July 25, 2011
By Geoffrey James Article
“On paper, that’s a compelling business case. However, in the long run, offshoring to the lowest bidder may be profoundly stupid. Here’s why.
- REASON #1: You can lose control of your intellectual property. In the parts of the world where outsourcing is cheapest, there is often little or no respect for corporate secrets. Patents are often unenforceable, and many companies discover copycat processes and products, soon after they’ve deployed there.
- REASON #2: It can result in low quality, brand-damaging products. Many firms that provide outsourcing quickly cut the quality of component parts in order to increase their margins. Eventually customers who believe your brand promise notice that your once-great products are now cheap and crappy.
- REASON #3: You may be supporting slave labor and child labor. Outsourcing agreements often involve an entire supply chain that may involve labor practices which, if publicized in the United States, could destroy your company’s reputation. How do you think they can supply things so cheap?
- REASON #4: You might create massive environmental degradation. One reason it’s cheaper to manufacture abroad is that the companies there are often cutting costs by simply dumping their toxic chemicals. Someday, somebody will get stuck with the clean-up bill; it could be your firm.
- REASON #5: You may not get access to local markets. The Chinese, in particular, are famous for giving lip service to free trade, but setting up a regulatory environment that favors local firms. Many companies have deployed there hoping to see new sales, but instead seen them go to imitators (see REASON #1).
- REASON #6: You may be empowering political thugs. Make no mistake about it: communist countries are run by thugs who suppress dissent, shoot protestors, lay claim to border areas that don’t belong to them, and support other, worse thugs. Do you really want your brand name associated with that? ….”
May 2, 2011
By Brad Power Article
“Improving customer value continuously is difficult in almost any organization. That’s true partly because so many organizations are still organized around functional silos, which are managed to optimize their own performance rather than to deliver value to customers.
If internal feuds don’t sabotage things, Process Attention Deficit Disorder will. An astonishing number of executives think of service improvements as the slow, boring route to competitive advantage. …
Leading organizations use some powerful long-term techniques to get around these problems. I categorize these as tools of the heart, head, ears, and feet.”
April 17, 2011
**By Dan Nosowitz Article
Six Dream Projects of the 3-D Printing Pioneers
“3-D printing is a young technology, but its pioneers and champions aren’t satisfied with printing cars, airplane parts, or tiny edible spaceships–they’re always looking down the road at what’s next. We talked with some of the best minds in 3-D printing about their dream projects–not what’s possible now, but what their current work might lead to in five or ten years. These six dream projects are pretty astounding, and what’s most striking is how attainable they seem. These aren’t pipe dreams. They’re our future.
Click to launch the photo gallery. …
The next step for 3-D printing seems to be figuring out a way to print multiple substrates at once. To print entire working machines, for example, you’ve got to print mechanical objects, batteries, and silicon chips, all at the same time. (To see how that works, check out our interactive animation.) But none of the 3-D printing experts I spoke to showed the slightest uncertainty that that hurdle would be overcome. It was never “if we can figure out a way,” but always “when we figure out a way.”
I did find a division in the way these scientists, engineers, and designers see 3-D printing. Some, like Hod Lipson of Cornell University’s Fab@Home group, compare 3-D printers to computers, saying their functionality and design will evolve in ways we can’t predict, but which will end up vital to our daily lives, regardless of their eventual form. Others, like Enrico Dini, are dreamers, seeing 3-D printers as less a personal fabrication device and more a new medium for a restless muse to exploit. But they are all entranced with the possibilities presented by 3-D printers, and though their dream projects are varied, they’re all pretty amazing.
Oh, and if you’re curious about how a 3-D printer actually works, don’t forget to check out our interactive animation–it’s both simpler and more complicated than you’d think.” – Article
April 14, 2011
**By Todd Wasserman Article
Will 3D Printing End Mass Manufacturing?
“Dictionary.com has 17 definitions of the verb “to print,” but none of them conjure up images like the metal cross you see on your right, or other objects such as glass figurines, iPad covers or even shoes — all of which can now be printed with the help of special machines. The process of “3D printing” only loosely corresponds to our common image of printing. It may, however, revolutionize the way we define and interact with manufacturing.
