Bringing the science to shopfloor manufacturing

Slide1

Traditionally grinding process is treated as something very complex and known only to a few with many years of experience and with specialised skills in the shop floor. A portable diagnostic tool and interpreting the process signal is changing the situation and helping to reduce such challenges faced in grinding.

It is like using a torch light in a dark ally. Once the light of the signal shines, we can see the path more clearly and easily,” states Dr Subramanian.

Further analysis of the signals and explaining the variations in terms of the microscopic interactions that occur in the grinding zone, brings the science of grinding to the shop floor,” according to Dr K (Subbu) Subramanian, President, STIMS Institute Inc, USA. He has been mentoring this work at IIT Madras and its subsequent transfer for industrial use. This work at IIT Madras has been carried out as part of a larger project, “Development of Next Generation High Precision Grinding Machine Tool,” funded by the Office of the Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India. Prof Ramesh Babu is the principal investigator of this project along with his students at IIT Madras. MGTL, an industrial partner in this project is commercializing this mobile diagnostic tool as Grind TrakTM.

In a recent example, a grinding process was the bottleneck operation, limiting the production of the entire line. By looking at the signals obtained and analyzing them, it was determined that the cycle time for this operation can be reduced resulting in a net increase in line throughput of 40%, without the need for any additional investments.

Next generation of manufacturing will require smart and well qualified people using portable diagnostic tools and techniques very much like the medical field. In this regard, the Grind TrakTM will serve as the stethoscope and thermometer for this new generation of grinding professionals”, asserts Dr Subramanian.

42 Technology Grinding Machines EM FEB 2016

 

 

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Optimising Complex Manufacturing

Slide1Every aspect of our economy is now undergoing a transformation, leading to the evolution of a broadening gap between modes for

  • Replication Solutions for cost reduction where minimum skills are required along with minimum of wages and a mode for creating and
  • New Solutions, where high skills and ability to integrate knowledge from all sources is the need. This New Solution mode is also the opportunity for the few – companies, employers and workers – to gain high wages and high rewards in terms of growth and profitability.

Binary Economy

These two modes are also leaving behind a widening gap – a chasm – and if you are trapped in this middle, you are part of the growing middle class (of companies, workers and professionals) where the floor is collapsing under your feet. Of course if you are the investor – the rich – you make money off both these economic modes and hence the rich getting richer, the poor getting poorer and the middle left clueless. This is not the issue for the left vs. right or progressives vs. conservatives. WE ARE ALL IN THE SAME BOAT, with cracks developing in the middle.

We have described this evolving economic model as the Binary Economy and how to get a handle on this through a set of Transformational Skills in our New Book.

The challenges of doing well in the cost reduction mode, while creating opportunities through New Products and Services is the new complexity in the manufacturing. Dr. Subramanian, President, STIMS Institute was interviewed along with a panel of experts. This panel discussion is published in the Efficient Manufacturing Magazine

Round Table EM India 2015

Slide2The draft of the Q &A with Dr. Subramanian is presented below.

For more details and for any services we can help you with in your manufacturing and innovation efforts Contact US.

  • What are the various ways through which one can take advantage of advanced technologies and at the same time avoid complexity in manufacturing processes?      Worldwide there is a plateau – point of diminishing return – being reached in cost reduction and continuous improvement. Supply Chain, Lean and such practices are slowly running out of steam. What is needed is a step change or radical departure in terms of new processes leading to new products. Companies like Apple are setting this new vision by introducing totally new products every six months, backed up by manufacturing processes that allow them to offer over ten million units within the first quarter of product release.

In India, manufacturing seems to be facing the same head wind as well. Instead of toll manufacturing based on what is already well established, manufacturers are required to design new products and adapt new processes to produce them. The complexities in such manufacturing increase largely because of a lack of knowledge and inability to perceive the value added through the physical processes imbedded in manufacturing. Education and training of the work force on the knowledge and methods to exploit value through physical processes across the entire supply chain would be required as the first step. Developing an eco-system of suppliers and manufacturers working as a team for such value addition through the physical processes in manufacturing could be another step.

