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Want to Save the Manufacturing Sector? It’s Time to Embrace the Principles of Next Generation Manufacturing
Like most industries, the manufacturing sector is transforming rapidly. Because of recent technological advances and globalization, U.S. manufacturing is facing intense international competition, increasing market volatility and complexity, a declining workforce, and a host of other challenges. Yet we know that in order to have a strong economy, we need a strong manufacturing base. So what’s the answer?
Today’s manufacturers must transform along with the rest of the world by adopting Next Generation Manufacturing principles. And while many manufacturers have started to adopt some next generation manufacturing principles, there are six advanced principles they need to embrace in order to move forward now. Let’s look at both categories—the current and the advanced.
Current Next Generation Manufacturing Principles in Practice
Six Advanced Next Generation Manufacturing Principles to Adopt
Fortunately, most manufacturers have already adopted the previous mentioned principles. To take the manufacturing sector to the next level, here are six more advanced next generation manufacturing principles to employ.
It’s vital that manufacturers anticipate customer needs based on hard trends. Therefore, look at your customers’ future and focus on what you DO know rather than what you don’t know. Ask, “What are the hard trends, the things that will happen, versus the things that might happen? What are the industries that are converging around our customers that our customers currently don’t see?” Then you can start seeing both needs and opportunities before they happen.
One of the reasons you need to be more anticipatory is that things are changing so fast. Typically manufacturers ask the customer what they want and then give it to them. But by the time you have it designed and manufactured and give it to them, their needs have changed or the economy has shifted again. The relevancy of the need is no longer as great. Second, if you ask customers what they want and give it to them, they’re going to under-ask, because they’re focused on what they know is possible, not what you know is possible. Customers, just like most companies, don’t know how to anticipate. But when you adopt this principle, you’ll be able deliver what your customers need just as they need it.
What are your core competencies? Are you still using your core competencies? In the past, manufacturers could go decades between innovations. That strategy doesn’t work anymore. The world has changed, and more important, change itself has changed. Information and new knowledge now travel around the world at the speed of light, and technological innovation proceeds at close to the speed of thought. Today you cannot just innovate now and then: to survive and thrive in a time of vertical change, you have to be innovating around your core competencies continuously. So what is your core, and are you using it?
Also consider if there’s a new core you need. Because of the rapid transformation we’re going through right now, which is driven by technology, there may be a new core you need to develop or to acquire.
We are transforming how we collaborate right now. Realize that collaboration is much different than cooperation. Cooperation is based on scarcity and it contains within it the assumption that your interests and mine are inherently in conflict; however, we will temporarily set aside those cross-purposes to find some cautious tactical common ground. In essence, cooperation is about protecting your piece of the economic pie and doing everything you can to make it bigger. In contrast, collaboration is when we co-create the future together. It’s about working with everyone else, even your competitors, to make a bigger pie for all. It’s based on abundance and requires working together under higher levels of trust and connectivity.
The move from scarcity thinking to abundance thinking, from zero-sum competition to one-hundred-sum collaboration, is not just a “nice” or “moral” idea. In the twenty-first century, it’s plain good sense. Scarcity says, “I’m going to keep all my ideas to myself and sell more than anyone else.” Abundance says, “By mentoring, coaching, and sharing all our best ideas, we’re going to create a powerful tide that raises all our ships—and we’ll all sell more as a result.”
The best way to avoid problems is to use hard trends to both predict and pre-solve them. Based on my own studies of manufacturing firms and other companies, I’ve found that 98% of the biggest problems companies faced were fully predictable before they happened. This is hindsight, and hindsight always brings lament.
Hard trends add certainty to foresight. If a problem is fully predictable, that means it’s fully avoidable. Therefore, manufacturers have to use those hard trends to look into the visible future and ask, “What are the problems that we can see based on anticipating customer needs?” Get that down to a short list that’s aligned with your core competencies. Then that’s where you focus, because you can see which problems are coming. Additionally, look at your own company in the same manner to determine the problems you’re about to face. Solve them before they happen so they don’t occur in the midst of rapid change and transformation. That’s the only way to stay ahead of the curve.
In the past, we developed information-age organizations. As a result, companies do a lot of informing and are very good at it. But most are not good at communicating, both internally and externally. Companies now have to inform and communicate. What’s the difference?