Chief among the proponents of this view is The Economist, speculating in a February cover story that the technology “has the potential to transform manufacturing because it lowers the costs and risks,” thus opening it to smaller players. It’s not hard to see this line of logic. Just picture a local craftsman able to make his own customized bicycle using parts created from his printer.
“3D printing will for sure be a new mode of manufacturing,” says Peter Weijmarshausen, the CEO of Shapeways, which creates 3D objects for consumers. “People are no longer only happy with mass-produced products that all look the same. That is just what mass production has given them. With 3D printing you can produce en masse custom and personalized products at perhaps almost the same prices.”” – Article
March 25, 2011
**By Nick Carey, Noel Randewich and Kevin Krolicki Article
Special Report: Disasters show flaws in just-in-time production
“The most immediate threat to manufacturers stems from the fact that the weakest link in the global supply chain is what Japan is best known for: high-end, highly technical parts like semiconductors, which also weigh very little. “The earliest impact will be felt with high-cost, low-weight products,” said John Hoffecker, managing director of restructuring advisory firm AlixPartners LP. “They come out of Japan by plane so manufacturers don’t have much of a buffer for those products.”
Interviewed by Reuters on March 17 Hoffecker said the real impact of supply disruptions for those parts would become evident “in about a week.” GM said the parts it gets from Japan are more the high-end electrical type. Chips made by ON Semiconductor, which has shut down facilities in Aizu and Gunma due to infrastructure troubles, are used by automakers in everything from air conditioning to power steering, lighting, braking systems, navigation and lighting. It is not just a question of high-tech production, but also inventory. Even a split-second loss of power at a memory chip plant, where production takes weeks, can wipe out a large volume of goods.
Even under normal conditions, bringing suppliers back online after a disruption can be a lengthy process for the most basic parts. It requires careful calibration and extensive testing. So the road to recovery could be a long one.” – Article
March 22, 2011
**By STEVE LOHR Article
Stress Test for the Global Supply Chain
“TONY PROPHET, a senior vice president for operations at Hewlett-Packard, was awakened at 3:30 a.m. in California and was told that an earthquake and tsunami had struck Japan. Soon after, Mr. Prophet had set up a virtual “situation room,” so managers in Japan, Taiwan and America could instantly share information.
Mr. Prophet oversees all hardware purchasing for H.P.’s $65-billion-a-year global supply chain, which feeds its huge manufacturing engine. The company’s factories churn out two personal computers a second, two printers a second and one data-center computer every 15 seconds. …
Modern global supply chains, experts say, mirror complex biological systems like the human body in many ways. They can be remarkably resilient and self-healing, yet at times quite vulnerable to some specific, seemingly small weakness — as if a tiny tear in a crucial artery were to cause someone to suffer heart failure. Day in and day out, the global flow of goods routinely adapts to all kinds of glitches and setbacks. A supply breakdown in one factory in one country, for example, is quickly replaced by added shipments from suppliers elsewhere in the network. Sometimes, the problems span whole regions and require emergency action for days or weeks. When a volcano erupted in Iceland last spring, spewing ash across northern Europe and grounding air travel, supply-chain wizards were put to a test, juggling production and shipments worldwide to keep supplies flowing.” – Article
March 20, 2011
**by Dominic Basulto Article
The Factories of Tomorrow
“The conventional wisdom is that American manufacturing jobs, once lost to low-wage locales around the globe, will never again return to the U.S. What that fails to take into account is a revolution in manufacturing that is being brought about by new 3D printing technologies that make it possible to “print” items, such as jewelry or furniture or consumer goods, on demand.
This may sound like a futuristic technology, but tomorrow is actually closer than we might think. In its annual trend report for 2011, JWT cited 3D Printing as one of the Top 100 trends to watch for the year. Companies like HP and Google are developing next-generation 3D printing technologies that aim to go far beyond the initial test cases we’ve seen so far. In two minutes or less, you can already take your favorite saying or poem, design it into a one-of-a-kind light poem lamp, and have the final product shipped to your door, all for less than the cost of a ticket to a Yankees baseball game. And, as JWT points out, there’s even a company in Los Angeles working on a way to “print” a home.
