STIMS Institute offers its vision of 21st Century Manufacturing.

CEO Dialogue 2I

In a recent CEO Forum organized by MGTL, Dr. K. (Subbu) Subramanian, President STIMS Institute Inc., offered his vision of the 21st Century Manufacturing and outlined the need for requisite work force skills to meet the emerging needs. This forum was held at Pune, India on Nov. 21, 2014. For a complete presentation, please see: Manufacturing in the 21st Century

Few excerpts:

  • “Manufacturing” is a collection of (a) physical processes enabled by a host of (b) information processes and aided by a collection of (c) pick and place and transfer processes, which at the moment are a combination of physical events and information events.
  • Core capability for any manufacturing:  repetitive use of physical processes, to achieve or USE the “Product” at the required quantity, place and time to meet the end user needs.
  • Manufacturers have two options: (a) Steady improvement in the processes already deployed; The result is a constant reduction in the explicit knowledge and skill required with respect to the Physical Processes used. Over time, they have become the black boxes surrounded by a myriad of service processes, which are generic and practiced in all companies and industries. (b) Introduction of a stream of new solutions resulting in New Products, New Processes and New Applications/ USE. These new solutions are the result of intense knowledge of the physical processes unique to the manufacturing company.
  • Breakthrough – step change – solutions will be expected as a routine output of manufacturing professionals of the future. But, in order to sustain such improvements the process has to be managed as a whole – as a system. Constant tweaking or small changes in the system which disturbs the equilibrium of the process cannot be tolerated, if maximum impact is the desired outcome. This will require manufacturing professionals who are simultaneously good at process science as well as process economics, with expertise to integrate knowledge from all available sources.
  • We find two parallel chains operating across all manufacturing companies (i.e.) Supply Chain which deals with the information processes that interconnect the various tiers of manufacturers and Functional Value Chain, where the physical processes and their exploitation play a silent but foundational role across the manufacturers.
  •  Since the products are enables by processes and the USE is also a process in a manner of speaking, we are left with “Process and its knowledge and the capability to manipulate any process” may be the primary core capability or skill set of future manufacturing professionals! The role of human labor and their employment in large numbers is not a critical need in this description of manufacturing. It is important for policy makers to make note of this subtle but significant point.
  • Work force skills required for 21st century manufacturing:

Manufacturing Processes

Traditional Sources of Knowledge

New Knowledge Required

 Traditional Worker Skills

 New Worker Skills Required

   Physical Processes Engineers and shop floor workers with technical training, trade skills and academic education. ·  Process Science·  Diagnostics·  Data and   Analysis·  Sector specific know-how Engineers with years of experience located close to the shop floor operations ·       System Thinkers and Solution Providers Reliant on Process Science·       Reliant on sensors, signals and their use.
 Information Processes Collection of tasks that evolved through the years ·       IT·       Data Base·       Big data·       Analytics White Collar Workers with standard plug and play IT solutions ·       System Thinkers·       Solution Providers·       Customized IT solutions
  Pick and Place / Transfer Processes Industrial work force through many years of training and hands on experience. ·       CNC, Robotics and AGV·       Drones ·       Blue collar workers·       Standard work and tasks·       Physical effort and de-skilled operations. ·       System Thinkers·       Solution Providers·       Comfortable in virtual control environment

Learn to swim against the tide of Binary Economy

It is an undeniable axiom of globalization: anyone in any job or profession has to be better than anyone else who can do the same job from a pool of workers across the globe. Conversely, those who can do a job in a similar manner to others around the globe will be rewarded for their effort at the lowest value at which the work can be procured from anyone else across the globe! Every worker will fall into one of these two extremes. Anyone in the middle will be ultimately swept to the low-labor-cost pool.
While there will be a natural tendency to be swept into the lower-wage pool, it will require a special effort to swim against the current to be associated with the limited few in the high-wage, high-reward pool. Swim against the stream and reach a high place (of New Solutions with identifiable impact) or be swept away into the global pool of low-cost resources (needed for Replication Solutions) is the true paradigm of globalization. There is little or no opportunity for treading water in this paradigm. This constant struggle to swim upstream and against the current is what is perceived as the volatility and uncertainty in the workplace. Suggestions such as higher education, higher SAT scores, and more grit and perseverance are all means to the same end. But as we have detailed in our book – see the links below – all of these have to be formatted toward identification, development, and exploitation of New Solutions using Transformational Skills as the means to this end.

