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.

LIBRARY OF CONGRESS

July 22, 2017


About two weeks ago I visited our Chattanooga Hamilton County Bicentennial Public Library.  The library is right downtown and performs a great service to the citizens of the tri-state area—or at one time did.  Let me explain.   I needed to check out a book on Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) for a course I’m writing for PDHonline.com.  PDH is the online publisher providing continuing education units (CEUs) for individuals needing twelve (12) or twenty-four (24) credit units per year.  Enough of that.

The science and technical material has always been on the second floor providing a wealth of information for gear-heads like me.  At one time, the library maintained up to date information on most subjects technical and otherwise.   I have been told in times past: “if we don’t have it—we can order it for you”.   I was absolutely amazed as to what I found.  The floor was almost vacant.  All of the technical books and material were gone.  There were no stacks—no books—no periodicals providing monthly information.  You could have turned the second floor into a bowling alley with room for a bar and grill.  (I suggested that to the librarian on my way out.)  I went over to the desk to inquire as to where were all the book.  All the technical “stuff”.  I was told the “Public Library is now focusing on cultural information and was no longer a research library. You can find most of that information on line”.  Besides, those who visit the library on a regular basis voted to eliminate our research capability”.  I inquired, ‘you mean to tell me I can check our “Fifty Shades of Grey” but can’t find information on ANY technical subject?”  I am assuming with that comment I am no longer on her Christmas card list.  It did not go over very well and by the way, I did not get a vote.  What genius made that decision anyway?  That statement also went over like a led balloon.  I left.

I decided to take a look at what complexities might be involved with getting a library card from the Library of Congress.  That lead me to obtaining information on the Library.  This is what I found.

HISTORY:

The Library of Congress was established by an act of Congress in 1800.  President John Adams signed a bill providing for the transfer of the seat of government from Philadelphia to the new capital city of Washington. The legislation described a reference library for Congress only, containing “such books as may be necessary for the use of Congress – and for putting up a suitable apartment for containing them therein…”

Established with $5,000 appropriated by the legislation, the original library was housed in the new Capitol until August 1814, when invading British troops set fire to the Capitol Building, burning and pillaging the contents of the small library.  Within a month, retired President Thomas Jefferson offered his personal library as a replacement. Jefferson had spent fifty (50) years accumulating books, “putting by everything which related to America, and indeed whatever was rare and valuable in every science”; his library was considered to be one of the finest in the United States.  In offering his collection to Congress, Jefferson anticipated controversy over the nature of his collection, which included books in foreign languages and volumes of philosophy, science, literature, and other topics not normally viewed as part of a legislative library. He wrote, “I do not know that it contains any branch of science which Congress would wish to exclude from their collection; there is, in fact, no subject to which a Member of Congress may not have occasion to refer.”

In January 1815, Congress accepted Jefferson’s offer, appropriating $23,950 for his 6,487 books, and the foundation was laid for a great national library. The Jeffersonian concept of universality, the belief that all subjects are important to the library of the American legislature, is the philosophy and rationale behind the comprehensive collecting policies of today’s Library of Congress.

Ainsworth Rand Spofford, Librarian of Congress from 1864 to 1897, applied Jefferson’s philosophy on a grand scale and built the Library into a national institution. Spofford was responsible for the copyright law of 1870, which required all copyright applicants to send to the Library two copies of their work. This resulted in a flood of books, pamphlets, maps, music, prints, and photographs. Facing a shortage of shelf space at the Capitol, Spofford convinced Congress of the need for a new building, and in 1873 Congress authorized a competition to design plans for the new Library.

In 1886, after many proposals and much controversy, Congress authorized construction of a new Library building in the style of the Italian Renaissance in accordance with a design prepared by Washington architects John L. Smithmeyer and Paul J. Pelz.  The Congressional authorization was successful because of the hard work of two key Senators: Daniel W. Voorhees (Indiana), who served as chairman of the Joint Committee from 1879 to 1881, and Justin S. Morrill (Vermont), chairman of Senate Committee on Buildings and Grounds.

In 1888, General Thomas Lincoln Casey, chief of the Army Corps of Engineers, was placed in charge of construction. His chief assistant was Bernard R. Green, who was intimately involved with the building until his death in 1914. Beginning in 1892, a new architect, Edward Pearce Casey, the son of General Casey, began to supervise the interior work, including sculptural and painted decoration by more than 50 American artists. When the Library of Congress building opened its doors to the public on November 1, 1897, it was hailed as a glorious national monument and “the largest, the costliest, and the safest” library building in the world.