  • Currently, manufacturing enterprises have been increasingly focusing on optimising performance, productivity and asset management. What are your recommendations for such approaches?   It is imperative that these steps are pursued relentlessly. But, are they happening in the real world and what is their effectiveness? Consider this case for example: A senior manufacturing executive wanted to improve line productivity and asset utilization. Expert resource was used to achieve cycle time reduction in the bottle neck operation which resulted in throughput increase by about 40%. No additional investment was required. Higher productivity and better asset utilization was demonstrated. But these results could not be sustained after a short period of two weeks. The exercise revealed that the process know-how in this plant was very limited. The process was restored to the original – longer – cycle time due to a perceived fear the machine tool may wear out! This situation clearly illustrates the need for better education of the engineers and managers already in the work force. Incentives are required for changing their attitude to gain the most value out of the assets used in the manufacturing operations.

There is also a need to get over the “frog in the well” mind set. Even the most efficient manufacturing operations in India have tremendous scope for improvement in quality, productivity and cost. I can personally attest to the fact that the cycle times and machine capacity used for precision grinding processes are well below the industrial practice in the manufacturing plants in USA and Germany. Also many of the advanced tooling available for several processes may not be accessible inside of India due to very small usage and the supply chain issues faced in handling such small volume of consumables.

  • How to overcome the challenges of complexities arising out of collaborative manufacturing, outsourcing, innovation compulsion, flexibility and risk management?   Complexity in any situation is a matter of two issues: (a) lack of clear goals agreed upon by everyone and (b) lack of specific knowledge required for achieving such goals.

Consider for example a manufacturer who sees a new opportunity to produce a new component to meet the requirements of an export customer or a large new market inside of India. How does it translate into new opportunities for every one required in the development of the solution? The manufacturer may require collaboration with machine tool builders, raw material supplier and several tooling manufacturers. These are all the stake holders in the new solution. Unless the benefits for all these stake holders are agreed upon and clarified upfront, the risk will be too high and the collaboration may be limited or constrained. To avoid this pitfall we encourage the senior managers to actively promote the concept of Emotional Intelligence for Innovation. It implies that you seek out collaboration with a mind-set “I seek your help for my success, but I am also committed to make sure that you succeed as well in the end”. When the second half of the above equation is ignored or left unspecified, then the eco-system does not evolve. Leaving the benefit sharing to the people at lower levels, who have little influence, vision or authority also increases the complexities in collaboration many fold.

Even with good intent, knowledge specific to the solution is vital. A supplier who undertakes a new project may not have adequate knowledge to arrive at the final solution. It may require several iterations. Are these iterations carried out before the solution is approved? Frequently such learning steps are postponed for reasons of cost or lack of collaborative mind-set between the supplier and the manufacturer. Such learning steps may not be scientific with due emphasis on in-process data and their analysis. Documentation of such results and a system approach for problem solving may be missing. Lack of data driven problem solving also leads to trial and error where each step is seen as new, even though the same path might have been crossed many times. All of these result in a partially cooked solution implemented on the shop floor.

When the knowledge and communication methods are not institutionalized, mobility and changes in the people involved leads to complexity in the solution development effort. There are efforts in India to foster common knowledge pool through collaboration across the universities and the industry. Trade associations and government bodies such as the Department of Science and Technology also have a role to bring the industries and research institutions into a consortium. Recently collaboration between a CEO with long term vision, a research team from one of the IITs together with our worldwide expertise has resulted in some unique results. While the nature and magnitude of the collaboration is small, it shows the potential for new a vision for “Make in India”!