Do you know your “core” capability?

Are you the owner of a small or medium sized manufacturing company? Are you the head of a profit center or a Business Unit that is part of a company group? If you are, it is very likely that you are one of the business leaders, trying to find ways to keep your business above water. Some of you may be concerned about growing your bottom line and in rare occasions seeking ways to further grow your business. But, no matter what your needs are, it is certain that you are facing the stiff winds of global competition, cost pressures, challenges from outsourced operations and above all a sense of uncertainty about the future.

We believe that such pessimism and the sense of gloom and doom about manufacturing industries and their future is not warranted. It is true that there are stiff head winds and it is also true that the waters are turbulent. But, you are not up the creek, with out a paddle!

Have you ever sat back and asked yourself, “How did we (your business unit) get here?” No, I do not mean, how you got into a situation of stiff competition and low profit margins and high costs. These are all obvious and readily known to every one. But, have you figured out how your business or operation grew from its beginnings to where it is today? It did not happen by chance or by some luck or through magic! It happened because you and your people along with your suppliers and your customers contributed their share of knowledge and know-how that resulted in the products you manufacture, the processes you use to make them and also the applications know-how through which your customers use your products. The “Products. Processes and Applications knowhow” are your core capabilities. These core capabilities are embedded in the knowledge of many people connected with your company – through your employees, suppliers and customers and their customers.

You might say “It is indeed true that we did not grow out of thin air. We built our company, brick by brick though our products, manufacturing process capabilities and our know-how to help our customers use our products better. Then, whatever happened to my business or operation, over the years? Why are we struggling today with low profitability and shrinking margins and low to no growth?” One can ask such valid questions and wallow in misery or merely be nostalgic about the good old days for ever. Instead, you can muster the passion to dig deeper.

Your product is not any widget you put in your shipping box. It is not merely something you identify by a product number or a bar code. Product is something of value to some one (the user), who is willing to pay you (the manufacturer) something of value to you. Can you describe your “Product” using the above definition? Is there any one in your sales, product design/development, manufacturing/production, tech-support or general management who can describe your product in terms of the value to your customer and the expected value for you in return? Do you know who they are? Do they all have the same understanding of the user value and manufacture’s value or are they speaking over each other in different languages? Your journey for the future can start right here and now, by developing a common definition of your “Product” and developing a core team across the business functions that speaks the same language about your product.

How well do you know your Processes to manufacture your products? They are not “black box” that nobody knows anything about, after Joe Smith retires from the company! All processes in your manufacturing floor have well defined Inputs, which are converted into Outputs. All processes are “Input/Transformation/Output” system. No, we are not talking about Ph.D language. In the past years, few who knew about the process could tweak them and keep them going, while others were simply pairs of hands to help them out. We can not do that any more. All processes can be diagnosed (using proper sensors and IT tools for measurement), repaired, improved and in some cases changed dramatically. But, you can not do any of the above, if you think that the processes in your shop floor are merely “black box” put in place by some one who left the company years ago! Your journey for the future can start right here and now, by developing a common definition of the key “Processes” in your manufacturing floor and developing a system view of these processes across all the business functions that support such processes. You would not like to see any medical professional with out a stethoscope and a thermometer. Then, why would you not want all your manufacturing process professionals have similar capability to measure and diagnose and cure the problem with respect to your processes and their health?

How well do you know your customer’s processes (Application) and how you can add value in their processes through your products? If software is the enabler of all the growth and success in the IT industry, you can make your AT (Applications Technology) as the enabler for your growth and success in the manufacturing industry. AT helps you to build alliances with your suppliers and customers towards building solutions of shared benefits. If you have treated your process as a black box, it is likely that your customers have done the same with their processes. It is about time, you helped them to do a “health check up” on their processes, while they use your product. After all, strong and healthy customer process is essential for your long term strength and success.