FACTS AND INFORMATION:

Today’s Library of Congress is an unparalleled world resource. The collection of more than 164 million items includes more than 38.6 million cataloged books and other print materials in 470 languages; more than 70 million manuscripts; the largest rare book collection in North America; and the world’s largest collection of legal materials, films, maps, sheet music and sound recordings.

In fiscal year 2016 (October 2015 to September 2016), the Library of Congress …

  • Responded to more than 1 million reference requests from Congress, the public and other federal agencies and delivered approximately 18,380 volumes from the Library’s collections to congressional offices
  • Registered 414,269 claims to copyright through its U.S. Copyright Office
  • Circulated nearly 22 million copies of Braille and recorded books and magazines to more than 800,000 blind and physically handicapped reader accounts
  • Circulated more than 997,000 items for use inside and outside the Library
  • Preserved more than 10.5 million items from the Library’s collections
  • Recorded a total of 164,403,119 items in the collections
  • 24,189,688 cataloged books in the Library of Congress classification system
  • 14,660,079 items in the non-classified print collections, including books in large type and raised characters, incunabula (books printed before 1501), monographs and serials, bound newspapers, pamphlets, technical reports, and other printed material
  • 125,553,352 items in the non-classified (special) collections, including:
  • 3,670,573 audio materials, (discs, tapes, talking books, other recorded formats)
  • 70,685,319 manuscripts
  • 5,581,756 maps
  • 17,153,167 microforms
  • 1,809,351 moving images
  • 8,189,340 items of sheet music
  • 15,071,355 visual materials including:
  • 14,290,385 photographs
  • 107,825 posters
  • 673,145 prints and drawings
  • 3,392,491 other items, (including machine-readable items.
  • Welcomed nearly 1.8 million onsite visitors and recorded 92.8 million visits and more than 454 million-page views on the Library’s web properties
  • Employed 3,149 permanent staff members
  • Operated with a total fiscal 2016 appropriation of $642.04 million, including the authority to spend $42.13 million in receipts

I think anyone would admit, 2016 was a big year.  If we look at the library itself, we see the following grand structure inside and out:

As you might expect, the building itself is very imposing.

This is one view of the rotunda and the reading desks layout.

Very creative layout highlighting the arrangement in a circular pattern.

The reading desks from ground level.

CONCLUSIONS:

I intend to apply for a library card to the Library of Congress only because they have a mail-order arrangement any citizen and non-governmental type can use.  Better than buying book-after-book that probably will not be read more than once. The process is not that difficult and the paperwork is fairly straightforward, at least for the FED.


Various definitions of product lifecycle management or PLM have been issued over the years but basically: product lifecycle management is the process of managing the entire lifecycle of a product from inception, through engineering design and manufacture, to service and disposal of manufactured products.  PLM integrates people, data, processes and business systems and provides a product information backbone for companies and their extended enterprise.

“In recent years, great emphasis has been put on disposal of a product after its service life has been met.  How to get rid of a product or component is extremely important. Disposal methodology is covered by RoHS standards for the European Community.  If you sell into the EU, you will have to designate proper disposal.  Dumping in a landfill is no longer appropriate.

Since this course deals with the application of PLM to industry, we will now look at various industry definitions.

Industry Definitions

PLM is a strategic business approach that applies a consistent set of business solutions in support of the collaborative creation, management, dissemination, and use of product definition information across the extended enterprise, and spanning from product concept to end of life integrating people, processes, business systems, and information. PLM forms the product information backbone for a company and its extended enterprise.” Source:  CIMdata

“Product life cycle management or PLM is an all-encompassing approach for innovation, new product development and introduction (NPDI) and product information management from initial idea to the end of life.  PLM Systems is an enabling technology for PLM integrating people, data, processes, and business systems and providing a product information backbone for companies and their extended enterprise.” Source:  PLM Technology Guide

“The core of PLM (product life cycle management) is in the creation and central management of all product data and the technology used to access this information and knowledge. PLM as a discipline emerged from tools such as CAD, CAM and PDM, but can be viewed as the integration of these tools with methods, people and the processes through all stages of a product’s life.” Source:  Wikipedia article on Product Lifecycle Management