Informing is one-way. It’s static and doesn’t always cause action. Communicating is two-way. It’s dynamic and usually causes action. Social media is a good example of engagement in communication, which is why it’s spreading so rapidly and becoming a business tool. Next generation manufacturers understand that you don’t just inform; you also communicate, develop that strategy, and move it out internally as well as externally.
Just as we had continuous improvement in the past, manufactures need to continually de-commoditize their products and services. Realize that every product and service can be de-commoditized repeatedly. Unfortunately, most companies don’t do this. Instead, they come up with a new product or service and they milk it. They make their money on it and by default let the product or service become a commodity.
The minute you come up with something new, a competitor will copy it. As they do so, your de-commoditized and innovative product or service slowly becomes a commodity. The margins get thinner as time goes on. You find yourself competing more on price and eventually remove the product or service from your line.
Here’s a better approach: Instead of letting the margins get thinner and riding them down, you can wrap a service around a product or wrap a service around a service to add new value. You can think creatively about your product or service so you can repackage it, redefine it, revamp it, or somehow make it unique in the marketplace again. So do continuous de-commoditization. Not only will you raise the bar based on trends, but you’ll also find yourself with good margins and a growing business.
Manufacturing for the Future
In a competitive global economy that is becoming more tightly connected every day, U.S. manufacturers can no longer do things the way they’ve always been done. To be successful in the future, to stay competitive and relevant, and to revive and save the manufacturing sector, all manufacturers must adopt next generation manufacturing principles. That’s the only way to obtain the talents, capabilities, and resources necessary to build a highly effective enterprise that thrives in a global marketplace.
The father of all giant sea bugs was recently discovered off the coast of Java.
- A new species of isopod with a resemblance to a certain Sith lord was just discovered.
- It is the first known giant isopod from the Indian Ocean.
- The finding extends the list of giant isopods even further.
Humanity knows surprisingly little about the ocean depths. An often-repeated bit of evidence for this is the fact that humanity has done a better job mapping the surface of Mars than the bottom of the sea. The creatures we find lurking in the watery abyss often surprise even the most dedicated researchers with their unique features and bizarre behavior.
A recent expedition off the coast of Java discovered a new isopod species remarkable for its size and resemblance to Darth Vader.
The ocean depths are home to many creatures that some consider to be unnatural.
According to LiveScience, the Bathynomus genus is sometimes referred to as "Darth Vader of the Seas" because the crustaceans are shaped like the character's menacing helmet. Deemed Bathynomus raksasa ("raksasa" meaning "giant" in Indonesian), this cockroach-like creature can grow to over 30 cm (12 inches). It is one of several known species of giant ocean-going isopod. Like the other members of its order, it has compound eyes, seven body segments, two pairs of antennae, and four sets of jaws.
The incredible size of this species is likely a result of deep-sea gigantism. This is the tendency for creatures that inhabit deeper parts of the ocean to be much larger than closely related species that live in shallower waters. B. raksasa appears to make its home between 950 and 1,260 meters (3,117 and 4,134 ft) below sea level.
Perhaps fittingly for a creature so creepy looking, that is the lower sections of what is commonly called The Twilight Zone, named for the lack of light available at such depths.
It isn't the only giant isopod, far from it. Other species of ocean-going isopod can get up to 50 cm long (20 inches) and also look like they came out of a nightmare. These are the unusual ones, though. Most of the time, isopods stay at much more reasonable sizes.
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During an expedition, there are some animals which you find unexpectedly, while there are others that you hope to find. One of the animal that we hoped to find was a deep sea cockroach affectionately known as Darth Vader Isopod. The staff on our expedition team could not contain their excitement when they finally saw one, holding it triumphantly in the air! #SJADES2018
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What benefit does this find have for science? And is it as evil as it looks?
The discovery of a new species is always a cause for celebration in zoology. That this is the discovery of an animal that inhabits the deeps of the sea, one of the least explored areas humans can get to, is the icing on the cake.
Helen Wong of the National University of Singapore, who co-authored the species' description, explained the importance of the discovery:
"The identification of this new species is an indication of just how little we know about the oceans. There is certainly more for us to explore in terms of biodiversity in the deep sea of our region."
The animal's visual similarity to Darth Vader is a result of its compound eyes and the curious shape of its head. However, given the location of its discovery, the bottom of the remote seas, it may be associated with all manner of horrifically evil Elder Things and Great Old Ones.