Product, Process and Applications know-how are your core capabilities, which got you where you are today! They are the bench strength of your team. You can do more or less with them enabled by all the plug and play IT capabilities. But, you can not build a manufacturing industry with out the brick and mortar (i.e) Product, Process and Applications Technology. Have you taken the time to cultivate them? If not, may be it is time for you and the key personnel in your team to go through the “Core Capability Boot Camp”?

Industry/University Collaboration: Need for Transformational Skills

In a recent HBR article why-companies-and-universities-should-forge-long-term-collaborations  Kenneth R. Lutchen outlines some of the common needs observed to forge such relationships.

We have summarized in the table below these requirements and how they are linked to the System Thinking and Transformational Skills articulated by the STIMS Institute. Additional figures and links below provide supplementary information / details





STIMS Strategy for life long learning for intrepreneurship

Professionals in every field must constantly equip themselves with the latest skills to achieve new solutions for process problems.

Being adept at ‘Transformational skills’ and ‘system thinking’ constitutes a lifelong learning strategy required to develop a stream of New Solutions, a must to survive and succeed in the 21st century economy

MMI Cover story image

Who exactly are ‘intrepreneurs’?
We hear a constant drum beat for professionals to be entrepreneurial, capable of handling a variety of jobs and problems. This is in total contrast to the standardized
and de-skilled task-oriented replication activities. There are many opportunities to integrate knowledge from various sources – from other workers, knowledge available across departments, with the suppliers as well as with the customers or end-users. The advent of smart phones, Facebook, Google and other search engines also augment this ability to aggregate information from across the globe and convert them into new knowledge. The result is a “new solution” of high added value. They are heralded as “entrepreneurial”. The new term used for such entrepreneur working inside a company – as opposed to a startup operation – is “Intrepreneur”.

Life Long Learning Strategy:

Modern Manufacturing India, a Publication of the Indian Machine Tool Manufactusers  Association (IMTMA) carries the cover page article authored by STIMS Institute. This article provides a strategy for life long learning for entrepreneurs and intrepreneurs.

STIMS Cover story MMI Jan. 2018 issue


The MMI magazine January issue can be accessed at:

Strategic Thinking and Career Development

STIMS Institute offered a workshop on Jan. 19, 2018 in the Bay Area, CA.  Sponsored by SME Silicon Valley Chapter, this workshop was hosted by De Anza College, Cupertino, CA. Thanks to Lisa Gregorson – SME SV and Mike Appio – Dept. Head, Mfg. education at De Anaza college for their help, support and collaboration.

Every one who studies the impact of AI and Automation forecasts a grave upheaval in the near term for large scale human employment. But they all conclude stating that “Innovation” and “Technology” will take care of it. May be they are right. Until that future comes there is no alternative for employees (and employers) today other than becoming “System Thinkers” and “Transformational” in their skills. A systematic outline of this need is followed by an even more systematized method and skill sets to be practiced are outlined in this workshop.

The details presented in this workshop can be seen at: SME SV Workshop  Follow the workshop contents and answer the class work questions contained in it.

Let us know what you think? Contact us



STIMS Institute offers two key technical publications for Abrasive Finishing Processes

Professional societies like ASME serve the valuable role to archive and disseminate critical information and knowledge of near term as well as long term value. Two such publications present both the theory as well as applications pertinent to surface generation processes using abrasive tools. These processes are commonly known as grinding processes. They span a wide range of industries and applications and needs. We at STIMS Institute are pleased to offer these papers for broader use and dissemination of knowledge.

Please note that these publications may be copy right protected. For copies of these publications please contact ASME.

Developing a frame work for Effective Collaboration between Academic Research and Industrial Outcome.

We were invited to present a Key Note lecture on August 5, 2017 at the Chinese Conference on Abrasives Technology at Harbin Institute of Technology, Harbin, China. Inserted below are main points, some images and a link to the full presentation.