“Product life cycle management is the process of managing product-related design, production and maintenance information. PLM may also serve as the central repository for secondary information, such as vendor application notes, catalogs, customer feedback, marketing plans, archived project schedules, and other information acquired over the product’s life.” Source:  Product Lifecycle Management

“It is important to note that PLM is not a definition of a piece, or pieces, of technology. It is a definition of a business approach to solving the problem of managing the complete set of product definition information-creating that information, managing it through its life, and disseminating and using it throughout the lifecycle of the product. PLM is not just a technology, but is an approach in which processes are as important, or more important than data.” Source:  CIMdata

“PLM or Product Life Cycle Management is a process or system used to manage the data and design process associated with the life of a product from its conception and envisioning through its manufacture, to its retirement and disposal. PLM manages data, people, business processes, manufacturing processes, and anything else pertaining to a product. A PLM system acts as a central information hub for everyone associated with a given product, so a well-managed PLM system can streamline product development and facilitate easier communication among those working on/with a product. Source:  Aras

A pictorial representation of PLM may be seen as follows:

Hopefully, you can see that PLM deals with methodologies from “white napkin design to landfill disposal”.  Please note, documentation is critical to all aspects of PLM and good document production, storage and retrieval is extremely important to the overall process.  We are talking about CAD, CAM, CAE, DFSS, laboratory testing notes, etc.  In other words, “the whole nine yards of product life”.   If you work in a company with ISO certification, PLM is a great method to insure retaining that certification.

In looking at the four stages of a products lifecycle, we see the following:

Four Stages of Product Life Cycle—Marketing and Sales:

Introduction: When the product is brought into the market. In this stage, there’s heavy marketing activity, product promotion and the product is put into limited outlets in a few channels for distribution. Sales take off slowly in this stage. The need is to create awareness, not profits.

The second stage is growth. In this stage, sales take off, the market knows of the product; other companies are attracted, profits begin to come in and market shares stabilize.

The third stage is maturity, where sales grow at slowing rates and finally stabilize. In this stage, products get differentiated, price wars and sales promotion become common and a few weaker players exit.

The fourth stage is decline. Here, sales drop, as consumers may have changed, the product is no longer relevant or useful. Price wars continue, several products are withdrawn and cost control becomes the way out for most products in this stage.

Benefits of PLM Relative to the Four Stages of Product Life:

Considering the benefits of Product Lifecycle Management, we realize the following:

  • Reduced time to market
  • Increase full price sales
  • Improved product quality and reliability
  • Reduced prototypingcosts
  • More accurate and timely request for quote generation
  • Ability to quickly identify potential sales opportunities and revenue contributions
  • Savings through the re-use of original data
  • frameworkfor product optimization
  • Reduced waste
  • Savings through the complete integration of engineering workflows
  • Documentation that can assist in proving compliance for RoHSor Title 21 CFR Part 11
  • Ability to provide contract manufacturers with access to a centralized product record
  • Seasonal fluctuation management
  • Improved forecasting to reduce material costs
  • Maximize supply chain collaboration
  • Allowing for much better “troubleshooting” when field problems arise. This is accomplished by laboratory testing and reliability testing documentation.

PLM considers not only the four stages of a product’s lifecycle but all of the work prior to marketing and sales AND disposal after the product is removed from commercialization.   With this in mind, why is PLM a necessary business technique today?  Because increases in technology, manpower and specialization of departments, PLM was needed to integrate all activity toward the design, manufacturing and support of the product. Back in the late 1960s when the F-15 Eagle was conceived and developed, almost all manufacturing and design processes were done by hand.  Blueprints or drawings needed to make the parts for the F15 were created on a piece of paper. No electronics, no emails – all paper for documents. This caused a lack of efficiency in design and manufacturing compared to today’s technology.  OK, another example of today’s technology and the application of PLM.

If we look at the processes for Boeings DREAMLINER, we see the 787 Dreamliner has about 2.3 million parts per airplane.  Development and production of the 787 has involved a large-scale collaboration with numerous suppliers worldwide. They include everything from “fasten seatbelt” signs to jet engines and vary in size from small fasteners to large fuselage sections. Some parts are built by Boeing, and others are purchased from supplier partners around the world.  In 2012, Boeing purchased approximately seventy-five (75) percent of its supplier content from U.S. companies. On the 787 program, content from non-U.S. suppliers accounts for about thirty (30) percent of purchased parts and assemblies.  PLM or Boeing’s version of PLM was used to bring about commercialization of the 787 Dreamliner.