The latest proof-of-concept is the new Air Bike from the European Aerospace and Defense Group (EADS). Using a process similar to 3D printing, the engineers at EADS developed a manufacturing process that uses a laser to build up a bicycle out of a powdered material, layer-by-layer. In this case, the bike was made of nylon in a process that resulted in a frame as strong as steel or aluminum, but 65% lighter.“ – Article
March 15, 2011
**By Eliza Ridgeway for CNN Article
Are your meetings train wrecks?
“We’re tired of them, frustrated that our time is being whittled away. Despite years of practical advice books and earnest consultants, workplace meetings are still oftentimes a cliche for mismanagement and disaster.Given the wealth of advice available for running a successful meeting, why do they still go off the rails on a weekly basis?
Problem: No one has time to prepare an agenda
… “Most people aren’t all that disciplined in their lives, and leaders are the same, particularly when they’re really busy,” he said. Just like sticking with a diet or an exercise plan, the discipline of good meeting behavior tends to slide — starting at the top.
Solution: Even when human frailty gets in the way of thorough agenda planning, a number of recent books have argued that visual, physical meeting styles can take the onus off facilitators. “As long as there’s a whiteboard and sticky notes in the room, there’s a tremendous amount of things you can do very easily to make a meeting come alive” …
Problem: Workers who are just going along for the ride …” – Article
March 12, 2011
**By Jessica Stillman Article
‘Managers thinking of establishing virtual teams may have visions of the best and brightest in New York, San Francisco and Shanghai dancing in their heads. The untapped workers of rural places and small cities like Kanab, Utah or Augusta, Ga. probably feature less often. Now the proponents of a still embryonic but expanding trend known as “rural sourcing” are trying to change that. …
Before imagining dreary call centers springing up in Nowhereville, U.S.A. staffed by hordes of marginally skilled drones, consider this profile of Atlanta-based firm Rural Sourcing, one of around 20 U.S. companies that are locating skilled IT-workers in small towns — often those near universities with plenty of job-hungry graduates — to take advantage of lower living and labor costs, higher quality of life and an underutilized talent pool. …
Rural Sourcing chief executive Monty Hamilton reports that his employees are:
in places where … $150,000 still buys you a great house with a great piece of property, where people want to stay and raise their families.
Obviously, outsourcing abroad isn’t disappearing anytime soon, and for some positions, the best-qualified applicants will still be found in major cities. But could looking for virtual team members in small towns, whether through a firm like Rural Sourcing or independently, be a triple win for your organization – good for costs, good for workers and even good for small towns (and your PR department), too?” – Article
March 10, 2011
“The iPad 2, unveiled on Wednesday, offers several sleek improvements over its predecessor. But its most attractive feature is perhaps the same one its predecessor had: the price tag. And what makes that feature even more compelling is that so far, Apple’s competitors in tablets cannot beat or even match it. …“There have been nearly a hundred competitive tablets that have been introduced since the iPad,” said Toni Sacconaghi, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein. “But it seems that no one has eclipsed or even matched Apple on pricing.”
Analysts and industry experts point to a number of reasons. Primarily, they say, Apple’s deep pockets — a staggering $60 billion in cash reserves — have allowed it to form strategic partnerships with other companies to buy large supplies of components, for example, expensive flash memory. By doing this, the company probably secures a lower price from suppliers, ensuring a lower manufacturing cost.
At the same time, they say, Apple has sidestepped high licensing fees for other items it needs, like the A4 and A5 processors within the iPads. Those parts, designed in-house at Apple by a company that Apple bought, are among the costlier components needed to make a tablet computer. Mr. Sacconaghi said Apple also could subsidize some of the cost of building iPads with the money it makes through its App Store, which generates more than a billion dollars each year. This means that Apple can take a lower profit margin on the iPad, 25 percent, than it does on, for example, the iPhone, which can yield as much as 50 percent profit. Yet another advantage is Apple’s wide net of its own global retail shops and online stores; for customers, this means they can avoid a markup from a third party like Best Buy. Although other companies have some of these factors in their favor, no one but Apple has all of them.” – Article
March 8, 2011
**by sshapiro – Article
“Contrary to “conventional wisdom,” opposites don’t do NOT attract. While individuals who are different than you might initially seem intriguing, in the long run these differences will invariably push you apart. This fact has been scientifically proven. Science aside, consider your personal relationships. If you prefer to be organized, do you praise your messy partner for his clutter? Probably not. And if you have a propensity for disorganization, don’t you cringe at your partner’s earnest pleas for orderliness? The fact is, opposites don’t attract. They repel. What implications does this have on business success? …
For relatively simple tasks, homogeneous teams consistently performed more efficiently than heterogeneous ones. Apparently, what this study showed was that when you are surrounded by a bunch of “yes men” and “yes women,” you will be more efficient. You agree quickly and get things done.