Key Note lecture final




  • Thanks to Prof. Zhang at HIT, to the organizers of CCAT and Harbin Institute of Technology
  • Thanks to Dr. Jinsheng Wang, GM, Intelligent Grinding   Technology (Shenzhen) Co., Ltd., my friend and host for this visit
  • Thanks to many friends and colleagues across the globe in the industry as well as in the academia.
  • This talk is a summary of many years of experience  and successful collaboration between Academic researchers and Professionals in the industry across the globe.


  • 21st Century economy requires New Solutions with deliberate focus on Academic Research; That Integrates knowledge from all sources
  • New Solutions require three types of Knowledge:
    • Academic learning
    • Hands on Experience
    • Transformational Skills.
  • New Solutions in Grinding Processes are the result of collaboration between Academic Research and Industrial Applications enabled by Transformational Skills.
  • Transformational Skills are necessary for industry /   university collaboration
  • Examples and Case Studies.



  • 21st Century Research has to be targeted to deliver New Solutions
  • This requires integrating knowledge from all sources.
  • Knowledge Integration is enabled by System Thinking:
  • Every solution is integration of Science, Engg. And Mgt.
  • Focus on the big picture, not merely the dots.
  • Three sources of Knowledge are simultaneously required today:
    • Academic Education
    • Hands on Training
    • Transformational Skills.
  • During this talk we have described the “System Thinking” and “TS”.
  • We have also shown examples of how these are useful for promoting effective industry/university collaboration.


STIMS Institute offers Industry focused training for fifth year in a row, this time at Shenzen, China.

Student Feedback:

 “I conclude this course with 3 observations: Very important, Very timely and Very valuable”.

“I’m not an engineer. I feel this course in not only for technical person, but for system thinking and much more”.


Education, Process Innovation and End to End Innovation are the focus areas of STIMS Institute. Each of these three focus areas are interconnected. education that is merely academic is less valuable today in the world where more than 80% of what is needed can be obtained through Google. Today education has to be holistic (i.e.) system oriented. That implies scientific fundamentals together with an emphasis on application of the science and the strategic reasoning required to make such education relevant and useful in the real world. Such Education was offered for the fourth year in a row . This leads to over 120 senior engineers, managers and teachers trained to meet the high end professional needs in the manufacturing sector.

The two day course was offered at Shenzen, China on August 9 and 10, 2017  in collaboration with Intelligent Grinding Technology (IGT) Ltd.


The System Approach for Precision Manufacturing – Grinding Processes.

  2 Day Course – Outline.

Day 1 – AM:


  1. Why should we grind?
  • Critical and enduring role of physical processes like grinding in manufacturing and especially in Precision Components Manufacturing as well as surface generation requirements.
  • Examples of grinding processes used in a wide variety of: Work materials, machines, components and applications
  • Role of grinding processes in traditional applications as well as emerging needs like high efficiency IC engines, computer parts, LED, PV and wind energy components manufacturing.
  1. The System Approach to Grinding Processes:
  • Every process is an Input / Transformation / Output system
  • “Transformation” represents the Science of the Process
  • System Approach requires integration of Science, Engineering and Strategy
  • Grinding Processes are Input /Transformation / Output systems for surface generation to meet critical functional needs and process economics.



  1. The Science of grinding: The microscopic interactions that occur at the grinding zone and their quantification
  2. Inputs to the grinding process and how they impact the microscopic interactions:
  • Work Materials and components
  • Abrasive and dressing tools, coolants and other consumables
  • Machine Tools (key element of investment and process design)
  • Process parameters (that are selected as part of process design and can be changed at the shop floor)


Day 1 – PM:

  1. Measurement and Analysis of grinding processes
  2. Case Studies Demonstrating the use of the above for shop floor problem solving

 BREAK for Dinner

After Dinner Session:

  1. Tutorials and data driven problem solving

DAY 2 – AM:

Recap of day 1 lessons.

  1. Technical Outputs – What are the requirements to be met when using grinding processes


  1. System Outputs – the Why? strategic and economic considerations pertaining to grinding processes




  1. Application of the System Approach – Case Studies
  • Truing & Dressing of CBN grinding wheels
  • Optimal use of CBN grinding solutions
  • Simple Solid Shape (S3) grinding – High MRR low WIP, short lead time and flexible processes
  • Processes for micro – chip, magnetic head and LED substrate fabrication.
  • Machining to Grinding Processes


  1. Student Feed back
  2. Certificate Presentation.

The students in this course consisted of Senior Engineers, Business Head and V.P. of manufacturing companies.