 


Information for this post is taken from the following companies:

  • Wholers Associates
  • Gartner
  • Oerlikon
  • SmartTech Publishing

3-D ADDITIVE MANUFACTURING:

I think before we get up and running let us define “additive manufacturing”.

Additive Manufacturing or AM is an appropriate name to describe the technologies that build 3D objects by adding layer-upon-layer of material, whether the material is plastic, metal, concrete human tissue. Believe it or not, additive manufacturing is now, on a limited basis, able to construct objects from human tissue to repair body parts that have been damaged and/or absent.

Common to AM technologies is the use of a computer, 3D modeling software (Computer Aided Design or CAD), machine equipment and layering material.  Once a CAD sketch is produced, the AM equipment reads in data from the CAD file and lays downs or adds successive layers of liquid, powder, sheet material or other, in a layer-upon-layer fashion to fabricate a 3D object.

The term AM encompasses many technologies including subsets like 3D Printing, Rapid Prototyping (RP), Direct Digital Manufacturing (DDM), layered manufacturing and additive fabrication.

AM application is limitless. Early use of AM in the form of Rapid Prototyping focused on preproduction visualization models. More recently, AM is being used to fabricate end-use products in aircraft, dental restorations, medical implants, automobiles, and even fashion products.

RAPID PROTOTYPING & MANUFACTURING (RP&M) TECHNOLOGIES:

There are several viable options available today that take advantage of rapid prototyping technologies.   All of the methods shown below are considered to be rapid prototyping and manufacturing technologies.

  • (SLA) Stereolithography
  • (SLS) Selective Laser Sintering
  • (FDM) Fused Deposition Modeling
  • (3DP) Three-Dimensional Printing
  • (Pjet) Poly-Jet
  • Laminated Object Manufacturing

PRODUCT POSSIBILITIES:

Frankly, if it the configuration can be programmed, it can be printed.  The possibilities are absolutely endless.

Assortment of components: flange mount and external gear.

Bone fragment depicting a fractured bone.  This printed product will aid the efforts of a surgeon to make the necessary repair.

More and more, 3D printing is used to model teeth and jaw lines prior to extensive dental work.  It gives the dental surgeon a better look at a patients mouth prior to surgery.

You can see the intricate detail of the Eiffel Tower and the show sole in the JPEGs above.  3D printing can provide an enormous amount of detail to the end user.

THE MARKET:

3D printing is a disruptive technology that is definitely on the rise.  Let’s take a look at future possibilities and current practices.

GROWTH:

Wohlers Associates has been tracking the market for machines that produce metal parts for fourteen (14) years.  The Wohlers Report 2014 marks only the second time for the company to publish detailed information on metal based AM machine unit sales by year. The following chart shows that 348 of 3D machines were sold in 2013, compared to 198 in 2012—growth of an impressive 75.8%.

Additive manufacturing industry grew by 17.4% in worldwide revenues in 2016, reaching $6.063 billion.

MATERIALS USED:

Nearly one-half of the 3D printing/additive manufacturing service providers surveyed in 2016 offered metal printing.

GLOBAL MARKETS:

NUMBER OF VENDORS OFFERING EQUIPMENT:

The number of companies producing and selling additive manufacturing equipment

  • 2014—49
  • 2015—62
  • 2016—97

USERS:

World-wide shipments of 3D printers were projected to reach 455,772 units in 2016. 6.7 million units are expected to be shipped by 2020

More than 278,000 desktop 3D printers (under $5,000) were sold worldwide last year, according to Wohlers Associates. The report has a chart to illustrate and it looks like the proverbial hockey stick that you hear venture capitalists talk about: Growth that moves rapidly from horizontal to vertical (from 2010 to 2015 for desktop).

According to Wohlers Report 2016, the additive manufacturing (AM) industry grew 25.9% (CAGR – Corporate Annual Growth Rate) to $5.165 billion in 2015. Frequently called 3D printing by those outside of manufacturing circles, the industry growth consists of all AM products and services worldwide. The CAGR for the previous three years was 33.8%. Over the past 27 years, the CAGR for the industry is an impressive 26.2%. Clearly, this is not a market segment that is declining as you might otherwise read.

THE MARKET:

  • About 20 to 25% of the $26.5 billion market forecast for 2021 is expected to be the result of metal additive manufacturing.
  • The market for polymers and plastics for 3D printing will reach $3.2 billion by 2022
  • The primary market for metal additive manufacturing, including systems and power materials, will grow to over $6.6 billion by 2026.