However, according to Bowers and his team, in situations involving high-difficulty tasks, diverse groups consistently performed more effectively. That is, people who think differently could innovate better. This makes sense if you really think about it. Developing something new requires a wide range of thinking. Innovation demands a diversity of perspectives, disciplines and personalities. Having a group of people who think the same way only produces more of the same.
However, given that opposites repel, partnering with people who are different than you is probably an unnatural act. If you are a dynamic, creative, freewheeling individual, you might find that a methodical planner will drive you crazy and their imposed deadlines may feel cumbersomeconstraining. This polarization hints at a useful mantra: The person you like the least, is the person you need the most.” – Article
February 26, 2011
“Medtronic, the world’s largest medical-device maker, has created devices to stimulate the brain and the heart, pump drugs, monitor blood sugar, repair valves, and stabilize the spine. The company needs a constant influx of new ideas to improve its products, and these ideas traditionally come from physicians. …
Materials scientists and engineers working in different states and countries—the company employs about 5,000 scientists and engineers in R&D across the globe—pose questions to one another and find out if another group has already grappled with a particular problem … The company has developed community pages centered on specific topics, similar to fan pages on Facebook. “When new people come into the organization or a project area, they have some knowledge to tap into” …
wiki-like and social-networking tools are slowly changing the hierarchy within organizations. “In traditional companies, knowledge is hoarded and protected within a particular group as a source of power within that organization,” he says. But with these tools, “everyone is an equal. It deconstructs the natural organizational hierarchy to a more level playing field.” To tap expertise outside the company, Medtronic uses a tool called Innocentive …” – Article
February 21, 2011
“According to Automotive News China, the shady side of the People’s Republic is set to sell $45 billion worth of counterfeit auto parts this year. Those include high-volume pieces like spark plugs, brake pads and steering components as well as oil seals and airbags. All told, the report says that China is responsible for a hefty 83 percent of the world’s counterfeit parts, leading the top three producers by a wide margin. The report goes on to state that Taiwan and Thailand are responsible for five percent of the pie each, while Japan and Malaysia weigh in with two percent each of the counterfeit market.
… legitimate Chinese companies are beginning to fit their boxes with radio frequency ID tags to distinguish their products from the fakes.” – Article
February 15, 2011
“Watch this short video at the end.
Simple. Fast. Clean. I’ve been opening bananas the wrong way for 40+ years. Suddenly, a buddy of mine sent me this video, I watched it, and my world is forever changed. I was trying to open the banana the exact opposite way a banana should be opened. It blew my mind.
Now apply this example to your job or business. What areas, people, processes, or clients do you continuously run into where it gets messy or doesn’t work? …
How long have you been opening bananas the same way? It’s easier, more comfortable, and less scary than doing something else.
How about looking at your competition?
Look at other industries and see how they manage their similar issues.
Look at other countries, cultures, or customers to see what they do and how they react.
Step out of your comfort zone and open a banana the right way.” - Article and video
February 7, 2011
“I spent a day crowdsourcing for Amazon’s Mechanical Turk and all I have to show for eight hours in an online work marketplace is a measly $4.38. …
It’s 8 a.m. on a Saturday morning and I’m ready to make some money. The coffee’s kicking in and I’ve logged on to Amazon.com’s (AMZN) Mechanical Turk. It’s an online marketplace that matches workers with employers willing to pay on a per-piece basis for such tasks as verifying addresses, transcribing interviews, and translating text.