  • Can you brief on the major manufacturing trends which can be expected in the next 5 years?    Thanks to higher level of automation in the shop floor, in the years to come there will be less competitive advantage due to low cost labour. This will put manufacturers in India competing for the export markets at a serious dis-advantage. They need to overcome this challenge through advanced manufacturing solutions, higher productivity in current manufacturing and introduction of unique new manufacturing solutions. On the other hand the prospects for a growing demand in the domestic market will provide added opportunities for suppliers and manufacturers for this market segment. Collaboration between like-minded companies for mutual and long term growth and shared knowledge base will be the key to success here.

 

What is common between Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump?

There has been huge attendance in the recent Democratic rallies featuring the Vermont Senator Mr. Bernie Sanders. On the  other hand Mr. Donald Trump has been sucking up all the oxygen and attention with his harsh language against immigrants and his fellow presidential candidates in the Republican primaries. The popular support for these candidates may be seen as the pent up anger in the population against the Wall Street and the perceived syphoning of jobs and economic opportunities by the illegal immigrants from the south of the border respectively. This kind of anecdotal explanations by the reporters and political pundits may not serve the nation well for the long term.

In a recent article published in the Washington Post titled: Sorry, but the jobless future isn’t a luddite fallacy  the author makes the point: Policy makers have a big new problem to deal with: the disappearance of human jobs. Not only will there be fewer jobs for people doing manual work, the jobs of knowledge workers will also be replaced by computers. Almost every industry and profession will be impacted and this will create a new set of social problems — because most people can’t adapt to such dramatic change.

The author makes it look like it might be a problem developing into the future. But, reality suggests that the problem started a decade before Regan years, got established through the Clinton years. When the very survival of the economic order was in question due to the financial crisis along with protracted engagements in wars, when Mr. Obama took office, gradual erosion of employable opportunities for the large cross sections of the society has continued but seen merely a side issue. Now as these two national concerns are addressed to some extent, the pent up fear and anger and despair in the population is finding its voice through the emotional appeals of Mr. Sanders and Mr. Trump, even if their tones are completely different.

We have documented this erosion in the meaningful opportunities for employment and economic well being as the Binary Economy well documented in our recent book. Instead of waiting for some one else to fix the problem we have suggested that technical professionals, students and others should systematically cultivate specific skills – Transformational Skills –  to enhance their job and career opportunities. These individual centered initiatives will go only so far. It requires national leaders to comprehend the evolving Binary Economy and develop policies and national consensus for coping with its  impact. Merely cloaking the Digital Technology as “high tech” and glorifying the thief using DT tools as “hackers” does not do well for societies that have succeeded through the use of all sorts of technologies as the backbone for their success.

Absent such policies we see continued isolation and layering of job opportunities. This leaves people in the lower levels of jobs (largely involving physical work or information tasks) with a sense of despair that unless you are born in a well to do family and go to school in a better neighborhood, your opportunities are permanently shut off. The knowledge economy and the skill based economy have become code words for the success of a few while others stagnate. These issues may be the under currents supporting the fan base for Mr. Sanders and Mr. Trump.

Clearly the answer is not the anger and abuse against the immigrants unleashed by Mr. Trump. Raising minimum wage and such social policies for re-distribution of wealth by Mr. Sanders may be temporary fix. But they may not be the sufficient or sustainable long term answers as well.  As noted in the Washington Post article: If we can develop the economic structures necessary to distribute the prosperity we are creating, most people will no longer have to work to sustain themselves. They will be free to pursue other creative endeavors. The problem, however, is that without jobs, they will not have the dignity, social engagement, and sense of fulfillment that comes from work. The life, liberty and pursuit of happiness that the constitution entitles us to won’t be through labor, it will have to be through other means. Is this the way of life we want?

What are the other means for such living, where anything a human can do – read, write, think, analyze, infer, conclude, decide and control – can all be done by computers and IT solutions? Mr. Steven Hawkins has raised this specter and fear one can envision due to irrational deployment of Artificial Intelligence in the future. But, the irrational deployment of digital technology for incremental gains in cost reduction and elimination of human employment has started at least four decades ago. This has been happening in parallel with unprecedented gains in many new areas thanks to advancements in Digital Technology. Are these two sides of the lever balanced? If not how to maintain the balance? These are the questions that have not been addressed for the past four decades.