CONCLUSIONS:

We see more and more products and components manufactured by 3D Printing processes.  Additive manufacturing just now enjoying acceptance from larger and more established companies whose products are in effect “mission critical”.  As material choices continue to grow, a greater number of applications will emerge.  For the foreseeable future, additive manufacturing is one of the technologies to be associated with.

NATIONAL TELEPHONE DAY

April 25, 2017


OK, are you ready for a bit of ridiculous trivia?  Today, 25 April 2017, is National Telephone Day.  I do not think there will be any denial that the telephone has revolutionized communication the world over.

It was February 14, 1876, when Marcellus Bailey, one of Alexander Graham Bell’s attorneys rushed into the US Patent office in Boston to file for what would later be called the telephone. Later that same day, Elisha Gray filed a patent caveat for a similar device. A caveat is an intent to file for a patent. There is also a third contender, Antonio Meucci.  Mr. Meucci filed a caveat in November of 1871 for a talking telegraph but failed to renew the caveat due to hardships. Because Bell’s patent was submitted first, it was awarded to him on March 7, 1876. Gray contested this decision in court, but without success.

Born March 3, 1847, in Edinburgh, United Kingdom, Bell was an instructor at a boys’ boarding school. The sounds of speech were an integral part of his life. His father developed a “Visible Speech” system for deaf students to communicate. Bell would later become friend and benefactor of Helen Keller. Three days after his patent was approved, Bell spoke the first words by telephone to his assistant. “Mr. Watson, come here! I want to see you!”  By May of the same year, Bell and his team were ready for a public demonstration, and there would be no better place than the World’s Fair in Philadelphia. On May 10, 1876, in a crowded Machinery Hall a man’s voice was transmitted from a small horn and carried out through a speaker to the audience. One year later, the White House installed its first phone. The telephone revolution began. Bell Telephone Company was founded on July 9, 1877, and the first public telephone lines were installed from Boston to Sommerville, Massachusetts the same year.  By the end of the decade, there were nearly 50,000 phones in the United States.  In May of 1967, the 1 millionth telephone was installed.

Growing up in in the 50’s, I remember the rotary telephone shown by the digital picture below.  We were on a three-party line.  As I recall, ours was a two-ring phone call.  Of course, there was snooping.  Big time snooping by the other two families on our line.

Let’s take a quick look at how the cell phone has literally taken over this communication method.

  • The number of mobile devices rose nine (9) percent in the first six months of 2011, to 327.6 million — more than the 315 million people living in the U.S., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Wireless network data traffic rose 111 percent, to 341.2 billion megabytes, during the same period.
  • Nearly two-thirds of Americans are now smartphone owners, and for many these devices are a key entry point to the online world. Sixty-four percent( 64) ofAmerican adults now own a smartphone of some kind, up from thirty-five percent (35%) in the spring of 2011. Smartphone ownership is especially high among younger Americans, as well as those with relatively high income and education levels.
  • Ten percent (10%) of Americans own a smartphone but do not have any other form of high-speed internet access at home beyond their phone’s data plan.
  • Using a broader measure of the access options available to them, fifteen percent (15% of Americans own a smartphone but say that they have a limited number of ways to get online other than their cell phone.
  • Younger adults — Fifteen percent (15%) of Americans ages 18-29 are heavily dependent on a smartphone for online access.
  • Those with low household incomes and levels of educational attainment — Some thirteen percent (13%) of Americans with an annual household income of less than $30,000 per year are smartphone-dependent. Just one percent (1%) of Americans from households earning more than $75,000 per year rely on their smartphones to a similar degree for online access.
  • Non-whites — Twelve percent (12%) of African Americans and thirteen percent (13%) of Latinos are smartphone-dependent, compared with four percent (4%) of whites
  • Sixty-two percent (62%) of smartphone owners have used their phone in the past year to look up information about a health condition
  • Fifty-seven percent (57%) have used their phone to do online banking.
  • Forty-four percent (44%) have used their phone to look up real estate listings or other information about a place to live.
  • Forty-three percent (43%) to look up information about a job.
  • Forty percent (40%) to look up government services or information.
  • Thirty percent (30%) to take a class or get educational content
  • Eighteen percent (18%) to submit a job application.
  • Sixty-eight percent (68%) of smartphone owners use their phone at least occasionally to follow along with breaking news events, with thirty-three percent (33%) saying that they do this “frequently.”
  • Sixty-seven percent (67%) use their phone to share pictures, videos, or commentary about events happening in their community, with 35% doing so frequently.
  • Fifty-six percent (56%) use their phone at least occasionally to learn about community events or activities, with eighteen percent (18%) doing this “frequently.”