If computers can beat us at chess, maybe they could beat us at math, too.
- Most everyone fears that they will be replaced by robots or AI someday.
- A field like mathematics, which is governed solely by rules that computers thrive on, seems to be ripe for a robot revolution.
- AI may not replace mathematicians but will instead help us ask better questions.
The following is an excerpt adapted from the book Shape. It is reprinted with permission of the author.
Will machines replace us? Since the origin of artificial intelligence (AI), people have worried that computers eventually (or even imminently!) will surpass the human cognitive capacity in every respect.
Artificial intelligence pioneer Oliver Selfridge, in a television interview from the early 1960s, said, "I am convinced that machines can and will think in our lifetime" — though with the proviso, "I don't think my daughter will ever marry a computer." (Apparently, there is no technical advance so abstract that people can't feel sexual anxiety about it.)
Let's make the relevant question more personal: will machines replace me? I'm a mathematician; my profession is often seen from the outside as a very complicated but ultimately purely mechanical game played with fixed rules, like checkers, chess, or Go. These are activities in which machines have already demonstrated superhuman ability.
Some people imagine a world where computers give us all the answers. I dream bigger. I want them to ask good questions.
But for me, math is different: it is a creative pursuit that calls on our intuition as much as our ability to compute. (To be fair, chess players probably feel the same way.) Henri Poincaré, the mathematician who re-envisioned the whole subject of geometry at the beginning of the 20th century, insisted it would be hopeless
"to attempt to replace the mathematician's free initiative by a mechanical process of any kind. In order to obtain a result having any real value, it is not enough to grind out calculations, or to have a machine for putting things in order: it is not order only, but unexpected order, that has a value. A machine can take hold of the bare fact, but the soul of the fact will always escape it."
But machines can make deep changes in mathematical practice without shouldering humans aside. Peter Scholze, winner of a 2018 Fields Medal (sometimes called the "Nobel Prize of math") is deeply involved in an ambitious program at the frontiers of algebra and geometry called "condensed mathematics" — and no, there is no chance that I'm going to try to explain what that is in this space.
Meet AI, your new research assistant
What I am going to tell you is the result of what Scholze called the "Liquid Tensor Experiment." A community called Lean, started by Leonardo de Moura of Microsoft Research and now open-source and worldwide, has the ambitious goal of developing a computer language with the expressive capacity to capture the entirety of contemporary mathematics. A proposed proof of a new theorem, formalized by translation into this language, could be checked for correctness automatically, rather than staking its reputation on fallible human referees.
Scholze asked last December whether the ideas of condensed mathematics could be formalized in this way. He also wanted to know whether it could express the ideas of a particularly knotty proof that was crucial to the project — a proof that he was pretty sure was right.
When I first heard about Lean, I thought it would probably work well for some easy problems and theorems. I underestimated it. So did Scholze. In a May 2021 blog post, he writes, "[T]he Experiment has verified the entire part of the argument that I was unsure about. I find it absolutely insane that interactive proof assistants are now at the level that within a very reasonable time span they can formally verify difficult original research."
And the contribution of the machine wasn't just to certify that Scholze was right to think his proof was sound; he reports that the work of putting the proof in a form that a machine could read improved his own human understanding of the argument!
The Liquid Tensor Experiment points to a future where machines, rather than replacing human mathematicians, become our indispensable partners. Whether or not they can take hold of the soul of the fact, they can extend our grasp as we reach for the soul.
Slicing up a knotty problem
That can take the form of "proof assistance," as it did for Scholze, or it can go deeper. In 2018, Lisa Piccirillo, then a PhD student at the University of Texas, solved a long-standing geometry problem about a shape called the Conway knot. She proved the knot was "non-slice" — this is a fact about what the knot looks like from the perspective of four-dimensional beings. (Did you get that? Probably not, but it doesn't matter.) The point is this was a famously difficult problem.
A few years before Piccirillo's breakthrough, a topologist named Mark Hughes at Brigham Young had tried to get a neural network to make good guesses about which knots were slice. He gave it a long list of knots where the answer was known, just as an image-processing neural net would be given a long list of pictures of cats and pictures of non-cats.
Hughes's neural net learned to assign a number to every knot; if the knot were slice, the number was supposed to be 0, while if the knot were non-slice, the net was supposed to return a whole number bigger than 0. In fact, the neural net predicted a value very close to 1 — that is, it predicted the knot was non-slice — for every one of the knots Hughes tested, except for one. That was the Conway knot.