There is also a need for discussion on another balancing act: Investors – those with capital or money – can work and use all resources across the globe and we call that as global capitalism. Yet national economic policies – of the countries in which the same investors live – are constrained by what the government can do within its shores. When human beings as employable resource  migrate from rural areas of China and India to the urban centers it is considered legal. The same migration of people for the same reasons from poor countries to more affluent regions in their neighborhoods we decry them as illegal labor.

Such balancing act in several fronts are entirely new. This is an open space for any national leader from either party to develop a dialogue and national mandate for future actions. Whoever fills this void may emerge as our next President. Or we may go through another election without any consensus and more shouting and name calling. After all any social  system under great stress needs to find the vent to release its anger and frustration. We see this release of frustration as the common outcome of the campaigns of Mr. Sanders and Mr. Trump at this time.

Some might say “the train has already left the station and it is too late to do anything”. Such pessimism and acceptance of systematic loss of opportunity for large segments of work force and relegate them as un-employable will only fuel the pent up anger. Then we can expect to see even larger crowds at Bernie Sanders rallies or higher poll numbers for Mr. Trump, even though neither of them may win the presidency. But it will also weaken any future president without a mandate to strike the right balance required, as mentioned above.

Stop being nice to your boss?

The news item “BlackRock’s Chief, Laurence Fink, Urges Other C.E.O.s to Stop Being So Nice to Investors” appeared in the recent NYT Dealbook segment.

In a letter sent recently by Mr. Fink to the top 500 CEOs in the country, he suggests, “Too many of CEOs have been trying to return money to investors through so-called shareholder-friendly steps like paying dividends and buying back stock. These maneuvers, often done under pressure from activist investors, are harming the long-term creation of value and may be doing companies and their investors a disservice, despite the increases in stock prices that have often been the result. The effects of the short-termist phenomenon are troubling both to those seeking to save for long-term goals such as retirement and for our broader economy …… such moves are being done at the expense of investing in innovation, skilled work forces or essential capital expenditures necessary to sustain long-term growth.  This move sends a discouraging message about a company’s ability to use its resources wisely and develop a coherent plan to create value over the long term …….  with interest rates approaching zero, returning excessive amounts of capital to investors isn’t helpful because they will enjoy comparatively meager benefits from it in this environment”.

In our opinion we need such bold leadership also among professionals to stop bowing to the pressures of the boss or organization that demands “fire fighing” on short term problems at the expense of time and resources necessary to dedicate to the long term needs and success of the company and the organization.

You can stop bowing to investors if you know who they are! The problem is that the “Investors” today are those who make money off of money. They pay everyone else for doing their work to get that result. This stratification of work between the investors and the rest is the insidious problem that has been evolving for the past three decades. You and I who invest in mutual funds – which can be local or global – are also the investors! The issue may be: Can the CEOs sell the value of their long term vision and goals to the “investors”? Once convinced can they deliver the long term value as promised? These are the questions that need to be addressed by every one – from the CEO to the lowest level employee in every company. We call these as the Transformational Skills.

Today the  hedge fund managers, day traders, arbitragers, financial analysts and the fund managers are increasingly isolated from the main stream business. In this new model Finance, Professional work, Information work and Physical work are in stratified impermeable silos. In this scenario, the CEOs are just like any other professional (who gets paid for their work) as opposed to Finance (where money is made off of money!). Hence the CEOs have to learn new skills – Transformational Skills – to get the “investor driven finance” do what the CEO needs (long term business focus). The question is “Should the CEO quit bowing to investors? or “Should the CEO learn skills necessary to get the investor driven Finance bow to him/her?”

The question is also identical for many professionals where they say that their boss and organization is forcing them to focus on short term projects and quick results. Do these professionals have the necessary “Transformational Skills” – which is beyond academic education and industry/sector know-how that will make their boss and organization sit up and listen to them?