OK, by now you get the picture.  The graphic below will basically summarize the cell phone phenomenon relative to other digital devices including desktop and laptop computers. By the way, laptop and desktop computer purchases have somewhat declined due to the increased usage of cell phones for communication purposes.

The number of smart phone users in the United States from 2012 to a projected 2021 in millions is given below.

CONCLUSION: “Big Al” (Mr. Bell that is.) probably knew he was on to something.  At any rate, the trend will continue towards infinity over the next few decades.

 

DIGITAL READINESS GAPS

April 23, 2017


This post uses as one reference the “Digital Readiness Gaps” report by the Pew Center.  This report explores, as we will now, attitudes and behaviors that underpin individual preparedness and comfort in using digital tools for learning.

HOW DO ADULTS LEARN?  Good question. I suppose there are many ways but I can certainly tell you that adults my age, over seventy, learn in a manner much different than my grandchildren, under twenty.  I think of “book learning” first and digital as a backup.  They head straight for their i-pad or i-phone.  GOOGLE is a verb and not a company name as far as they are concerned.  (I’m actually getting there with the digital search methods and now start with GOOGLE but reference multiple sources before being satisfied with only one reference. For some reason, I still trust book as opposed to digital.)

According to Mr. Malcom Knowles, who was a pioneer in adult learning, there are six (6) main characteristics of adult learners, as follows:

  • Adult learning is self-directed/autonomous
    Adult learners are actively involved in the learning process such that they make choices relevant to their learning objectives.
  • Adult learning utilizes knowledge & life experiences
    Under this approach educators encourage learners to connect their past experiences with their current knowledge-base and activities.
  • Adult learning is goal-oriented
    The motivation to learn is increased when the relevance of the “lesson” through real-life situations is clear, particularly in relation to the specific concerns of the learner.
  • Adult learning is relevancy-oriented
    One of the best ways for adults to learn is by relating the assigned tasks to their own learning goals. If it is clear that the activities they are engaged into, directly contribute to achieving their personal learning objectives, then they will be inspired and motivated to engage in projects and successfully complete them.
  • Adult learning highlights practicality
    Placement is a means of helping students to apply the theoretical concepts learned inside the classroom into real-life situations.
  • Adult learning encourages collaboration
    Adult learners thrive in collaborative relationships with their educators. When learners are considered by their instructors as colleagues, they become more productive. When their contributions are acknowledged, then they are willing to put out their best work.

One very important note: these six characteristics encompass the “digital world” and conventional methods; i.e. books, magazines, newspapers, etc.

As mentioned above, a recent Pew Research Center report shows that adoption of technology for adult learning in both personal and job-related activities varies by people’s socio-economic status, their race and ethnicity, and their level of access to home broadband and smartphones. Another report showed that some users are unable to make the internet and mobile devices function adequately for key activities such as looking for jobs.

Specifically, the Pew report made their assessment relative to American adults according to five main factors:

  • Their confidence in using computers,
  • Their facility with getting new technology to work
  • Their use of digital tools for learning
  • Their ability to determine the trustworthiness of online information,
  • Their familiarity with contemporary “education tech” terms.

It is important to note; the report addresses only the adult proclivity relative to digital learning and not learning by any other means; just the available of digital devices to facilitate learning. If we look at the “conglomerate” from PIAA Fact Sheet, we see the following:

The Pew analysis details several distinct groups of Americans who fall along a spectrum of digital readiness from relatively more prepared to relatively hesitant. Those who tend to be hesitant about embracing technology in learning are below average on the measures of readiness, such as needing help with new electronic gadgets or having difficulty determining whether online information is trustworthy. Those whose profiles indicate a higher level of preparedness for using tech in learning are collectively above average on measures of digital readiness.  The chart below will indicate their classifications.

The breakdown is as follows:

Relatively Hesitant – 52% of adults in three distinct groups. This overall cohort is made up of three different clusters of people who are less likely to use digital tools in their learning. This has to do, in part, with the fact that these groups have generally lower levels of involvement with personal learning activities. It is also tied to their professed lower level of digital skills and trust in the online environment.

