80 years ago this week was the first continuous TV transmission by the infant BBC using Technology developed by the Scottish innovator John Logie Baird. Back then the nascent industry was thriving with many competing pioneers much like the denizens of the World Wide Web decades later.
Like most Technologies only the rich could afford to participate as TV sets cost many multiples of the average wage but as the receivers became mass produced more & more of us joined the TV owners club.
Today it is estimated that 80% of the world’s households own at least one TV so it doesn’t matter if you live in a Palace or the poorest slum you can still be dreaming of Californication.
As the technology developed from black & white to colour in the 1960’s & then digital in the 1990’s the image quality improved dramatically. Screens became larger as the image density increased. Samsung have just announced the first commercially available 110 inch screen !
In parallel the content has expanded exponentially as has the proportion using pay per view services so we have an almost infinite choice of programmes to watch from all over the Globe.
The most watched event in the history of TV was the 1969 Moon Landings with an estimated 503 million viewers word wide. Friends crowded round their more affluent neighbours sets to watch a grainy black & white image as Neil Armstrong took a ‘Giant leap for mankind’ his famous words distorted across the void.
Despite all this ‘progress’ its ironic how many of us still complain that there is ‘nothing on TV tonight’
The main constraints of electric car technology – range & charging time – have been surmounted by an exciting ‘new’ technology developed by research company Nanoflowcell.
Using a liquid battery technology originally developed in the 1950’s & perfected by NASA their Quantino concept car combines positively & negatively charged fluids in fuel cell to generate electricity & harmless water vapour.
The car has achieved a range of over 600 miles on one ‘charge’
Major OEM’s have shown a lot of interest in the technology and the company is in talks with one ‘large manufacturer’ to put the technology into production.
Time will tell but there is little doubt – the automotive future is electric.
So you really want to start your own Consultancy business from scratch !?
Here are some tips I hope will help:-
- Identify your key skills – if you want to sell yourself as a Consultant the first thing you need to identify is the skills you possess which people will be willing to pay for. If you can’t do this don’t give up your day job.
- Develop a Business Plan – don’t put it off because you can’t be bothered or don’t think it’s necessary. If you want people to take you seriously as a Business you need to start thinking like a Business.
- Identify your target market – who are you going to sell your skills to ? – your current or former employer perhaps ? Former customers or suppliers, ex colleagues, business partners etc etc
- Network – Develop your contacts, LinkedIn is great for this but don’t forget about your address book & business card collection.
- Have a look at the Professional Contractors Group website www.pcg.org.uk – it has a fantastic free downloadable guide for freelancers/consultants.
- If you still want to take the plunge this is perhaps the hardest step of all – You will need a MINIMUM of 6 months income in the bank before you start. Do not plan to earn anything from your Consultancy business for the first six months. If you really want to succeed with your own Consultancy business you will find this money. If you see this as too big a hurdle then sorry but Consultancy is not for you.
Look out for my new book “Start your own Consultancy – Now!”
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All companies need to be mindful of costs & for those producing products this is best done at the Design stage. Here are some suggestions:-
- Before beginning the design a Product Specification is essential, this needs to have been agreed at Senior Management level.
- The product design needs to meet the spec and no more.
- The material choice is critical, why make it out of gold if steel will do.
- Use minimum thickness, as long as the design meets the spec.
- Reduce the number of components as much as possible.
- Re-use existing design components wherever possible – this gives Purchasing negotiating strength over suppliers and reduces inventory.
- Consider Manufacturing by minimizing the number of process steps in manufacture.
- Hold regular Design reviews & involve other parts of the Organization.
- Build a prototype to test the design.
- If possible test the Design using Computer Aided Modelling.
If you need help minimizing cost at the Design stage feel free to get in touch.
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In their iconic book “Lean Thinking” Womack & Jones identified 5 Lean principles of fundamental importance.
1) Specify Value from the End Customers perspective. What does the End Customer actually want from the product or service. The only way to ascertain this is through the Voice Of Customer. We will expand on this in later posts.
2) Identify the Value Stream. This is the sequence of processes from raw material to the end customer which comprises Value Adding and Non Value Adding steps.
3) Make value Flow. The process should be continuous, avoiding batch production and queues, or at least minimizing them. Aim never to delay a value adding step with a non value adding step. If NVA steps are unavoidable they should be done in parallel with VA steps.
4) Operate via Pull not Push. The system should be driven by the customers demand avoiding unnecessary over production.
5) Strive for Perfection. Minimize defects and aim for Total Customer Satisfaction.
Adopting these 5 Lean principles leads to a Kaizen journey of Continuous Improvement.
Students at the Georgia Institute of Technology recently learned that the ‘Teacher’s Assistant’ they had been reacting with all Semester was actually a robot !
‘Jill’ powered by IBM’s Watson analytics system helped undergraduate students with an online artificial intelligence course.
