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.
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.
1) What goes up MUST come down – I know it’s obvious but some people really believed it was possible for an economy to grow at 7% per year indefinitely – just ask the punters on the Shanghai Index.
2) Gordon Brown didn’t abolish boom & bust – but then we all learned that 7 years ago. Capitalism, for all its pros & cons, is inherently cyclical.
3) Every Market is interconnected – more so now than ever before, any crisis in China will be replicated to one extent or another around the globe.
4) No Government controls the market – whether its the State Capitalist Chinese or the Western Democracies – intervention is limited in its affect.
5) Transparency is a concern – Is the Chinese economy still growing at 6%, 5% or much less – no one knows & there is a distinct lack of trust in the data supplied by the Chinese government.
6) It will impact us all :- The Chinese economy is the second biggest market in the world & although exports vastly exceed imports the purchasing power of the Chinese middle classes will be severely curbed.
7) Social upheaval will follow – The political tensions in China will erupt (to one degree or another); The Chinese Government will struggle to keep a lid on the educated middle classes who have got used to continuous growth & increased wealth.
8) Capitalism is in crisis – as boom follows bust & vice versa Capital flows to the point of highest growth – leaving chaos in its wake.
9) What comes next ? – no one knows – but maybe we should be looking to develop a sustainable society based on full-filling human needs rather than continuously expanding Gross Domestic product ?
10) The sun still rises in the East, sets in the West & the world keeps on turning.
Do you, like me, tune in to ‘Dragons Den’ every week to see wannabees compete for investment from ‘successful multi-millionaire entrepreneurs’ to make their dream a reality.
Do you cringe when you see the hopeful saps flounder because they don’t know the difference between Gross & Net profit or snigger when they hopelessly overvalue their nascent company.
All great fun but, I don’t know about you, I think there has been a real dearth of Innovation on the show recently, and it all seems very very dated.
Nowadays there are some much better sources for funding innovation which don’t depend on the whim of the multi-millionaire but instead are based on crowd funding – investment from ordinary individuals like you & I attracted by the innovation process & the chance to partake in the creative process.
Here are some examples of these alternative sources of finance for the budding entrepreneur:-
Check them out for yourself:-
There are many more & they all represent a growing trend – a great idea, probably promoted via social media, attracts a crowd of interested backers, the project develops momentum & its ultimate success rewards everyone involved to one degree or another.
Perhaps this is indicative of the way society is evolving – from Capitalism to Collaboration – where innovation is no longer dependent upon the whims of a small minority of wealthy individuals but is propelled by the shared interest & active participation of the many. email@example.com
The global nanotechnology-based medical devices market is poised to grow at a CAGR of 11-12% from 2014 to 2019. The rapid surge in aging population, increasing international research collaboration, and increased government support for nanotechnology are the major factors driving the growth of the nanotechnology-based medical devices market.
This is one of the areas in which nanotechnology is set to make an impact and who’s use will grow exponentially & prove to be truly disruptive. It may not be long before, instead of going into hospital for major surgery we simply down a glass of nanobots which travel through the bloodstream to arrive at their pre-programmed destination to perform corrective survey without any disruptive invasive procedure.
Another exciting example of Nanotechnology is self-healing materials. These will be able to repair themselves by utilising tiny robots which live on or in the material itself. The Automotive industry is actively engaged in research to develop self -healing paints which will remain scratch free indefinitely.
Nanotechnology is a truly disruptive advance which is set to transform our world forever.
‘Understanding the human brain is one of the greatest challenges facing 21st century science. If we can rise to the challenge, we can gain profound insights into what makes us human, develop new treatments for brain disease and build revolutionary new computing technologies. Today, for the first time, modern ICT has brought these goals within sight.’
‘The HBP is working to develop a collaboration infrastructure, which would among other tools include network and cellular simulators, in-silico experimentation facilities, and the opportunity to execute the combination of simulator model and in-silico experiment on a supercomputer or computer cluster. During the project, the tools and the collaboration infrastructure developed by the HBP researchers will be made accessible for the entire neuroscience community. At the seminar, HBP researchers and external neuroscientists will explore the challenges, opportunities and implications of the HBP collaboration infrastructure, and formulate hypotheses, focusing on testing of cognitive tasks like spatial navigation and visual action recognition, that could be tested when the facilities has been developed.’
These developments once thought fantastical reflect the thoughts of pioneering futurist Ray Kurzweil who has talked about the idea of a ‘singularity’ – a point in time in the near future when the development of artificial intelligence reaches a point beyond which it is almost impossible to predict what will happen as humans combine with intelligent machines to produce a race of ‘super- humans’ capable of extended life with un-imaginable consequences. These ideas are both terrifying & exhilarating.
Once considered purely Science Fiction the Human Brain Project suggests that this truly disruptive technology may be closer than we think.