  • A group of 14% of adults make up The Unprepared. This group has bothlow levels of digital skills and limited trust in online information. The Unprepared rank at the bottom of those who use the internet to pursue learning, and they are the least digitally ready of all the groups.
  • We call one small group Traditional Learners,and they make up of 5% of Americans. They are active learners, but use traditional means to pursue their interests. They are less likely to fully engage with digital tools, because they have concerns about the trustworthiness of online information.
  • A larger group, The Reluctant,make up 33% of all adults. They have higher levels of digital skills than The Unprepared, but very low levels of awareness of new “education tech” concepts and relatively lower levels of performing personal learning activities of any kind. This is correlated with their general lack of use of the internet in learning.

Relatively more prepared – 48% of adults in two distinct groups. This cohort is made up of two groups who are above average in their likeliness to use online tools for learning.

  • A group we call Cautious Clickerscomprises 31% of adults. They have tech resources at their disposal, trust and confidence in using the internet, and the educational underpinnings to put digital resources to use for their learning pursuits. But they have not waded into e-learning to the extent the Digitally Ready have and are not as likely to have used the internet for some or all of their learning.
  • Finally, there are the Digitally Ready. They make up 17% of adults, and they are active learners and confident in their ability to use digital tools to pursue learning. They are aware of the latest “ed tech” tools and are, relative to others, more likely to use them in the course of their personal learning. The Digitally Ready, in other words, have high demand for learning and use a range of tools to pursue it – including, to an extent significantly greater than the rest of the population, digital outlets such as online courses or extensive online research.

CONCLUSIONS:

To me, one of the greatest lessons from my university days—NEVER STOP LEARNING.  I had one professor, Dr. Bob Maxwell, who told us the half-life of a graduate engineer is approximately five (5) years.  If you stop learning, the information you receive will become obsolete in five years.  At the pace of technology today, that may be five months.  You never stop learning AND you embrace existent technology.  In other words—do digital. Digital is your friend.  GOOGLE, no matter how flawed, can give you answers much quicker than other sources and its readily available and just plain handy.  At least, start there then, trust but verify.


If you work or have worked in manufacturing you know robotic systems have definitely had a distinct impact on assembly, inventory acquisition from storage areas and finished-part warehousing.   There is considerable concern that the “rise of the machines” will eventually replace individuals performing a verity of tasks.  I personally do not feel this will be the case although there is no doubt robotic systems have found their way onto the manufacturing floor.

From the “Executive Summary World Robotics 2016 Industrial Robots”, we see the following:

2015:  By far the highest volume ever recorded in 2015, robot sales increased by 15% to 253,748 units, again by far the highest level ever recorded for one year. The main driver of the growth in 2015 was the general industry with an increase of 33% compared to 2014, in particular the electronics industry (+41%), metal industry (+39%), the chemical, plastics and rubber industry (+16%). The robot sales in the automotive industry only moderately increased in 2015 after a five-year period of continued considerable increase. China has significantly expanded its leading position as the biggest market with a share of 27% of the total supply in 2015.

In looking at the chart below, we can see the sales picture with perspective and show how system sales have increased from 2003.

It is very important to note that seventy-five percent (75%) of global robot sales comes from five (5) countries.

There were five major markets representing seventy-five percent (75%) of the total sales volume in 2015:  China, the Republic of Korea, Japan, the United States, and Germany.

As you can see from the bar chart above, sales volume increased from seventy percent (70%) in 2014. Since 2013 China is the biggest robot market in the world with a continued dynamic growth. With sales of about 68,600 industrial robots in 2015 – an increase of twenty percent (20%) compared to 2014 – China alone surpassed Europe’s total sales volume (50,100 units). Chinese robot suppliers installed about 20,400 units according to the information from the China Robot Industry Alliance (CRIA). Their sales volume was about twenty-nine percent (29%) higher than in 2014. Foreign robot suppliers increased their sales by seventeen percent (17%) to 48,100 units (including robots produced by international robot suppliers in China). The market share of Chinese robot suppliers grew from twenty-five percent (25%) in 2013 to twenty-nine percent (29%) in 2015. Between 2010 and 2015, total supply of industrial robots increased by about thirty-six percent (36%) per year on average.

About 38,300 units were sold to the Republic of Korea, fifty-five percent (55%) more than in 2014. The increase is partly due to a number of companies which started to report their data only in 2015. The actual growth rate in 2015 is estimated at about thirty percent (30%) to thirty-five percent (35%.)