Student feed back:

  • This course is worthy. My customer want to use CBN wheel, but machine tool can’t satisfy requirement. I still have not good method. From this course, I get some enlightenment on how to make the best use of the available machine and other resources.
  • Our parent company is from Belgium. Sometimes we want to change the grinding process, but it’s not permitted. After this course, I can use data to evaluate grinding process. If we have data support, Belgium can agree to that. I will use system approach to evaluate present method when I go back.


  • This course gives a lot of help in supervising new product development.
  • In the past, I work with experience. I learned a lot of basic knowledge in this course, which is very helpful for designing machine tool. I learned in this course how to use knowledge to analyze and solve problem. We plan to develop single crystal silicon grinding machine tool with system approach.
  • It is the first time to learn grinding theory, which is helpful for my next work. In this course, I connect knowledge I learned in college with present work. In past, I always feel the knowledge I learned is not useful. Today I understand I didn’t connect them with my work. In future, I will promote my product with the knowledge, scientific method and data analysis.
  • I’m very impressed by the lessons on economic output. In the past, we deal with price with very simple and rough method. Now I know I can evaluate the value from variety of aspects. I can give customer a list, which makes customer understand the value we bring and accept our price. We should promote the product’s quality, but not just low price.


  • System approach concerns input, interaction and output. It also can be categorized by the work of engineer, science and management. Before the course, I know the first three interactions, but I know there are 6 interactions. I feel it is more reasonable. I also learn how to connect all interactions with input and output by using power monitoring. When I go back, I plan to use knowledge I learn from this course to solve 2 to 3 problems. If it works, I want to spread system approach and do continuously improvement.
  • I feel this course is very worthy. Thanks for IGT for co- organizing this course.
Dr. Subbu with STIMS Institute Alumni Dr. Xuefong Bi and Dr. Jinsheng Wang, start up entrepreneurs of Intelligent Manufacturing Co, in China.  They helped to co-organize this course.
  • We are now focusing on hard and brittle grinding. This course helps me to open the black box of grinding, and let me to see interactions and how to solve problem. I have more significant understanding to grinding process.
    • System approach will help me in work and life. Knowledge in this course is very deep, I need to learn more after this
    • After I go back, I will transmit system approach with my leader and colleagues. Now we are doing a project about ceramic material grinding, so I want to apply system approach on this project.
  • I conclude this course with 3 words: Very important, Very timely and very valuable. Dr. Subbu, is very professional. He has very clear logic. If Dr. Subbu have more opportunities to contact the market in China and spread system approach, the effects will be better.
  • I’m not an engineer. I feel this course in not only for technical person, but for system thinking and much more.

After the march for Science: MAKE AMERICA THINK AGAIN!

I was there at the Boston Common at the march form science. I was one among the thousands in support of Science and its vital role in our way of life. I could not agree more with all that I saw and heard. Yet, one poster got my attention the most:


Every one who truly believes in Science have to step back and think hard on the cause – why we are here marching for Science? It requires analytical thinking and not merely repeating the slogans or expressing anger against one or the other. Science as it was explained by one speaker requires hypothesis, its validation through data leading to conclusions that help us progress or at least better understand the problem we have on hand. Let us practice this thought process on a few of our problems we face today.

Global warming is indeed a problem. It started when China and India started consuming energy in larger quantities. Their means and methods for energy consumption and the emissions are not new. They rely on the same practiced in the Western world for decades.

How did this explosive energy consumption come to be? It started with off shored manufacturing to produce lower cost goods for the Western world. This local economic activity in developing nations was followed by their consuming the same goods – such as automobiles and energy – in larger quantities. The collective effect of all these is more pollution and emissions and global warming.