Contact us

Where is the real “Skill gap” ?

In his recent opinion page, Mr. Paul Krugman writes the following in the NYT:  Most people would surely agree that stagnant wages, and more broadly the shrinking number of jobs that can support middle-class status, are big problems for this country. But the general attitude to the decline in good jobs is fatalistic. Isn’t it just supply and demand? Haven’t labor-saving technology and global competition made it impossible to pay decent wages to workers unless they have a lot of education? ….  And the evidence that technology is pushing down wages is a lot less clear than all the harrumphing about a “skills gap” might suggest.

In the above referenced citation on “Technology”,  Mr. Mike Kanczal writes: When we think of the economic malaise of the past 30 years, we should probably think of it as a combination of technology, globalization, sociology, and public policy.

In all of the discussion, the word “Technology” is used with out a clear common understanding. If you are a Mechanical Engineer, your knowledge in applied mechanics, materials science and physics are not counted as “technology” in the above discussion by these eminent scholars. Same goes for Electrical Engineers, Chemical Engineers, Civil Engineers, Chemists and Biologists and their knowledge or know-how. Even a Robotics expert and his/her knowledge of mechanical design, path planning and fixturing are not counted in the above “technology” reference.

Instead, what is counted as “Technology” is the automation in the collection, processing, analysis and dissemination of information of any kind and in any place and for any reason. This is the automation of human centered capability in any and all aspects of our life. Instead of calling this as “Technology” we should call it as “Information work”. People, described as labor can be engaged in four sets of work:

  1. Finance – make money off money
  2. Professional Work – create and deliver a stream of new solutions each and every day (like a carpenter who makes and sells furniture, a plumber who fixes the leaking pipe and get paid for it, a cardiologist who fixes broken hearts (literally), etc.)
  3. Information Work
  4. Physical Work

The “Skill gap” mentioned above – which is seen as the major impediment against good paying jobs truly involve the following:

  • Recognizing that the work has indeed stratified into these four impermeable layers and only one of the four is available as a source of good wages (unless you are born with a silver spoon)
  • Recognizing that the Physical work and Information Work – which employed a large majority of the labor force with or with out higher education – will both be automated and what is left will only lead to low paying – “service” – jobs. Number of these jobs may grow, but their wages will hover around the minimum wage.
  • Only a narrow window of “Professional” work exists where there will be decent wages and opportunities to nudge into the middle class.
  • Finance – making money off the money – work is for a select few and these are the affluent 1%. If you can make it there great. Or if you are lucky to be born with a silver spoon, then you can count your blessings!
  • But, the better bet for the large cross section of the people may be to acquire skills that deliberately place them in the “Professional Work” category.
  • Such professional skills are not merely higher “Academic” education or Industry specific trade skills.
  • Instead the true skill gap is the blend of Academic, industrial specific skills together with System Thinking and Transformational Skills.

For details Contact us.

STEM Professionals: Here is some music to your ears?

Irrespective of the political spectrum one belongs to, the recent announcement of global energy policies  by USA, China, Russia and other countries, must be the music for the ears of all STEM Professionals.

The recent announcement from the White House on the new energy policy is noted as follows: Obama’s Strategy on Climate Change, Part of Global Deal, Is Revealed http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/01/us/obama-to-offer-major-blueprint-on-climate-change.html?ref=energy-environment&_r=0

The White House on Tuesday introduced President Obama’s blueprint for cutting greenhouse gas emissions in the United States by nearly a third over the next decade…. Mr. Obama’s new blueprint brings together several domestic initiatives that were already in the works, including freezing construction of new coal-fired power plants, increasing the fuel economy of vehicles and plugging methane leaks from oil and gas production. It is meant to describe how the United States will lead by example and meet its pledge for cutting emissions.

