies to invest in battery research and development. “We need new players and competition in battery manufacturing,” Samuelsson said.

This new announcement represents a dramatic shift in point of view for Volvo. Back in 2014 Samuelsson said the company didn’t believe in all-electric vehicles and said that hybrids were the way forward. Why the change of heart? Samuelsson told the press conference audience that Volvo was initially skeptical about the cost level of batteries and the lack of infrastructure to for recharging electric cars. “Things have moved faster, costumer demand has increased, battery costs have come down and there is movement now in charging infrastructure,” he said.

Top of Form

VOLVO did not unveil any details on vehicle costs. However, earlier reports from the Geneva Motor Show in March quoted Lex Kerssemakers , CEO of Volvo Car USA, as saying that the company’s first all-electric vehicle would have a range of at least 250 miles and price point of between 35,000 and $40,000 when it is released in 2019.

I think this is a fascinating step on the part of VOLVO.  They are placing all of their money on environmental efforts to reduce emissions.  I think that is very commendable.  Hopefully their vision for the future improves their brand and does not harm their sales efforts.

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