The scientists and their supporters who marched yesterday can make a commitment that they will buy only products made through clean energy- no matter where they are manufactured – even if it costs a little more. It is the demand of this consuming public and their sacrifice that will push the politicians and business leaders to switch towards solutions leading to a reduction in global warming? Corporations move and make the right decision only when they are impacted at their pocket book.

But, what technology enabled the off shore manufacturing in droves? One would have to conclude the developments in Digital Technology – internet, e-mail, communication services and Digital data and information processing – and their indiscriminate deployment as one among the enablers. Global capitalism was the intended consequence; Global warming is the unintended consequence.

Recently I was speaking with an engineer implementing an automation project using robotics. I asked him, why are you doing this project? His response without hesitation was “I want to eliminate jobs”. I ventured to ask him if he would do this project if it eliminated the job of his friends, family members or neighbors. He seemed amazed at that question. He responded, “My boss wanted me to do this job”!

Every scientist and STEM worker need to understand causality of the growing economic disparity. Developments in Digital Technology (DT) applied without discrimination leads to smart machines with the potential to marginalize human contributions. Contributions of workers through their cognitive skills, their ability to process information as well as through their physical labor. three pathways for human dignity through work are being challenged today.

Any society with meaningful employment and broad economic prosperity is the employer as well as the consumer. Everyone who marched for Science  must come to grip with this reality (i.e.) their developments in Digital Technology must be channeled for the benefit of all, not for the benefit of a few at the exclusion of the many.

One cannot be in support of Science without also being responsible for the larger scope of their work and consequences of their own actions. This responsibility squarely falls on the shoulders of the leaders in Science community. During the march I informally polled a few to see what they understood as “Technology”. Every one gave similar general answers such as something good for the society, where science plays a key role, etc. Then I asked them if I give you $100,000 what stocks will you buy? Every one instinctively said Google, Microsoft, Facebook, etc. Nobody mentioned GE, P&W, Caterpillar or even Dell or HP! Every scientist needs to ask why is this preference?

Over the past decades the society has begun to accept Digital Technology as the “Technology”. The true meaning of Technology as the integrated outcome of Science, its application (Engineering) and effective exploitation of such use (Management) has been lost in the public discourse. Developments in the field of Nuclear Science are called “Nuclear Technology”. Developments in the field of polymers and plastics are called “Polymer Technology”; Innovation in space exploration is called “Space Technology”. But we obsessively refer to DT as the technology. Then we fail to recognize the developments in DT that preponderantly favor a few workers and their efforts to automate cognitive work and leave majority of citizens of zero economic value.

When thought leaders discuss the societal needs they describe “innovations through Technology” as the savior of the future. Implication here is technology as derived from all fields of sciences and not limited to DT. But when it comes to decision making and risk taking Digital Technology is favored depressing the effect and impact of all other science based technologies. The ills in the abuse of the DT are brushed aside as they are not identified as such.

Society has disdain for the widespread use of Nuclear Technology because of the fear it instills in the mind of the many despite its many positive uses and potentials. But the abusive role of DT enabled smart machines that promote indiscriminate off shoring of processes using energy inefficient and ecologically ill-fated outcomes are not openly addressed. The potential of DT enabled solutions to marginalize human contributions, automating all forms of work (i.e.) Physical, information and cognitive work and leaving society with large swath of citizens without any economic value is not yet fully appreciated and baked into the thinking and planning of thought leaders, large majority of whom are the “Science and engineering” workers.

The role of DT to spread hate and foster home grown terrorists is not met head on. The recent mishap in Facebook and the mild apology from Mr. Zuckerberg is another dimension to this pitfall of the unbridled use of DT. Instead of addressing them head on, they are brushed aside under fallacy and illogical arguments claiming first amendment rights and free speech. An eclectic circuit without proper protection will never be allowed for use by broad public. There are no such restrictions for faulty DT circuits.

Scientists and Engineers cannot merely march and expect solutions to be developed by economists and politicians. They need to start thinking as managers and solution providers and on their own personal roles and through their jobs, projects and outputs that impact the broader issues. Every scientist needs to think as an engineer and a manager and a leader. They cannot wait for someone else to fix the ills of DT dominated society.

Let us Make America Think Again!