There are four key areas of focus described in this policy: https://www.whitehouse.gov/energy/securing-american-energy

  • Carbon Capture and Sequestration Technologies
  • Make solar energy cost-competitive with traditional energy sources by the end of the decade.
  • Energy efficiency in our vehicles and homes
  • Developing Clean Fuels

Each is an ambitious goal in itself. For example: New Clean energy standards for cars require automakers to raise the average fuel efficiency of new cars and trucks to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2012/08/29/545-miles-per-gallon-for-all-cars-by-2025-not-exactly

Irrespective of the political spectrum one belongs to, the above must be the music for the ears of all STEM Professionals. Over the past three decades with a relentless emphasis on cost cutting, standardization, automation and off shoring and out sourcing, there has been little if any emphasis on development of NEW SOLUTIONS that exploit the physical phenomena of nature. Of course exceptions to this generalization do exist particularly in the areas of IT, biology, genetics, etc. But, there are plenty of Mechanical and Electrical engineers, Physicists and Chemists and many other professionals in the STEM professional community, than there are computer scientists, biologists and geneticists. These professionals cannot be gainfully engaged unless there are big challenges posed in front of them. Government funded projects always follow the mission set by National policies. Recall the spurt in space technology after the call by the President Kennedy to “land on the moon”? Private sector, despite their professed desire for risk taking, will always place their bets on “safe” opportunities for cost reduction – milking the same old cow – rather than push new pastures and there are plenty of old cows to milk for decades to come. This leaves all the STEM professionals waiting in the wing for their opportunities, while they see steady erosion in their standard of living. Chances are, the new policies and the mandates on the industry will also spur more demand to find better ways to burn coal, make solar energy more competitive, make the homes more energy efficient, and cars that can indeed generate 50+ MPG on an average. All of these will require serious and sustained new solutions developed and perfected by STEM professionals.

Of course there is also an onus on the STEM professionals as well. They cannot simply wait in line and be told what they should do every step of the way. These are the traditional task oriented technical professionals. Instead, they need to become system thinkers and solution providers with a constant emphasis to Discover, Develop, Deploy and Exploit a stream of new solutions. We call on all STEM professionals at every level – from technicians to engineers to managers to senior managers – for this End to End Innovation. Contact us.

STIMS Institute offers Webinar for young engineers

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Recently we conducted a webinar for a group of young engineers from across the globe on the tools and skills required to increase their PE Score.

If you have such need to train and develop your young professionals contact us

Online access to webinar sessions

Part – 1/4 :

 

Part – 2/4

 

Part – 3/4

 

Part – 4/4

 

End of session feedback:

  • Thank you for joining today. For people who could not join today, we hope to see you in future sessions. I just wanted to thank Nishitha for taking the lead and organizing this for the common benefit of all. Thank you!!!  Special thanks to Dr. Subbu, for taking time off and sharing your knowledge and expertise with young people like me. It was indeed a very informative session and hopefully we can implement some of the ideas you suggested in our individual professional careers.

Cheers!!! have a great weekend  — Uday

  • It was a wonderful session. It is difficult to find someone who has a systems perspective and who can put it across in a way that can be easily understood. On behalf of everyone who attended the session, I would like to thank Dr. K Subramanian for taking out time and sharing his work with us. I am sure I will look at my work in a different way.

I am attaching the minutes of the meeting and some screenshots for everyone’s benefit. —  Nishitha

Minutes of the Meeting:

TOPIC – Systems Thinking and Transformational skills  SPEAKER – Dr. K. Subramanian, President, STIMS Institute    DATE – 28TH March 2015   ATTENDEES :   Name removed for privacy; Attendees from: USA, India, Dubai

HIGHLIGHTS

– Know the difference between tasks oriented jobs and solution oriented jobs

– Companies look for replicate solutions, but they also look for people with transformational skills who can provide “new solutions”

– Be conscious of the value you are adding to your company. If you don’t add enough value remember that you can easily be replaced

– How is work structure across the globe changing? What did it look like before? How does it look like in 21st century? How do you orient yourself to succeed?

– How can you practice transformational skills?