For the Conway knot, Hughes's neural net returned a number very close to 1/2, its way of saying that it was deeply unsure whether to answer 0 or 1. This is fascinating! The neural net correctly identified the knot that posed a really hard and mathematically rich problem (in this case, reproducing an intuition that topologists already had).
Some people imagine a world where computers give us all the answers. I dream bigger. I want them to ask good questions.
Dr. Jordan Ellenberg is a professor of mathematics at the University of Wisconsin and a number theorist whose popular articles about mathematics have appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Wired, and Slate. His most recent book is Shape: The Hidden Geometry of Information, Biology, Strategy, Democracy, and Everything Else.
Laughing gas may be far more effective for some than antidepressants.
- Standard antidepressant medications don't work for many people who need them.
- With ketamine showing potential as an antidepressant, researchers investigate another anesthetic: nitrous oxide, commonly called "laughing gas."
- Researchers observe that just a light mixture of nitrous oxide for an hour alleviates depression symptoms for two weeks.
The usual antidepressants don't work for everyone. That's what makes a new study of the antidepressant properties of nitrous oxide so intriguing. It looks like just a single low dose of what your dentist may call "laughing gas" can help alleviate symptoms of depression for weeks afterward.
The study, from researchers at University of Chicago and Washington University-St. Louis, is published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
Resistance to anti-depression medications
Nitrous oxide: two atoms of nitrogen, one of oxygenCredit: Big Think
According to the senior author of the study, Charles Conway, "A significant percentage — we think around 15 percent — of people who suffer from depression don't respond to standard antidepressant treatment."
"These 'treatment-resistant depression' patients," Conway says, "often suffer for years, even decades, with life-debilitating depression. We don't really know why standard treatments don't work for them, though we suspect that they may have different brain network disruptions than non-resistant depressed patients. Identifying novel treatments, such as nitrous oxide, that target alternative pathways is critical to treating these individuals."
"There is a huge unmet need," says lead author Peter Nagele. "There are millions of depressed patients who don't have good treatment options, especially those who are dealing with suicidality."
If ketamine can help, can nitrous oxide?
Credit: sudok1 / Adobe Stock
The researchers wondered if some of the anti-depression properties seen in ketamine might also apply to nitrous oxide. Nagele explains, "Like nitrous oxide, ketamine is an anesthetic, and there has been promising work using ketamine at a sub-anesthetic dose for treating depression."
The researchers conducted a one-hour session — they describe it as a "proof-of-principle" trial — in which 20 individuals with depression were administered an air mixture with 50 percent nitrous oxide. Twenty-four hours later, the researchers found a significant reduction in the participants' symptoms of depression versus a control group.
However, the individuals also suffered the unpleasant side effects that laughing gas often causes in dental patients: headache, nausea, and vomiting.
Smaller dose, longer effect
Credit: sudok1 / Adobe Stock
"We wondered if our past concentration of 50 percent had been too high," recalls Nagele. "Maybe by lowering the dose, we could find the 'Goldilocks spot' that would maximize clinical benefit and minimize negative side effects."
In a new trial, 20 people with depression were given a lighter nitrous oxide mix, just 25 percent, and the individuals tested reported a 75 percent reduction in side effects compared to the a control group given an air/oxygen placebo. This time, the researchers also tracked the effect of nitrous oxide on symptoms of depression for a far longer period, two weeks instead of just 24 hours.
"The reduction in side effects was unexpected and quite drastic," reports Nagele, "but even more excitingly, the effects after a single administration lasted for a whole two weeks. This has never been shown before. It's a very cool finding."
Nagele also notes that, despite its popular renown as laughing gas, even a light 25 percent mix of nitrous actually causes people to nod off. "They're not getting high or euphoric; they get sedated."
Delivering help to people with depression
Nagele cautions, "These have just been pilot studies. But we need acceptance by the larger medical community for this to become a treatment that's actually available to patients in the real world. Most psychiatrists are not familiar with nitrous oxide or how to administer it, so we'll have to show the community how to deliver this treatment safely and effectively. I think there will be a lot of interest in getting this into clinical practice."
After all, Nagele adds, "If we develop effective, rapid treatments that can really help someone navigate their suicidal thinking and come out on the other side — that's a very gratifying line of research."