‘I thought I was talking to a real person’ confessed one student whilst another was ‘gobsmacked’
This raises a number of ethical issues around the use of A.I – should we be informed whether we are talking to a ‘robot or a human being.
This also begs the question whether A.I systems could be said to have passed the ‘Turing Test’ and essentially be indestinguishable from a Human Being.
A.I Technology is progressing at breakneck speed & has profound implications for all kinds of services such as banking, insurance, customer service etc etc – indeed any industry which relies on person to person communication will be revolutionised by the pace of Artificial Intelligence.
This will inevitably lead to massive job losses in these industries but will also create many alternative careers in Engineering & Technology Development.
There is little doubt, though, that those highly skilled & highly paid roles will not be populated by the same staff who used to work in the call centre leaving another dilemma for Society.
There has been much wringing of hands & gnashing of teeth over the impending closure of the Port Talbot steel works by Tata Steel. Politicians of left and right have dug out their Road Atlases & rushed over to be photographed consoling the poor sods who work there demanding they ‘Save our Steel’. The Government will promise a lot & deliver nothing. Labour will urge the re-nationalisation of the failing plant which is reportedly losing £1 million per day. So who would pay for that £365 million per year to save 13,500 jobs – The British taxpayer – the same taxpayer who would be moaning about the loss of their local library or maternity ward.
What the workers desperately need is some brutal honesty:-
- British Steel is no longer economically viable in the global market place.
- The total volume of world steel production produced in the U.K is less than 0.1%
- There are lots of British companies benefiting form cheap Chinese steel.
- No one is going to buy Port Talbot & run it in its current format.
- The Government will do NOTHING to save the plant.
So what should be done:-
- The Unions should focus on obtaining maximum redundancy pay.
- If any of the ‘higher value’ operations can be salvaged this is where the emphasis should be.
- The Government needs to do more to encourage alternate employers to the area by the extension & creation of enterprise zones.
- Employees need re-training & re-skilling.
Football Fans are beginning to wonder whether Manchester United Manager Lois Van Gaal has ‘lost the dressing room’ in much the same as Jose Mourinho did a few short weeks ago at Chelsea.
This Management phenomenon is not confined to the World of Sport – it is surprisingly common in the fields of Business & industry, so what are the symptoms:-
- Directions which once went unchallenged are now contested, sometimes vigorously.
- Staff turnover, once steady & low, increases, sometimes dramatically.
- There is a definite lack of motivation.
- Deadlines are missed & increasingly challenged.
- Tasks become ‘bogged down’ & remain uncompleted.
- Tempers are increasingly frayed.
So what are the causes of this sad state of affairs.
- Poor communication & direction from Senior Management.
- Unrealistic demands to meet unrealistic timescales.
- Workers overloaded with bureaucracy.
- Too many new systems.
- Middle Managers pointing the finger of blame at subordinates.
If you find yourself in this unenviable position of ‘losing your dressing room’ getting the Team back onside is never easy but try this:-
- Be open & honest, not only to the Team but to your Senior Management. This may be painful in the short term but is key to success.
- Stop pointing that finger.
- LISTEN as well as you talk.
- Eat a small portion of ‘humble pie’ even if it sticks in your throat.
David Bowie was undoubtedly one of the greatest & most influential musicians & artists of the 20th Century – so what did he teach us about Innovation.
- He never rested on his laurels. Despite phenomenal success with any one of his characters he ripped it up & started again. If he had owned Apple he would never be developing the iPhone 7.
- He never followed the trend – he led from the front regardless of popular opinion, when he went off to Berlin to experiment with electronic music it was a form which was right on the edge.
- He made the rules – in all aspects of his life – regardless of societies norms.
- He was a perfectionist – not a control freak.
- He selected the best to work with & gave them free reign.
- He wasn’t perfect – like all of us he made mistakes, but learned from them.
- He may have grown old physically but his soul was forever young.
Farewell to a great Artist & a magnificent Innovator.
This week was the anniversary of the tragic 9/11 atrocity & a documentary on T.V presented an explanation of why the towers collapsed based on fundamental scientific & engineering principles which demonstrated how a combination of super-heated aluminium (from the planes) combined with water to create a powerful explosive mixture which was the most likely explanation for the towers collapse. It was so refreshing to see & hear scientists & engineers, working from first principles, expound a theory which stood up to reasoned argument. No CIA conspiracy, no bombs planted in the towers, no bullshit.
This reminded me of a principle which seems to be in short supply these days, that of Occams Razor. William of Occam became famous for espousing that, ‘where there are numerous solutions to a problem, the simplest explanation is often the answer.’
This is a valuable piece of wisdom that is rarely employed in the era of big data, risk analysis, DFMEA’s, Statistical Analysis etc etc
Next time you have a problem to solve listen to your inner voice & apply the Razor
where there are numerous solutions to a problem, the simplest explanation is often the answer.
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