In 2015, robot sales in Japan increased by twenty percent (20%) to about 35,000 units reaching the highest level since 2007 (36,100 units). Robot sales in Japan followed a decreasing trend between 2005 (reaching the peak at 44,000 units) and 2009 (when sales dropped to only 12,767 units). Between 2010 and 2015, robot sales increased by ten percent (10%) on average per year (CAGR).

Increase in robot installations in the United States continued in 2015, by five percent (5%) to the peak of 27,504 units. Driver of this continued growth since 2010 was the ongoing trend to automate production in order to strengthen American industries on the global market and to keep manufacturing at home, and in some cases, to bring back manufacturing that had previously been sent overseas.

Germany is the fifth largest robot market in the world. In 2015, the number of robots sold increased slightly to a new record high at 20,105 units compared to 2014 (20,051 units). In spite of the high robot density of 301 units per 10,000 employees, annual sales are still very high in Germany. Between 2010 and 2015, annual sales of industrial robots increased by an average of seven percent (7%) in Germany (CAGR).

From the graphic below, you can see which industries employ robotic systems the most.

Growth rates will not lessen with projections through 2019 being as follows:

A fascinating development involves the assistance of human endeavor by robotic systems.  This fairly new technology is called collaborative robots of COBOTS.  Let’s get a definition.

COBOTS:

A cobot or “collaborative robot” is a robot designed to assist human beings as a guide or assistor in a specific task. A regular robot is designed to be programmed to work more or less autonomously. In one approach to cobot design, the cobot allows a human to perform certain operations successfully if they fit within the scope of the task and to steer the human on a correct path when the human begins to stray from or exceed the scope of the task.

“The term ‘collaborative’ is used to distinguish robots that collaborate with humans from robots that work behind fences without any direct interaction with humans.  “In contrast, articulated, cartesian, delta and SCARA robots distinguish different robot kinematics.

Traditional industrial robots excel at applications that require extremely high speeds, heavy payloads and extreme precision.  They are reliable and very useful for many types of high volume, low mix applications.  But they pose several inherent challenges for higher mix environments, particularly in smaller companies.  First and foremost, they are very expensive, particularly when considering programming and integration costs.  They require specialized engineers working over several weeks or even months to program and integrate them to do a single task.  And they don’t multi-task easily between jobs since that setup effort is so substantial.  Plus, they can’t be readily integrated into a production line with people because they are too dangerous to operate in close proximity to humans.

For small manufacturers with limited budgets, space and staff, a collaborative robot such as Baxter (shown below) is an ideal fit because it overcomes many of these challenges.  It’s extremely intuitive, integrates seamlessly with other automation technologies, is very flexible and is quite affordable with a base price of only $25,000.  As a result, Baxter is well suited for many applications, such as those requiring manual labor and a high degree of flexibility, that are currently unmet by traditional technologies.

Baxter is one example of collaborative robotics and some say is by far the safest, easiest, most flexible and least costly robot of its kind today.  It features a sophisticated multi-tier safety design that includes a smooth, polymer exterior with fewer pinch points; back-drivable joints that can be rotated by hand; and series elastic actuators which help it to minimize the likelihood of injury during inadvertent contact.

It’s also incredibly simple to use.  Line workers and other non-engineers can quickly learn to train the robot themselves, by hand.  With Baxter, the robot itself is the interface, with no teaching pendant or external control system required.  And with its ease of use and diverse skill set, Baxter is extremely flexible, capable of being utilized across multiple lines and tasks in a fraction of the time and cost it would take to re-program other robots.  Plus, Baxter is made in the U.S.A., which is a particularly appealing aspect for many of our customers looking to re-shore their own production operations.

The digital picture above shows a lady work alongside a collaborative robotic system, both performing a specific task. The lady feels right at home with her mechanical friend only because usage demands a great element of safety.

Certifiable safety is the most important precondition for a collaborative robot system to be applied to an industrial setting.  Available solutions that fulfill the requirements imposed by safety standardization often show limited performance or productivity gains, as most of today’s implemented scenarios are often limited to very static processes. This means a strict stop and go of the robot process, when the human enters or leaves the work space.

Collaborative systems are still a work in progress but the technology has greatly expanded the use and this is primarily due to satisfying safety requirements.  Upcoming years will only produce greater acceptance and do not be surprised if you see robots and humans working side by side on every manufacturing floor over the next decade.

As always, I welcome your comments.

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