I’m no stranger to grunt work. I worked my way through college. Early in my subsequent career, I held stints as an editorial assistant—which meant a lot of typing, photocopying, and schlepping lattes for editors in exchange for the occasional byline.
None of that could have prepared me for Mechanical Turk, which posts jobs—known as “Human Intelligence Tasks”—in a format that resembles a job board.” – Article
February 6, 2011
A new breed of online worker is paid by the task
“When Julia Lee first heard of Tongal, she thought it was a scam. Tongal pays people—anyone with a good idea, really—to create online videos for companies such as Mattel (MAT), Allstate (ALL), and Popchips. Companies typically pay $15,000 to $20,000 for each project they post on Tongal’s website. Tongal runs the projects like contests. Yet, instead of a winner-take-all approach, it breaks up the projects into stages, such as ideas and videos. The top-five ideas are rewarded with cash and then participants in the video phase can use any of those five ideas to create the video.
Lee’s first submission, an idea for a 30-second commercial for a wine-related iPhone app won $1,000 and it only took three hours of work. When she created an animated video for a nonprofit, she earned $4,000. There have also been projects where her ideas or videos didn’t make the top five, so she didn’t make any money. Still, in the past year, Lee, 36, has earned more than $6,000 for about 100 hours of work, or $60 an hour on average. …
The idea of breaking up a job into small pieces and then using the Internet to find workers to do those tasks was pioneered by LiveOps about a decade ago and Amazon.com’s (AMZN) Mechanical Turk in 2005. LiveOps lets call-center workers sign on for shifts in 30-minute increments and then uses the Web to route calls to them. Mechanical Turk pays per task—often less than 50 cents—for quick jobs like checking Web pages for errors or transcribing audio recordings.
The trend, which goes by many names—crowdsourcing, the human cloud, microwork—uses the Internet to access workers around the world for short-term projects that pay a few bucks to hundreds of dollars per hour. The tasks might require a few minutes or a few days to complete.” – Article
January 28, 2011
“The Mexican economy is getting a helping hand from unlikely allies: Chinese workers whose rising wages are leading more companies to build factories in Mexico. Meco Corporation, a U.S. maker of folding chairs and barbecue grills, is shifting production from China to Mexico after wages at its Chinese operations more than doubled since 2007. …
For the first time since China entered the World Trade Organization in 2001 and became an exporting superpower, Mexico posted a bigger gain in U.S. market share than its Asian rival during the first 11 months of 2010.
Mexico probably ended 2010 with just over 12% of the U.S. import market, its largest share ever. Mexican factory wages are now about 14% higher than those in China, the Mexican finance ministry estimates. In 2002, officials calculate they were 240% higher, canceling out Mexico’s natural advantage of proximity. This advantage has also been highlighted by a rise in shipping fuels to two-year highs, making shipping goods across the Pacific a less attractive option.” - Article
January 27, 2011
How to Help Process Owners Succeed
“Putting executives in charge of improving cross-functional processes in large organizations is akin to asking them to paddle a boat upstream. The natural forces in the organization will tend to frustrate their every attempt to coordinate activities across functional boundaries.
Nevertheless, companies that live and die on operational excellence — such as Amazon.com, FedEx, Southwest Airlines, and Wal-Mart — must continually improve their key processes. And they need process owners (who may variously be called VP of Customer Experience, SVP of Supply Chain, Chief Engineer, or Value Stream Leader, for instance) to lead these initiatives. So what conditions give process owners the best chance of success?” – Article
January 23, 2011
““We want to ask you whether or not you should be responsible for the supplier companies you have chosen? When you look down at the Apple phone you are using in your hand and you swipe it with your finger is it possible that you can feel as if it is no longer a beautiful screen to show off, but the life and the blood of us employees and victims?”
— From a letter to Apple CEO Steve Jobs from workers who were hospitalized after inhaling a chemical used to clean touch screens at an electronics factory in China, according to the Guardian. A new report by Chinese environmental groups says Apple was ranked among the most secretive and least responsive companies about its supply chain in China. Apple wouldn’t comment on the report, the Associated Press said. Hewlett-Packard was ranked as among the most responsive to questions about possible environmental violations. The report looked at 29 IT companies’ transparency and responsiveness to environmental concerns at their suppliers.” - Source